Web 3.0: A Shift (Back) to the Original Web—but Only for Brands

graphic of Web 3

By Joseph Antonucci, Director of Strategy & Planning, Croud

The World Wide Web. Just the thought of it seemed straight out of a science fiction novel back in 1989. How could there possibly be an information superhighway to connect everyone in the world immediately? From the all-too-familiar dial-up sound to “you’ve got mail,” the dot com bubble to the rise (and fall) of Yahoo as a search engine, as well as music streaming, the onslaught of social media and the gig economy… it’s safe to say there have been more versions of the internet than most of us would care to remember.

And yet, we once more find ourselves on the precipice of worldwide change.

Most internet users, let alone brands, have gone through this before and are likely clued into the buzzwords associated with the current shift, namely metaverse, NFTs and cryptocurrency but few are truly prepared for the vast implications of Web 3.0.

At its core, this “new” internet comes down to the issues of ownership and access… all folded into decentralization. In the Web 2.0 model, consumers didn’t directly own their own data or content and were instead tied into platforms and (tacitly) agreed to a service exchange—They get to use the platform and the platform gets to use their data. But in this new Web 3.0 world order, control is returned to the individual user and they get to determine how and with whom they share their data with brands, platforms and services alike.

The concept is quite significant when you really stop to think about it. Consumers are granted the right to own and perhaps most importantly, sell their data.

It’s a shift that will not only affect legacy brands but also those who are just now entering the space, such as OpenSea.

For instance, what happened to eBay across two decades could happen within a single year as the tokenization of the internet creates dedicated marketplaces down to subcategories of NFTs or other individual tokens — hastened by users taking control of their own data, identities and content to make money directly. And it won’t stop there as brands like Airbnb, Uber and Spotify, among others, will all be under threat from a decentralized structure and the evolution of the pay-to-play era.

So now that we’ve level-set in terms of the changes that are underway and what they mean for both consumers and brands alike, what steps can brands actually take to prepare?

We’re already seeing movement related to investing in communities for instance, such as Nike’s decision to buy RTFKT, as well as those exploring the use of NFTs as utility, such as tickets to events like Coachella and those creating their own worlds like Meta & Roblox. Potential tests of new platforms and browsers like Brave, DAO structures and .eth domains are all in progress. It can admittedly be overwhelming but there are some subtle shifts that any brand can take related to their approach to audiences and utility.

It All Begins With Finding New Ways to Reach Customers.

As we move closer to anonymized wallets and become disconnected from our “real-life” identities, it will become increasingly more difficult to match behavior back to users, meaning brands will need to intentionally invest in a fresh approach with respect to how they identify potential audiences as well as how they identify the kinds of data which demonstrate growth opportunities. Exploring new ways to design for and identify potential audiences will further allow them to succeed when certain data intent signals or targeting segments are phased out (yes, that’s on the horizon).

From There, It Is Not Just About Finding These Consumers but Embracing Them in Communities.

Most companies have already sought to accomplish this within the transition in Web 2.0 as social networks gained in popularity and usage. However, this takes on new meaning now. It is no longer about just being present but actively participating and enriching these communities by providing unique content, tokens and access—not just traditional advertising formats. We will also see (and have already seen) the transition from this happening on Facebook/Instagram to the use of Discord and similar upcoming channels.

Lastly, as Users Take Control of Their Data Brands Need to Explain and Clearly Demonstrate the Real Value to Customers or Risk Losing Access.

Brands can take this a step further by rethinking their strategy behind what utility they provide consumers. When they proactively move beyond treating media as a channel and instead solving their problems by providing value at a specific time and interaction when and where they need you.

As the connection between brands and consumers becomes something designed to provide service and profit for users, they will finally be able to keep some semblance of the data they control today.

Mark my words: Audience design will be the key to all advertising within the next two years. Figuring out a way to decode people and understand their preferences and needs and then subsequently target them without knowing exactly who they are… that’s both the challenge and the task at hand.