Whenever I get together for dinner with my 30-year-old son, the conversation inevitably turns to technology. Amidst our interesting discussions about politics, economics, and the social landscape, technology talk is always at the forefront. He constantly reminds me that I am a “digital immigrant” while he is a “digital native.” I first put a mouse in his hand when he was 3 years old and the reaction of being able to define his own on-screen experience led him and his entire generation to grow up in a digital-first world. I went all the way through graduate school without seeing a computer. My mind still works in analog tones, even when I’m working with today’s tools. I often remind him of McLuhan’s famous words (1950s) about the “global village” and that “the medium is the message” in the hope he’ll understand that none of the current thinking is really new. We just have a new set of enablers.
If the medium is the message then Web 3.0 must be at the forefront of the discussion. In its initial form, the web was a place where people could find and access almost any information they wanted. It was passive. Web 2.0 brought on the tracking of transactions, where/what people were accessing, with or without their explicit consent. Web sites became loaded with forms for data collection and behind the scenes software that compiled a huge treasure chest of details that could be sold for commercial profit. Interaction increased. E-commerce exploded. The notion of a centralized database controlled by the website operator became the dominant business model. What is the promise of Web 3.0?
Web 3.0 promises to return control to the user.
Choice, freedom and self-control will be the desired outcomes with a corresponding leap in trust, transparency and the overall user experience. It is most often characterized as a “social movement” — loosely owned and operated by the user community rather than a handful of big-tech giants with extensive platforms for commerce, search, connection and (mis)information sharing.
Web 3.0 is still evolving and being defined, which means a lot of murky waters and a variety of accepted definitions — each with potentially their own agenda to promote. What is universally accepted to date is that Web 3.0 will have a strong emphasis on decentralized apps and make extensive use of blockchain-based technologies. Web 3.0 will also make use of machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI) to help empower more intelligent and responsive applications. Experiential enhancements could come from interactive video, virtual or even augmented reality tools.
If we follow the historical trend from Web 1.0, a static information provider where people read websites but rarely interacted with them, to Web 2.0, an interactive, commercial and social medium that enabled collaboration between brands, websites and users, then it can be assumed that Web 3.0 will change both how websites are made and how people interact with them. While Web 3.0 will still enable connection to data sources and groups, where those sources reside could be fundamentally different. Many websites and nearly all apps in the Web 2.0 era rely on some form of centralized database to deliver data and help to enable functionality. With Web 3.0 the centralized database, applications and services will make use of a decentralized blockchain. With blockchain, the basic idea is that there isn't an arbitrary central authority, but rather a decentralized form of distributed agreement.
Finance and the ability to pay for goods and services with a decentralized form of payment is enabled across Web 3.0 and the use cryptocurrencies, NFT’s and new emerging payment forms make sense. All are built and enabled on top of blockchain technology. Decentralized Autonomous Organizations (DAO) will emerge sometimes replacing LLCs, Partnerships and Corporations.
It took over 10 years to transition from Web 1.0 to Web 2.0, and it is expected to take just as long, if not longer, to fully implement and reshape the internet with Web 3.0. Just what is the promise of Web 3.0 for Marketers?
Marketers. We still have time.
Where does this leave marketers, especially loyalty marketers, which is my personal field of study and execution? Will new skills be needed to fully embrace, understand and navigate through the Web 3.0 world? Will loyalty business models need to change? What will be the fundamental financial and customer engagement patterns most likely to be beneficial to brands, service providers and best customers in a Web 3.0 world?
While it is impossible to provide any real concrete answers at this time, I can offer a solid list of recommendations to help you get ready.
Become a “digital first” organization. You can’t take old strategies and bolt on digital tools/techniques. You must start fresh with all planning, loyalty program designs, measurements, finance, and technologies. A clean slate will enable new thinking, untethered to the past, focused on a Web 3.0 future. We can’t solve old challenges with new technologies. But we can use innovative approaches to solve new problems!
Digital natives, including some crypto natives, must be brought into the team in decision-making roles. If leadership remains captive to prior ways of thinking, enabling or controlling, you will likely stumble if not face insurmountable hurdles. Yes, they are younger. Yes, they may lack the years of experience that leadership has. Yes, they know more about Web 3.0 than digital immigrants will ever hope to know.
Read and view everything about Web 3.0 that you can get your browser to deliver. Study. Go to events, podcasts, webinars, decipher research reports, collaborate and share with others who have common interests. Follow the specialists in the space. I am reminded of an old Price Pritchett quote, a business advisor, speaker, and author specializing in mergers, culture, and organizational change. “Become a perpetual student” before you become obsolete.
Experiment with adding a crypto or NFT component to your existing loyalty value prop. Test and learn. Become a consumer of these and other Web 3.0 technologies yourself. Do you play in the online gaming arena? Have you ever experienced the unique environment of a Virtual Reality session?
Web 3.0 will be community driven. Peer-to-peer. Ask and listen to your respective audiences. Find out what the community genuinely cares about and deliver. Along the way, enable them to share, collaborate with each other in the most transparent environment and help them achieve their own community aspirations.
Understand the blockchain. Understand all the various technologies that will enable Web 3.0 to deliver. Ask your tech subject matter experts (SMEs) to host a lunch and learn over free pizza. You don’t need to learn code; you don’t need to write algorithms. But any marketing person who cannot talk tech in the future will be confined to the PR department. Stop blaming tech for your delays or even your failures. If marketing understands the underlying technologies, then they can go a long way in defining requirements that lead to innovation (Tech should also attend a marketing lunch and learn)!
When The Loyalty Academy released its 2018 Delphi Panel Report, The Future of Loyalty Marketing, we identified the Crypto Craze (Chapter 4) as an emerging trend the industry needed to pay close attention to. That was 4 years ago, and things have certainly evolved. While the panel was split at that time on the implications surrounding crypto, we were definitely ahead of our time in identifying a potential disruptor to our industry.
When I ran this article by my son, he gave me the greatest compliment I’ve heard in a long time. “Pops, for an old guy, you get it.” Not really. Just a digital immigrant trying to stay on top of a very fluid situation which will likely change the loyalty marketing industry in the years to come.
Mike Capizzi, CLMP, is a 50-year veteran of the marketing services industry. He currently serves as the Dean of The Loyalty Academy and a Partner in The Wise Marketer Group.
This article was written for The Loyalty Science Lab at Old Dominion University, Professor Yuping Lui-Thompkins, PhD., Executive Director. Doctor Thompkins is a CLMP and serves on the Board of Regents for The Loyalty Academy. Follow them on LinkedIn for the latest research and insights on the loyalty marketing phenomenon.