MK: To start, we know that so much is happening in the metaverse and in the world of experiential commerce in general. What’s your thumbnail sketch of the future of shared experiences when it comes to digital commerce?
C.J.: The answer is… there is no simple, elegant answer yet! We’re in the beginning of an era of discovery that may last years, creating protocols and platforms that will allow a deeper level of interconnectivity between people, regardless of where they are. Because when we talk about “the metaverse,” that’s never going to be one place. It’s an act of creating persistence and interconnectivity between many different kinds of experiences, whether it’s augmented reality, virtual, or a mix.
Tre: I agree. The future of commerce reflects the transition that happened from in-store to online. In the metaverse, we’re going to bring back the best bits of being in a store—and add new layers of experience we never thought possible, while integrating what has made online shopping so effective and adoptable for the masses.
MK: Obviously building community with your customers in this new shared space is key. Where do brands start with that?
Tre: The first step is identifying each of your customer types, because there’s so many different platforms where you could spend your time, and you can easily find yourself lost in the endless possibility of it all. You need to know: Where are your customers going to be? Are you going to find them on Roblox, in a younger crowd? Or are you going to find them just across web pages, in which case you need to build some Web3 interactions. So definitely the first step is knowing where to find the right audience that you can convert into loyal customers. And you’ll need a partner with real demand expertise to know which platform, when, and for whom is best for each business goal.
MK: As you’re talking about knowing your customers, I’m thinking about Astound’s emphasis on a data-first approach to relationship management and engagement strategies.
Tre: Exactly—this is why we’re in the prime position to make this connection: because we have deep visibility with all the brands we work with. We understand audience behavior, and connect data from paid media to share a fuller understanding with our clients. We’re able to take all that data and know where we’ll find the returns and where we can best connect to their audiences. We’re ready to take the data from the metaverse on any platform, and combine that with the rest of the data that we have so we can have a really robust understanding of a brand’s customers.
C.J.: When I think of us as a data-first company, I like to think about the origin of the word data, which stems from the Latin word dare, meaning to give. When we talk about getting to know people from a data-first perspective, we are removing ambiguity and doubt as to whom we’re talking to and why we’re talking to them. Through data we give truth to our clients and their customers. That level of clarity builds confidence because consumers feel heard, they feel seen, they feel or see a reflection of themselves in the content. So to say that we’re always looking at the data is to make sure we’re always keeping an eye on the truth of the matter. How are you looking at this relationship that you’re fostering with people on an individual level? Once you’re able to solve that, you can scale it, whether it’s a web, mobile, or metaverse experience.
MK: So we’ve got the data piece down. What else about Astound’s long history in digital commerce helps us shepherd brands into this new world?
Tre: It’s down to being the commerce experts. We have partnerships with all the major players, starting with Salesforce. We have the data pipelines to create these commerce experiences pretty quickly. We have all of that in-house, and we have the relationships to be able to support any of these new platforms.
C.J.: We often say, “Astound is closer to the Buy button.” We understand behavior and how people respond to digital experiences in order to inspire action. But what happens in a world where the Buy button becomes something that might be across a river in a metaverse environment that you have to figure out how to traverse? There’s an entirely new world of audience interaction that needs to be solved for, and Astound’s expertise for years has been helping clients evolve along with technology and protocol developments to not be left irrelevant.
MK: These are great insights—any final thoughts on solving for commerce in the metaverse?
Tre: It requires that a brand feel ambitious and wants to trailblaze. Right now, most KPIs in the metaverse are measured by engagement. How many people were there, how many people were there concurrently, how long were they in the environment, what did they interact with. What you don’t see very much yet is measurement of ROI: How much money are brands making in the metaverse. That’s what everyone is trying to solve in many different ways, and it’s a combination of commerce and blockchain technology and brand awareness of getting people accustomed to interacting in these fashions with these platforms. There’s a term “a constant forge,” where it’s a never-ending state of becoming. Whatever changes come in the metaverse, Astound is there making sure our clients are at the forefront. It just takes some ambition and some knowledge of your customers.
C.J.: Tre keeps using the word ambition, and it’s true: the brands that are brave enough to step into the metaverse are the ones that are winning audience share, and they’ll be the first to figure out how to turn engagement into revenue.