As retailers and brands go through the transition from Web 2.0 to Web 3.0, there are new protocols to consider if companies want to engage consumers. The “walled garden” of centralized control of data is giving way to a cookieless Internet where privacy is paramount.
Consumers in this new environment are still craving to be engaged. But it must be on their terms and within their niche communities.
In this Thought Leaders’ Lab, the participants discussed the evolution of Web 1.0 to Web 3.0, what’s different about the “New Open Web” and what brands need to consider from a marketing and strategic perspective. The participants included Whitney Fishman Zember, Head of Media Innovation & Consumer Technology at Wavemaker, Sean MacDonald, Global Chief Innovation Officer at McCann Worldgroup, Danny Veech, Director of Performance Marketing at Fair Harbor, Albert Chong, Vice President of Digital Marketing at ILIA Beauty, and Peipei Lin, Vice President of Marketing (North America) at Rimowa. Tim Vanderhook, CEO and Co-founder of Viant, served as moderator of the session.
Tim Vanderhook: When we think about how the Internet has evolved, what is the evolution of Web 1.0 to Web 3.0? And what is the future of Web 3.0?
Sean MacDonald: I see Web 3.0 as this value superhighway because you can transfer digital value much more quickly than you could in the past. If Web 1.0 was all about information, and Web 2.0 was sort of this social superhighway, Web 3.0 is where creators can create these digital assets and immediately get credit or value attributed to them. It’s almost like finance and the Internet had a baby.
Whitney Fishman Zember: If you look at the evolution, it was search, then search and social, and now it’s search, social and finance. Web 3.0 changes the nature of the path so that you receive the actual content you’re seeking — the thing that you want to buy. And the decentralized nature of it makes it far more open with far less guardrails.
T.V.: Yes, Web 3.0 is a move away from these big, centralized platforms that control everything we see and read. And it’s all about privacy.
Albert Chong: I think the idea of privacy is interesting because that’s what consumers are actually thinking about. For them, it’s transparency about how their data is being used and choosing what brands and publishers they share their data with.
Peipei Lin: Web 3.0 really is empowering to watch for this reason. It’s consumers and creators reclaiming their power. And it is community-centric, a new world that is created for the consumer and it’s demanded by the consumer. With that in mind, we really must be mindful of this new community-centric model as a brand and a business.
S.M.: I think this notion of privacy is so extreme on Web 3.0 because you will only have your digital wallet. So, I think for brands this is going to be a complete turn of things upside down.
T.V.: I agree. It goes to identity, which is huge when it comes to the Internet and is a topic of conversation every day as third-party cookies edge closer to extinction. In Web 1.0, you created your own username and a password. Web 2.0 was where I logged in with Google, Facebook, Twitter, etc. For Web 3.0, the way you’re going to log in to these services is by connecting a digital wallet. So, I think it opens a whole new world for brands to discover new consumers.
P.L.: I think the beauty about Web 3.0, at least what I’m observing now, is this community-centric mindset. It’s a new audience and new consumer. From a brand perspective, acquisition might change in a traditional sense, but it’s a bit like self-selection for the consumer. In turn, they become ambassadors and advocates for your brand.
W.F.Z.: Web 3.0 kind of forces everybody to step up their game, right? Because if you have all these super-niche communities or super micro-communities, and it comes to targeting, in theory, you can target and sort of double-down because you can find really small groups.
Danny Veech: I don’t think there’s a massive difference in how we are acquiring these customers. It’s just reflective of an ever-changing consumer world. We’re just meeting them in a different manner, right? We’re going to go where they are and meet them there with an experience that they are wanting and craving.
W.F.Z.: Again, you must ask what is the utility you can provide — especially when Web 3.0 is decentralized?
T.V.: It’s a great point. Web 3.0 removes a lot of friction for consumers. Let’s just start with payment. One of the biggest problems and buying online was pulling out your credit card, typing in your name, your address, the shipping address, the billing address, all the credit card information, etc. And then along comes Apple Pay and wow, that’s so much faster. Paying in crypto is even faster than Apple Pay with a lot less fees. So, it’s a lot faster I think for consumers, which is the utility that’s going to drive adoption.
A.C.: Within that context, as we move into Web 3.0, how else has the consumer and their experience changed?
D.V.: I don’t know if there’s been a massive change in how our consumers are spending their money, overall. Of course, during the pandemic, they were not traveling as much and dining out. But now they’re back in the real world. They’re spending money on traveling, events, experiences, eating out and catching up on weddings and other milestones.
T.V.: From a content consumption perspective, pre-pandemic, people were still consuming their content from a set-top box delivered via satellite or cable. I think one of the biggest changes post-pandemic is most of us are now streaming everything. We’ve replaced the set-top box with an open Internet platform called a Roku or a Fire TV. And we’re downloading apps with these devices — the same way we do on a smartphone. There’s less advertising in general, but maybe there will be more advertising in the future. We’ll see.
A.C.: I think there’s been both a temporary and permanent shift in consumer behavior. The temporary shift was a jump in ecommerce during the peak pandemic period. Now, the permanent change is around the customer experience and seeking out a personal connection with a brand.
D.V.: Yes, consumers want to have this intimate connection with a brand, and you want them to know everything about you. But with Web 3.0, there’s also a demand for privacy. Brands are going to have to leverage data and information to find a middle ground.
T.V.: I personally think consumers want to give information to you in exchange for a better shopping experience.
S.M.: For me, I think Web 3.0 is about community and purpose. A brand really needs to understand the higher value it’s going to provide its consumers. The goal should be to find that niche community and provide an experience that empowers them to become ambassadors for the brand.
A.C.: As a performance marketer, it almost feels like I should just switch roles to a brand marketer. Because everything we’re talking about — brand values and purpose — is to gain that identity and connect to communities. This is a brand marketers’ world. And I’m excited for brand marketers and what will unfold in the next few years. But as a performance marketer, I think we’ve enjoyed our success. I hope it’s not over yet, but it’s definitely another dimension to think about. It’s not just about the purchase anymore. You need to earn trust.
D.V.: I’m in the same shoes as you. I’m in this performance marketing world, but I think Web 3.0 offers another tool in the toolbox. So, how are we going to use it? And what do we do today to start building that foundation so when the full Web 3.0 is here, we’re doing the best that we can to still acquire our customers and give consumers the best experience ever?
P.L.: I agree. Again, I’m thinking about the community, and asking how does the brand best serve today’s consumers? There is a lot for brands to still learn about Web 3.0. The landscape is ever evolving. You really must think through all the tactics and activities we do and weigh the risk/reward. And ask how do we stay authentic to the platform, and again, not be self-serving from a business or institution standpoint, because that’s the antithesis of what Web 3.0 is about.
W.F.Z.: Web 3.0 is a long-term shift and complete business change. So, we need to start preparing today and planning today. That means doing your research, having these conversations, looking at the backend of your business and, frankly, having the hard conversations with your team and asking: what are we missing? And what do we need to best be prepared to transact and engage?
And one of the themes today that we keep circling around is this notion of community. We have redefined the community with the pandemic, we have redefined it with every iteration of retail and commerce. And as we move towards Web 3.0, it’s a transition into finding the most niche and micro-communities and discovering out the exact needs of the consumers in this community. And for a brand, figuring out how can you show up for the community versus expecting the community to show up for you.
T.V.: For me, I think Web 3.0 is still so early, yet so exciting. I think the biggest takeaway from today’s conversation is that you can’t let fear stop you from building space in a decentralized market. Brands that experiment and get over that initial fear while they’re not just looking at it from an ROI perspective will succeed. And it doesn’t matter where you go, those consumers and communities are going to be so excited that you showed up. They’re going to start being the word of mouth and the net promoters of your brand because you as a brand went out of your way to come into their community and that means a lot to them.
So, don’t let your fears stop you from experimenting in these new areas because it’s okay to fail. No one knows what the future is. But even though the future is foggy, if you’re going down the right road, you’re going to end up at the destination even though you can’t see it clearly. I hope everybody experiments. And I hope everyone gets into this Web 3.0 world and learns about how these new environments work.
The Founders Corner
A lot has changed in the 22 years since the founding of Viant. Co-founders Tim Vanderhook and his brother Chris Vanderhook, who serves as COO, said in the company’s early years the Internet was still in its first iteration, what is now referred to as Web 1.0.
Brands engaged consumers in a “search-driven” market, and success was scarce. But as early pioneers of digital advertising and leaders in behavioral and contextual targeting, Tim and Chris helped clients win customers, drive conversions and create loyal and lifetime shoppers.
A lot of their success, then and now, is in their leadership style, commitment to ESG practices and a company culture that is anchored by delivering innovation.
“I think our leadership style is authentic,” Tim said. “It’s who we are as people. And I just try and bring that every single day. I’m family oriented. I have pressures at home with the little kids. I know other people have it, so I don’t really care what time you show up to work. It’s more, can we get the work done? And are you bringing energy? One of the biggest things I try and bring into the room is energy. Starting with kinetic energy. It takes elbow grease to get stuff going. And you got to kind of slog through that initially, but it’s infectious and everyone around you, especially your team, feels your passion.”
“When you walk in a room as a founder, if you’re not bringing that energy, it’s a dead room,” he added. “So, the number one goal is to bring the vision and bring the excitement and the passion behind that. And if you’re not bringing it 24/7, no one on your team is going to match it.”