Jonathan Izzard, strategy director at b2b experiential agency Wonder, explores Web3 - an idea for a new iteration of the internet based on blockchain technology - and the opportunities it holds for event professionals...
Curiosity is a vital part of creativity. It motivates us to do better - to be better - challenging us to evolve by stoking the fire of possibility.
As people who want to be seen as experienced problem-solvers, the idea of ‘known unknowns’ may not always sit comfortably with agencies - but for the brave, they’re a source of inspiration, not apprehension. And when it comes to technology, few innovations take up as much space in the collective peripheral vision of the B2B world - whilst remaining conspicuously difficult to comprehensively define - as Web3.
Though it may not be a fully-fledged reality yet, the vision of Web3 as the progressive, people-powered evolution of the internet is gaining interest and traction among businesses, nonprofits and governments alike. Underpinned by rapidly maturing technology, momentum is gathering around its real world uses and the tangible value this new space can offer at both macro and micro levels.
So, what can we, as B2B experience creators, learn from this new frontier? How can it help us build meaningful moments for audiences across both digital and physical worlds?
For me, it comes down to focusing on the DNA of Web3 itself: as an inclusive, people-centric platform, the parallels of the Web3 vision and an audience-first approach are clear. And confidently embracing this thinking in the experience principles that guide our work will only make us better.
Principle 1: Decentralised
The central differentiator of Web3 from its forebears, where a global network of nodes concurrently houses blockchain data, replacing the need for big tech gatekeepers, owned data centres and information stewards. Creating a direct and always-on relationship with users that moves at the speed of life.
What it means for us: We need to continue to evolve the Hybrid model, considering the relevant replication of experiences through live physical moments that happen concurrently and without compromise. This is particularly important given that 46 per cent of event organisers have recognised difficulties for speakers in simultaneously engaging virtual and in-person audiences (Source: Markletic).
We need to strive for a more harmonious human hybrid blend, with businesses creating increasingly meaningful connections
We need to strive for a more harmonious human hybrid blend, with businesses creating increasingly meaningful connections by ensuring their thinking is audience-first. Building and bonding a community, to deliver them value, no matter who they are, where they are, or when they are sharing experiences.
This may mean less reliance on single, large-scale, potentially missable set pieces, and instead, building experiences based on how people live and consume the world around them. Ownable, personal moments, where tech plays a pivotal role in ensuring experiences (and the transfer of information) feel organic and two-way, from complementary digital OS and ‘pin-for-later’ programming, to real-time development based on the collective desire of the audience.
Principle 2: Layered
The cornerstone of Web3’s architecture, through which its real world applications are constructed and developed, layers define how both builders and individual end-users experience Web3, based on who they are and what they want to do.
What it means for us: Personalisation is key. Building experiences, journeys and event user experience that cater for different audience starting points, demonstrating an understanding of varying knowledge and need states. Making any attendee/audience feel like they will benefit from participating in an experience, and that there’s deeper value to be explored beneath the surface.
Multiple, concurrent user journeys and experiences that engage and involve both IRL and URL audiences.
Layers allow different people to uncover what’s right for them - a more natural and rewarding participative human process founded on freedom within a smart framework and guided self-discovery.
Principle 3: Inclusive & Empowering
Through its decentralised nature and practical real world use-cases, Web3 is designed to be inclusive above all things. Whether through providing the estimated 1.7 billion unbanked individuals around the world access to financial systems, promoting freedom of speech, or helping denote ownership of (and royalties from) IP, Web3 helps create a more open and equitable world.
Unilever’s recent foray into the metaverse, through its Decentraland-based ‘Metathon’ for Degree/Sure is a good example of an inclusive experience that communicates a set of progressive brand values. Bringing less represented groups together within a virtual space to remind us that we have the power to positively shape this new world.
What it means for us: A different type of personalisation, helping make audiences feel connected, invited and excited - whoever they are. A focus on delivering meaningful longtail value; ensuring audiences and attendees come out of business experiences feeling both nourished and inspired.
The ultimate demonstration of understanding audiences’ needs and catering for them - whether you’re talking C-suites, customers, key decision-makers or broader employees, we need to show that we get what they want and need out of B2B events.
Principle 4: Innovative & Disruptive
Building an evolved online world from the ground up enables Web3 and those harnessing its power to reimagine the status quo and circumvent systemic barriers. This sees them unencumbered by traditional, real-world (or Web 2.0) building blocks or constraints.
What it means for us: The impact on ordinary people everywhere of the past two years has been to reappraise and reapproach, with more knowledge about themselves and potentially less fear about the unknown than before. If innovation set us free in lockdown, we need to consider the value of stress-testing more systemic changes in the experiences we create for businesses.
The need for the world of business experiences to keep pace with sustainability necessitates brave new thinking
Don’t settle for what’s come before, just because it came before. Reconsider the safe solution and have the courage to experiment. Don’t be afraid to ask ‘What if…?’ - and never be afraid of the answer. Consider or reconsider the power of possibility.
Whilst this doesn’t have to mean smashing the system or reinventing the wheel, the need for the world of business experiences to keep pace with sustainability, for example, necessitates brave new thinking and commercial savvy.
Principle 5: Truthful & Open
People, not profit, are at the heart of the experience: in control of their data, not productised by it. There’s no big brand agenda driving your connections to the products and services you need, and no need for blind faith in the honesty of big tech gatekeepers. As Gavin Wood, one of the co-creators of Ethereum and proponents of Web3 puts it, this is a world founded on “less trust, more truth”.
What it means for us: Whilst GDPR and an imminently cookieless web have sought to curb the flagrant productisation of individuals through data they don’t even know they have shared, action needs to start from the frontline, not just through independent governance.
Jonathan Izzard. Image: supplied.
Cultivating a covenant of trust, whether between a business and its employees or its customers is more vital than ever, with an Adobe’s Trust report highlighting that 76 per cent of B2B customers felt a need for businesses to show more empathy. The same study recorded that 81 per cent of consumers say that having choices about how companies use their data is important, and this needs to be reflected in business experiences.
A transparent transaction for audiences - they know their role, their importance and the reciprocal nature of any value exchange from an experience from the start. Fundamentally, data collection requires a responsible, unambiguous and value-centric ethos, in order to gain and retain the trust of participating audiences.
Whilst Web3 may still be relatively nascent, it’s clear that the vision upon which it is founded mirrors the progressive ideals of the world that it is being built to serve. And these principles don't just have to live online; they should holistically influence how we construct more relevant and resonant experiences for audiences anywhere and everywhere.
For an industry as audience-centric as ours, this ethos needs to be championed and embraced to help us continue to deliver exciting, meaningful and creative B2B experiences, inspired by possibility and progress.