From the SURREAL July 2021 White Paper, The Future of Fan Experiences in a Post-Pandemic World (And How to Monetize Them).
After a year and a half into the pandemic, people aren’t just suffering from Zoom fatigue and digital concert overload, they are seeking experiences that provide less unilateral engagement in favor of more meaningful connection. It becomes imperative, then, to invest in the technological infrastructure for out-of-the-box digital experiences to bring value to your audience—and turn that added engagement into opportunities to monetize.
“We don’t need this crazy technology to do this, we have everything we need right now. The metaverse becoming a reality is not just gadgets it’s more about the adoption of these games by people and developers learning what elements make for really awesome online social experiences,” Tim Sweeney, CEO Epic Games (VentureBeat).
Brands can capitalize on this global phenomenon by investing in the resources and technology to provide consumers, employees, and other stakeholders with an elevated digital experience.
Here’s how to get started:
• Create a comprehensive digital strategy.
Nowadays, it’s not enough for brands to just have a digital presence. With chatbots enhancing a website experience, live broadcasts and interviews occurring on Instagram, and even dating apps like Hinge and Tinder integrating video chat into their platforms, the digital ecosystem is more elevated than years past. Think about your brand’s core strengths and why your audience continues to engage (use behavioral science and data analytics to quantify these assumptions) and then utilize members of your team—from digital marketing managers and creative directors, to interns and software engineers—to brainstorm ways to bring your brand into the future.
• Incorporate a hybrid model.
A traditional in-person event evolved to a digital conference on Zoom or Hangouts during the pandemic, yet findings suggest that a hybrid physical and digital model will become the ‘new normal’. Joanne Dennison, Boston University School of Hospitality Administration adjunct professor sums this up nicely, “A company might have had a national sales convention, and now do five regional meetings. They might have a hybrid component. That will probably be the rest of 2021. Then comes 2022, and it will open up for more national meetings, and I think almost everything will have a hybrid component. They may not have the 3,000- or 5,000-people event; maybe they’ll do East Coast and West Coast events. I foresee people being reluctant to go to meetings that involve that many people, even next year” (BU Today). Ensure that your event programming includes opportunities for digital engagement before, during, or even after an event—which can range from offering exclusive programming online-only during a conference, or incorporating second-screen experiences into an in-person or televised event.
• Think big. Really big.
While some companies are beginning to embrace a more thorough digital strategy, cutting-edge brands are zooming into the future. 60 years ago, when The Jetsons aired, it was preposterous to imagine a world with smart homes, video calls, holograms, or 3D printed food, yet it has quickly become reality in present day. Traditional multichannel experiences will soon evolve to multiversal experiences—and future-thinking brands are already at the forefront of this creation. “The future of social media may not be in traditional platforms, but in immersive gaming environments with their own economies, currencies, and culture. Fortnite, the popular battle royale shooter by Epic Games, is striving to become the first digital metaverse: a shared virtual space that goes beyond gaming to include an endless buffet of media experiences. CEO Tim Sweeney has been actively promoting the metaverse concept, and even if it’s years away, one can begin to discern the contours of his vision, with Fortnite hosting in-game concerts, movie trailer premieres, and other appointment viewing events over the past year” (Fast Company). Consider recreating a physical space in a digital, avatar-based platform—where avatars can travel from branded platform to platform—or having AR experiences at every in-person event you attend. Don’t be afraid to think outside the box—or watch sci-fi TV shows from the past to help predict this future.
• Invest in tech.
For the most part, there are open-source technology platforms that your brand can take advantage of. Once you have developed a digital strategy and made room for big ideas, look for the technology that can bring these ideas to life. Make room in your budget for the tools and resources to evolve your digital ecosystem.
• Take risks.
Fortune favors the bold, and with a well-thought-out strategy—complete with insights from data and big idea brainstorms—there’s no telling where your brand can go. If there is one thing we learned from Covid-19, it’s how important it is to take risks, swing for the fences, and invest in technology—not to merely avoid disruption, but to embrace it.
• “Tim Sweeney: The open metaverse requires companies to have enlightened self-interest,” VentureBeat. Accessed on July 21, 2021 and viewable at https://venturebeat.com/2021/01/27/tim-sweeney-the-open-metaverse-requires-companies-to-have-enlightened-self-interest/ .
• “The Complete Guide to Chatbots for Marketing,” Sprout Social. Accessed on July 21, 2021 and viewable at https://sproutsocial.com/chatbots/ .
• “Hinge rolls out in-app video calls and reveals how users really feel about quarantine dating,” Mashable. Accessed on July 21, 2021 and viewable at https://mashable.com/article/hinge-video-dating-labs .
• “What Will the New Normal Be for Big Events and Meetings after COVID-19?,’ BU Today. Accessed on July 21, 2021 and viewable at https://www.bu.edu/articles/2021/the-new-normal-for-big-events-after-covid-19-joanne-dennison/ .
• “The Jetsons is actually a bone-chilling dystopia,” The Verge. Accessed on July 21, 2021 and viewable at https://www.theverge.com/2017/11/3/16598440/jetsons-dystopia-dc-comics-future-apocalypse .
• “If you think Fortnite is just a video game, you’re missing the big picture,” Fast Company. Accessed on July 21, 2021 and viewable at https://www.fastcompany.com/90227475/if-you-think-fortnite-is-just-a-video-game-youre-missing-the-big-picture .
• “The 10 most innovative social media companies of 2021,” Fast Company. Accessed on July 21, 2021 and viewable at https://www.fastcompany.com/90600321/social-media-most-innovative-companies-2021 .
• Surreal. Accessed on July 21, 2021 and viewable at https://surrealevents.com/ .
• Unreal Engine. Accessed on July 21, 2021 and viewable at https://www.unrealengine.com/en-US/unreal .