From the SURREAL July 2021 White Paper, The Future of Fan Experiences in a Post-Pandemic World (And How to Monetize Them).
An evolved digital strategy is no longer nice-to-have, it’s crucial to business continuity, marketing success, and can also positively impact the bottom line. Approach monetizing digital experiences by adapting tried-and-true methods of monetization to your digital approach, researching how other industries monetize experiences, and explore how you can translate that for your own digital experiences.
Brands can monetize digital experiences through:
Tickets and Registration. Consider a tiered ticket approach for in-person events and their virtual counterparts—making the online and app-based event ticket price a cheaper rate than the physical event. If app adoption is part of your core KPI’s, consider hosting a free or freemium event held exclusively on your app.
Collectibles, Merchandise, and Digital Exclusives. Once you’ve found and engaged with an addressable—and interested—audience, use events and digital media as opportunities to upsell. Do this by giving users access to custom and exclusive merchandise, as Travis Scott did with his ‘Icon Series’ in Fortnite (NME) or providing access to exclusive, invite-only experiences via digital channels.
Collaborations, Sponsorships and Revenue Shares. Partnering with like-minded companies is not only a great way to grow both your audience and brand awareness, but also is a great monetization tactic. If you’re a tech brand, consider partnering with a media company for your next event; if you’re a developer, consider partnering with an influencer or creator to broaden reach. Your brand is only as strong as your network—use collaboration and sponsorships as a way to generate the traction—and funds—needed to successfully produce a digital experience. Be creative and think strategically on how your core competencies can help a brand partner, and what you need in return.
Non-fungible Tokens (NFTs). Utilize this ever-so-trending topic to diversify the way in which your brand makes money. “At a very high level, most NFTs are part of the Ethereum blockchain. Ethereum is a cryptocurrency, like bitcoin or dogecoin, but its blockchain also supports these NFTs, which store extra information that makes them work differently from, say, an ETH coin” (The Verge). Accepting NFTs as a method of payment shows audiences you're "in the know" and looking to the future. According to The Verge, “NFTs can really be anything digital (such as drawings, music, your brain downloaded and turned into an AI), but a lot of the current excitement is around using the tech to sell digital art” (The Verge). The first step in accepting alternative payments is to first understand them.
Downloadable Content (DLC) and In-Platform Digital Purchases. Take a page from online gaming to up-level your digital monetization tactics. “Some DLCs introduce new and memorable characters and others open entire new maps to explore. There are DLCs that unlock different outfits, classes, and more” (Gamerant). For brand experiences, give audiences the opportunity to unlock outfits during a digital fashion show, purchase additional maps and room access for online conferences, and open up exclusive chat rooms with influencers and industry experts at your next virtual event. But, don’t just make the content digital-only: match these DLCs with tangible eCommerce that users can buy—and have delivered to their doorsteps.
Gaming, eSports Leagues, and Betting. Online gaming and esports are one of the fastest growing and evolving industries. “Most projections put the esports ecosystem on track to surpass $1 billion in revenue for the first time this year. And revenue is expected to grow from here — Newzoo projects it to hit $1.8 billion by 2022. Money flows into esports through media rights, live event ticket sales, merchandise sales, and in-game purchases, but most of the revenue (69%) comes from sponsorships and advertising, per Newzoo figures cited by Statista” (Business Insider). The pandemic brought great focus to online communities—including esports and collaborative gaming platforms—and is predicated to continue in post-covid times. Further, recent events such as the spike in GameStop shares due to Reddit users continue to show us the power of online communities around a shared theme. Betting is also a great way to monetize your event or platform, in controlled ways. Consider whether your brand fits a betting environment, if it will be beneficial or harmful for your brand to be associated with betting, and also how you would facilitate it.
“The pop-culturization of esports has helped power the explosions in esports investment and revenue. Esports has hit this stratosphere in large part because of the social component of live streaming and gaming. Video gaming-specific streaming platforms like Twitch and YouTube Gaming give fans a direct connection to the players and teams, while more mainstream socials have allowed those connections to flourish,” (Business Insider).
Experiential Marketing, Virtual Activations, and Experiences. Utilize emerging technology like augmented and virtual reality to bring activations at in-person events to life. Give your audience the opportunity to test out 3D, photo real renderings of home design projects, as Kichler did in their “Lighting the Way Forward” event; show customers behind-the-scenes of production—as Tom Shoes did using VR—keeping in mind that the more real an experience is, the more it resonates with customers.
Finding the conduit between new types of digital experiences and tried and true monetization tactics (ticketing, sponsorship, retail environments, advertising) can bring your brand into the future while holding on to what has historically worked.
· “Travis Scott breaks ‘Fortnite’ streaming record with virtual ‘Astronomical’ show,” NME. Accessed on July 21, 2021 and viewable at https://www.nme.com/news/music/travis-scott-breaks-fortnite-streaming-record-virtual-astronomical-show-2654626 .
· “NFTs, explained,” The Verge. Accessed on July 21, 2021 and viewable at https://www.theverge.com/22310188/nft-explainer-what-is-blockchain-crypto-art-faq .
· “20 Games With The Best DLC Content, Ranked,” Game Rant. Accessed on July 21, 2021 and viewable at https://gamerant.com/games-best-dlc-skyrim-fallout-hitman-red-dead-redemption/ .
· “Esports Ecosystem Report 2021: The key industry companies and trends growing the esports market which is on track to surpass $1.5B by 2023,” Business Insider. Accessed on July 21, 2021 and viewable at https://www.businessinsider.com/esports-ecosystem-market-report .
· “GameStop shares jump after the Reddit favorite raises $551 million in stock sales,” CNBC. Accessed on July 21, 2021 and viewable at https://www.cnbc.com/2021/04/26/gamestop-shares-jump-after-the-reddit-favorite-raises-more-than-500-million-in-stock-sales.html
· “Lighting the Way Forward,” SURREAL. Accessed on July 21, 2021 and viewable at https://www.surrealevents.com/events/kichler .
· “TOMS Brings Virtual Reality Giving Trips to Retail Customers,” VR Scout. Accessed on July 21, 2021 and viewable at https://vrscout.com/news/toms-virtual-reality-giving-trips/ .