Blog Post

Digital Transformation in the Age of NFTs: Exploration of Innovation in Customer Engagement

The digital epoch has ushered businesses into an innovative realm where technology isn't merely a tool, but an ecosystem. This is especially true in customer service, as tech-savvy consumers have come to expect high standards for the experience and engagement they receive when purchasing products and services. As the algorithmic capabilities of artificial intelligence continue to advance, innovation continues around the use of NFTs and other technological innovations emerge, the path to customer engagement is being rewritten.

After an intense hype cycle surrounding NFTs, the metaverse and web3, which included many false starts and big ideas that ultimately fell short of expectations, the new digital ecosystem has now reached a point where organisations can explore and implement NFTs for real purpose and use. With that, many companies are redefining their strategies to enable deeper and more efficient experiences for customers, in ways that only web3 technologies can support. For example, by leveraging NFTs as the foundation of loyalty programs, organisations can achieve valuable applications of web3 technologies that will help define a new baseline for digital customer engagement. This includes driving opportunity across the following areas:

  • Personalisation. The age of one-size-fits-all marketing and product delivery is long past. Today's consumers expect businesses to recognize their individual preferences, interests and habits. The focus is no longer on demographic targeting. Rather, winning strategies are based upon targeting the individual. Achieving such targeting requires data, and brands are harnessing vast amounts of information to craft personalised experiences. From browsing behaviour to purchase histories, every digital footprint can be a pointer to enrich tailored experiences. In addition to providing a more targeted experience for consumers, this personalisation is also beneficial for businesses. Brands that leverage specialised individual targeting achieve higher engagement rates, better conversion and increased loyalty.
  • Omnichannel mastery. Businesses today must provide a seamless experience across the entire customer journey, which requires integrating backend systems and ensuring real-time data sync across potentially dozens of platforms. This allows for engagement across every entry and exit point of the customer journey. By recognizing that customers might start their journey on one channel and complete it on another is crucial, brands can support seamless transitions. This kind of omnichannel mastery often drives higher retention rates, as customers appreciate and build loyalty to brands that offer convenience and a positive experience.
  • Powerful real-time feedback. With digital tools, businesses now have access to instantaneous insights and feedback from customers, allowing for faster response to necessary adjustments and iterations. Strategies can be pivoted in the moment, so they are well aligned to customer requests and needs. When customers see their feedback being acted upon promptly, they are more likely to feel valued, thus cultivating and reinforcing brand trust.
  • Trust as currency. Digital assurance is more important than ever before in today’s privacy-focused culture. With the increasing prevalence of data breaches, consumers need assurance that their data is safe. They also want to know how their data is being used. Strong security controls, combined with clear and transparent policies can bridge any trust gaps. Importantly, trust isn't only about avoiding negative consequences. It's a significant driver for loyalty. When customers trust a brand, they're more likely to return and even advocate for the brand to others.

As businesses navigate the digital age, these foundational pillars will help nurture deep, enduring relationships with customers. Embracing these principles can set brands apart in a highly competitive digital marketplace.

Evolution of Value Proposition 

The digital revolution has transformed how businesses operate, and how they articulate and deliver value to their customers. Value proposition — a promise of the value a brand will deliver — must evolve to resonate with the modern consumer. 

There has already been a shift from product-centric to customer-centric commerce. Traditionally, businesses focused primarily on the features and benefits of their products. Value was largely defined by the quality and attributes of the product itself. Yet, the advent of the digital age has spurred a distinct pivot. Brands are now looking beyond products to focus on the overall customer experience. The value proposition is increasingly defined by how a product fits into the customer’s life and solves their unique problems. This shift reinforces the idea that businesses must prioritise user experience, personalised solutions and holistic service ecosystems to deliver true value and remain competitive.

Data plays a critical role in pursuing the transition to a customer-centric value proposition. It is an essential resource that, when applied properly, can power decisions, drive customisation and shape the development of future offerings. For example, data about each customer’s individual preferences and behaviours can be leveraged to deliver highly personalised targeting. Continuous collection and analysis of feedback allows businesses to refine their offerings and ensure the value proposition remains relevant and compelling.

Most brands today that they require a digital-first approach to their value delivery. This means more than offering products online. Increasingly, value will need to be enhanced and expanded through digital services. For instance, a clothing brand might offer virtual try-ons. A car-racing league may offer personalized experiences for fans to connect with their favourite drivers in the metaverse. Brands can also foster digital communities, where customers can connect, share and even co-create products, adding layers of value to the primary offering.

Value propositions must also incorporate intangible elements such as ethos, identity, sustainability and social responsibility. Consumers are more conscious than ever before of the broader impact of their purchases. Brands that incorporate sustainability and social responsibility into their value proposition will resonate deeply with a growing segment of the market. To help support this, digital interfaces provide numerous touchpoints for brands to connect emotionally with their customers, from impactful storytelling to interactive experiences. An emotional connection amplifies the perceived value and can foster loyalty beyond just the functional aspects of a product.

The evolution of the value proposition in the digital landscape underscores the need for brands to be dynamic, data-informed and deeply connected to their customers’ changing desires and expectations. It’s a journey of continuous adaptation, and one that promises enduring relationships and sustained success.

NFTs: A New Frontier in Branding and Loyalty

NFTs are blockchain-enabled technology that provide unique, verifiable, traceable and authenticated digital units of an item of value. In recent years, their proliferation in art, gaming, finance, e-commerce and other areas has spurred a flurry of interest and speculation. While some use cases have yet to be proven out, NFTs can be used as a viable tool for businesses looking to interact with their audiences in innovative and disruptive ways. One such emerging application is the use of NFTs for loyalty programs, which provide a platform for brands to tap into unique web3 benefits and opportunities. This is more than simply offering a new digital medium for loyalty benefits. It’s about immersing customers in dynamic, exclusive, gamified interactions and virtual events. 

For example, brands can airdrop loyalty program members a targeted video clip of their favourite athlete that extends into a virtual reality experience. NFTs can also be leveraged for brand storytelling, by embedding history, origin and narrative within a digital asset that can evolve over time. This is an effective medium for engaging with tech-first audiences, who are typically more attuned to digital adoption.

Everything can be highly personalised based on customer preferences, behaviours and loyalty status, all in a seamless interface that doesn’t require any engagement with cryptocurrency or digital wallets. There are numerous examples of successful NFT-based loyalty programs. For example, Starbucks Odyssey is a blockchain-based loyalty program offering interactive activities and gamification, and expanding traditional rewards with unique NFT-based offerings. Lufthansa launched an NFT loyalty program that allows travellers to collect unique digital cards that can be used to unlock real-world and virtual perks such as lounge access, redeemable airline miles and more.  

The Future of NFTs in Branding

Implementing a loyalty program using NFTs requires consideration of and attention to several key challenges. The fundamental concept of NFTs can be challenging for some to grasp, which requires brands to educate their audience about NFTs, what they are used for, the limitations of their value and how they align to real-world use. Additionally, global regulatory frameworks surrounding NFTs is still in flux in many regions. Brands should remain updated and compliant with emerging regulations and conduct due diligence to ensure their loyalty programs are aligned to fulfil best practices and regulatory requirements.

As technology continues to evolve, NFTs will become more blended with virtual and augmented reality environments, extending the opportunities for immersive brand experiences. There will also likely be strides in interoperability, so these programs can operate across different platforms and applications, providing additional utility and reach. By exploring the unique characteristics and potentials of NFTs, brands evaluate innovative ways to foster deeper connections, enhance experience and engage in an evolving era of digital-first customer relationships.

The views expressed herein are those of the author(s) and not necessarily the views of FTI Consulting, its management, its subsidiaries, its affiliates, or its other professionals.