March 8, 2023

How NFTs and the metaverse are shaping customer experience

Amanda Du Jing, head of e-commerce for Penta Hotels, delivered a hard-hitting conference entitled “Metaverse and NFTs – How do hotels enter the Web3 era?” on the eTravel stage in hall 6.1 as part of the eTravel Track series. 

Amanda Du Jing began her talk by asking: what opportunities does the web 3 space offer for hotels? She went on to address this question in detail using concrete situations and examples.

If web 1 is for users consuming information and web 2 is for creating content (for example with social media) then web 3, Amanda Du Jing explained, is all about owning. 

NFT stands for nun-fungible token and it is stored and secured on a blockchain. It can be a jpeg, art, collectibles, etc. Amanda Du Jing encouraged companies to do their own research to try and understand what NFTs can do for their project. For Penta Hotels, she organised a private event for corporate clients with perks and exclusive experiences. The idea was to create an exciting experience of membership and loyalty using NFTs.

Amanda Du Jing went over the main criticisms of NFTs and addressed each one individually. The first was that they sometimes come with a clunky user experience. She recommended getting around this by adapting to customers’ habits rather than forcing customers to adapt. She suggested using a webtool app customers are already familiar with, i.g. getting them to provide an email address and create a crypto wallet later instead of insisting they create a crypto wallet right away. The second was the issue of sustainability. Blockchains require a lot of power which uses a lot of resources. Amanda Du Jing suggested that companies choose more sustainable blockchain solutions or invest in carbon offsetting programmes to limit their impact. The last main issue with NFTs that she highlighted was the lack of unified regulations on a global scale. This could especially be an issue for brands launching a global loyalty programme. She encouraged brands to consider this and be aware of applicable regulations in each region. 

So how do NFTs fit in with the metaverse? Amanda Du Jing suggested thinking about the metaverse as Disneyland and NFTs as the tickets to get there. The rides would be the web 3 user experience, powered by blockchains. The metaverse opens up an interconnected digital reality which allows companies to engage with customers in a way they couldn’t previously. With digital twins and enhanced user experiences, Amanda Du Jing affirmed that with a bit of knowledge hotels and travel companies can enter the web 3 space by understanding what part of the customer journey they are trying to optimise and how the technology will bring them a competitive advantage. 

Five main ways NFTs are redefining customer experience

Enhancing and rewarding loyalty. This can include selling tickets that are easy to verify and which can become an asset for attendees and even unlock different elite experiences. It’s a mechanism to encourage customers to engage with you more, rewarding the superfans of your brand. 

Community. NFTs can help build communities around common interests and open up the potential to access brand communities, e.g. a members only restaurant.  They can encourage a very strong sense of belonging to a community, which as a brand it is very important to tap into. 

Co-creation. NFTs represent a way of communicating with the customer. Products and services can keep evolving thanks to the co-creation, for example through doodles. In some cases NFT holders have the right to vote on what is coming next for their product, based on the whole process, which allows the brand to gain customer insight. 

Collaboration. For Amanada Du Jing, NFTs can bring collaboration to the next level, for example now if you want to collaborate with a hotel or an airline you could have co-owned NFTs, eliminating the necessity of a third party middle man. 

Data and personalisation. She cited the example of customers owning an NFT that could allow a website to access their predefined preferences without revealing their identity, an interesting way to combine personalised service and respect data protection laws.