According to Monica Ho, CMO of SOCi, a marketing platform for multi-location B2C brands, it's hard for companies to develop a global/local mindset, especially because there hasn't been a lot of technology to support the different levels of management.
But they need to do it, especially in this increasingly digital world. Often, national brands have smaller marketing teams and limited resources, and they rely on local funds from franchisees. So they have to show these local locations what their dollars are getting them.
The SOCi platform lets them look at the company as a whole, monitoring things like ratings and reviews across locations, social engagement, and search visibility. But it also provides location-based access to dashboards to track how they are doing locally and provide guidance on next steps (e.g., responding to new reviews), including features such as:
- A scoring tool that provides guidance on what content to write about or repost
- Content reviews are rated, and editable responses are recommended to follow brand guidelines.
- The platform also finds user-generated content the brand might want to use and helps them reach out to get permission to use the content.
Here's the interesting thing. These are great tools to help B2C brands, but many still need to improve digital engagement. Ho said a lot of brands are trying to catch up. Social, ratings and reviews unlocked a consumer power many brands still don't get, especially on a local level. She explained that many retailers and other B2C companies think they have a great brand and are well-known, so they don't need to worry about the local experience.
But COVID drove people online and made them more comfortable with digital interactions. They have no problem leaving comments, asking questions online, or leaving reviews and feedback, but brands are doing nothing. You wouldn't go into a retail store and stand at the cash and be ignored, Ho argues, but online, brands still aren't paying attention:
I think for the normal brands, they need to get better at digital communication, digital conversations, because I think that's going to tee up a muscle that maybe they don't know how to flex just yet, but absolutely a muscle they are going to need if they ever go to the metaverse, right, being able to engage in a digital environment, being aware of how quickly those conversations can happen.
The Metaverse is a digital world where people engage in a computer-generated environment, interacting with others and having unique experiences. It's by no means mainstream, but it's something many brands have on their radar.
Ho says that a lot of brands are trying to figure out what to do with the Metaverse, especially retailers and restaurants. They know it's not a big bet right now, but it is a place for testing and learning.
The brands Ho is talking to and working with are getting more comfortable with how quickly digital is transforming. As a result, they are very thoughtful about setting aside a small budget for testing some concepts and learning what works.
B2C brands are trying to understand if there is a way to get people to experience their brand in the Metaverse but be familiar at the same time. Essentially, it's a brand awareness play first. Ho gave the example of a burrito place. In the metaverse, the restaurant would create a storefront in a popular area, and people could enter the store to do something. The question is, what? Maybe they could buy food or create a menu item and see if others want it. Or they could gamify the experience where people need food to "power up."
The idea is to make an impression, one that, when the person is out in the physical world, would bring that brand to mind if, say, the person was hungry. So the metaverse is a way to experience the brand differently, make an impression, and have fun. We already see examples of people trying on clothes, buying property, or artwork; this is the next level as the metaverse evolves, and retailers will have an opportunity to offer branded experiences.
Some ideas I had that would be fun in the Metaverse:
- Go into a restaurant and have a food fight.
- Buy a pair of Nike hightops and play basketball.
- Select people in the metaverse to try on a brand's clothes and hold a fashion show.
The ideas are endless if you think about it. It's about brand exposure and experience, Ho explains. And it has to be authentic and make sense. Ho believes that if you experience a brand in the metaverse, then it has the potential to be top of mind when you want the product or service they sell in the real world:
There's so many different applications. I think we're going to have to just watch and see. But I think it's going to be very different than other social applications that we've seen just because it is different. It's experiential. You're in a very different world. There's so many different possibilities. So it's interesting and scary at the same time.
Brands aren't going to hit it big with the Metaverse tomorrow, but digital innovation is happening faster all the time, and it's not impossible that we could see mass adoption in less than ten years, said Ho (which is about the length of time it took for mobile to become mainstream).
COVID changed our world faster than maybe it would have if it hadn't happened; people had no choice but to shift to digital. They were stuck at home and craving experiences. The metaverse will be an outlet, and brands will have an opportunity to be there and be part of the experience. There are things that worry me about the metaverse, especially related to mental health issues, but that's another discussion for another time.
Today, CMOs are struggling with a changing environment. The economy is in turmoil, we're still dealing with COVID and other health issues, and there's war and political turmoil. Ho argues that all this affects marketers who need to help grow a company but do it efficiently. She said there is this constant challenge to invest in traditional marketing strategies that bring in audiences but also reserve some budget to test what's coming next.
Marketing is indeed facing budget cuts and resource constraints. And yes, revenue may slow down for a while. But it seems like the perfect time to be testing new opportunities. People might not buy in the real world, but the digital world is their escape, and more will find their way to the metaverse. So brands need to think about how to be there and deliver engaging experiences so that when things get better, they haven't lost the attention of their target customers.