Discovering Web3 and the Metaverse for Jewellery and Luxury Brands
The way jewellers attract and connect with their audiences is changing. Web3 is proving a playground for emerging and established brands alike. Here's why it matters for us all...
When it feels like a digital innovation or experience is announced every day, you know our industry is already changing. With Web3, NFTs and the metaverse, luxury and jewellery brands are embracing expansive, and sometimes divisive, technologies.
Fathom the distinct terminology of Web3 and the metaverse, and these innovations might be the most democratising force in jewellery yet. Jewellery NFTs, immersive experiences, and luxury digital spaces provide boundless potential for sharing stories and creations.
What are Web3 and the metaverse?
A decentralised version of the internet, Web3 places privacy, security, and ownership in the control of the individual.
In the current iteration of the internet, Web2, powers of ownership and trust are held by a small number of large entities and organisations. On the internet as we know it now, content or assets created and held digitally don’t actually belong to the creator or user. And when we use the internet, we have no choice but to place a huge amount of trust in the private companies that run it.
Web3 allows users to create assets and interactions without the need for such intermediaries. Decentralised technologies such as blockchain, NFTs, and cryptocurrencies give the power – and value – of ownership back to the user.
The metaverse, although part of Web3, is a distinct and specific experience. The metaverse creates a virtual world, existing in parallel to our physical one. In shared and created spaces, users interact with each other, their surroundings, and virtual objects. Consider the metaverse an extension of virtual reality or gaming, in which physical and digital worlds are blurred.
The rise of Web3 and the metaverse for jewellery brands
Even outside of Web3, we’ve already seen a shift in the way consumers engage with brands and their products. Social media creates an intimate relationship between brand and audience, allowing narratives and connections to be formed like never before.
In this modern, symbiotic relationship, consumers and brands influence each other. Stories and trends are not dictated, but created in real-time. Branding and experiences have the audience at their heart.
Immersive, digital experiences allow jewellery brands to connect with swathes of their audience, even those without the opportunity to engage physically or financially. The novelty of experimentation itself creates exposure and relevance.
Opportunities for jewellery and luxury brands in Web3 and the metaverse
The enthusiastic adoption of Web3 technologies gives but a taste of the possibilities open to jewellery and luxury brands. These technologies provide opportunities both behind the scenes and on a worldwide stage, from blockchain diamond tracking to immersive experiences.
- NFTs for jewellery brands
NFTs have birthed an entirely new category and revenue stream for jewellery. Created and owned entirely in a digital space, NFTs (non-fungible tokens) allow brands to design and produce jewellery almost without limitation. Bulgari’s high jewellery NFT collection, Beyond Wonder, goes beyond wearability as well as imagination, showcasing pieces incredible in both scale and design.
While high jewellery houses have been some of the earliest adopters of NFTs, the technology actually goes some way to levelling access to fine jewellery. While wildly expensive NFTs will always make headlines, the technology has the potential for both consumers and creators to join a space they may previously not have had the resources for.
NFTs challenge the intrinsic value of fine jewellery. With no physical presence, the value of digital products is carried entirely by design, brand, and process. The internet has allowed customers to understand the value of jewellery in great – perhaps too much – detail. Ready information allows forensic examination of four Cs and metal weights, encouraging purchasing decisions weighted on facts, not feelings.
NFTs force consumers to reflect on the immaterial value of art and invention. The accessibility and intangibility of NFTs breed creativity, rather than comparison.
- Virtual showrooms and augmented reality
Demand for digital and omnichannel retail have blossomed in recent years, particularly post-pandemic. And with that, the sophistication and effectiveness of digital retail have grown exponentially too.
At the very least, brands bolster their online storefronts with holistic and engaging content. But increasingly, brands are reaching for immersive technology to bring a shop experience online.
Stephanie Gottlieb’s virtual store provides a direct welcome to an international audience. Educational and inspirational content is housed in three dimensions, creating a sense of exploration and immersion, even from the customer’s own home.
Augmented reality allows a branded experience to become a sales journey. The limitations of online retail are magnified in jewellery, an innately physical and intimate product. Augmented reality helps bridge the gap between the physical and digital worlds.
The ability to try on jewellery at a distance is a branding tool as much as a retail one. In a world that prizes connection, AR creates intimacy in fine and high jewellery. Digital breaks down the remove that airlock doors, security guards, and exclusive locations create. AR and NFTs allow brands to control both the exclusivity and accessibility of their products.
- Jewellery in digital experiences
Immersive digital experiences have become one of the most exciting branding and engagement opportunities for jewellery businesses. Digital and phygital experiences allow audiences to engage with a brand’s products and storytelling in genuinely unique and encompassing ways.
Last year, Bulgari presented Serpenti Metamorphosis, a collaborative experience designed with Refik Anadol. Inside a pod of mirrors and screens, shifting visuals and sounds created a fantastical natural world. Outside, a captivated audience was brought back to the tangible world, exploring tales of Bulgari’s history and designs. The experience was a collision of past and future, digital and physical.
Digital jewellery and experiences allow brands to meet their audience in whatever space suits them best, from social media or in-person, website to in-game.
Drawing on the language and visuals of gaming, the metaverse creates an interactive space in which consumers can connect, explore, and discover. Inviting an audience into a metaverse space is the digital equivalent of welcoming them into a showroom. Every touchpoint is branded, every step of the journey designed. Combined with NFTs and augmented reality, brands can customise how far their metaverse experience is monetised.
Challenges for jewellery and luxury brands
Just as some jewellery brands have jumped into digital technologies, others watch from the wings. While disruptors and early adopters reap exposure and opportunities, they are also the first to navigate potential risks.
In March 2022, Decentraland launched the first-ever Metaverse Fashion Week. Head of MVFQ, Giovanna Graziosi Casimiro, was open about the limitations of their first event, acknowledging the quality of the visuals and delivery did not yet meet the expectations of the fashion crowd. As technology finds its feet, early consumers will be forgiving of experimentation and missteps.
But as resources and understanding mature, expectation grows. Brands known for sophistication or superlative quality need to create digital products and experiences that match their reputation.
The best digital experiences are those that slip seamlessly into a brand’s existing identity and story. Given the heritage and tradition on which much of the jewellery industry draws, ensuring that digital narratives are coherent and authentic is no small matter. Any Web3 or metaverse strategy needs to support a business’ existing reputation, branding, and customer experience.
This is particularly important for brands with a sustainability story. The environmental impact of jewellery manufacture has come under scrutiny in recent years, and digital production offers an opportunity to negate that. But that’s not the final word. The energy consumption required to run the metaverse and store digital assets muddy the environmental benefits. Any jewellery business exploring NFTs and digital experiences needs to consider their brand and audience position carefully before jumping in.
The digital future of jewellery and luxury brands
From CAD to lab diamonds, the jewellery industry has always embraced and exploited new technologies, even when met with initial resistance. The same is already true of Web3 and the metaverse.
New technologies present exciting opportunities for jewellery brands to create immersive and engaging experiences. The metaverse allows creativity and connection to flourish. Web3 builds security and trust. NFTs open new streams of income and creativity.
No industry balances contrasting stories with more grace. We fuse ancient skill and cutting-edge technology. We create inherent and intangible value. We realise artistic vision with physical craft. Web3 and the metaverse provide more platforms on which to create and communicate the uniqueness of our brands, product, and ideas.
So how is it every jewellery brand can ready themselves for Web3?
Read more here… Creating the foundations for immersive digital experiences
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