NFTs: On the other side of hype

NRF Nexus: Actual use cases for NFTs and how to get up to speed

Feeling like you’ve missed the boat in the hype cycle of NFTs? Consider this a bit of a life raft.

For those wanting to better engage with consumers in coming years, “understanding and designing an infrastructure is the right move, right now,” said Avery Akkineni, president of Web3 consultancy Vayner3. Akkineni joined Rosie Perper, former managing editor, Hypebeast + Hypemoon, for the NRF Nexus session, “Navigating the wild and wonderful world of NFTs for retailers and brands.” The rapid conversation included talk of several actual use cases for NFTs, including loyalty, data, digitization of assets and as a mechanism for authentication.

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“I have ton of empathy for retailers who are wondering if this is even a real thing ... . The answer to that is, it is real,” Akkineni said. “And an understanding of the consumer blockchain and how NFTs can unlock a real benefit is something that’s going to be tremendously valuable to all of your businesses, if not tomorrow, in the coming years and decades. It might not be called NFT, but the idea of consumers owning something digitally and that being verifiable on blockchain is a fundamentally tremendous concept.” Though much has been said about the recent cryptocurrency crash, she noted, companies like Meta have invested billions in building ecosystems. Companies like Disney are creating accelerators to fund Web3 startups. And companies like Salesforce, Snap, Twitter and others are building with the long term in mind.

Akkineni launched Vayner3, previously known as VaynerNFT, alongside serial entrepreneur Gary Vaynerchuk. Beyond cryptocurrency applications and NFT program development, it also has advised organizations on immersive digital experiences and other Web3 initiatives.

She recognizes that there’s still a lack of understanding of “what all of this means.” The metaverse is provocative, but there are a variety of definitions of what it is. The truth is, “It’s still being figured out.” There are still a relatively small number of users, and there’s a gap between what these experiences currently are and the vision of what they can become, “which is an immersive, community-owned ecosystem where people can play and engage and all of that,” she said.

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“I’ve had a lot of clients come to me and say, ‘I have Meta FOMO (fear of missing out). We have to do this in Sandbox, yesterday.’ But I think it’s more important to actually understand where your consumers are first, and then understand that you can add value to that,” she said. That might be tied into an existing sponsorship, or creating a metaverse experience in a place like Roblox. “It’s not a one-size-fits-all.”

She shared how Gatorade, for example, was using NFTs as a force for good. The “Game Changers: Player of the Year” NFT collection benefits Good Sports, a nonprofit that drives equitable access to youth sports and physical activity. And because royalties are paid any time the NFTs are bought or sold, those royalties will continue in perpetuity.

Stella Artois is another example, releasing “The Drop Artois” NFT collection on World Water Day (March 22), with proceeds going to Water.org, helping expand access to safe water across the developing world. Collectors could purchase the generative artwork—1,024 pieces in all—on the Art Blocks creation platform using the cryptocurrency Ethereum. 

For anyone ready to test the waters, Akkeneni made a few recommendations. First, she said, those with ecommerce capabilities might consider taking crypto and testing it as a revenue stream. “I know that there are people looking stressed. Don’t worry. It doesn’t have to be on your balance sheet. It can actually get converted every single day,” she said. “It’s a lot less complicated than we imagine.”

Another option is to begin digitizing assets that could be brought into ecosystems that continue to develop metaverse capabilities. “You don’t have to move mountains to be able to do either of those two things,” she said. And finally, she suggested taking the time for personal education and application. That might mean setting up a crypto wallet to start. “Each individual … has to figure out if this is the ‘emperor’s new clothes’ to you, or if this is something you genuinely believe in.”     

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