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Forget the metaverse: real-world connections are the future of marketing – here’s why

October 5, 2022

There has been a lot of talk in the marketing world about opportunities in the digital universe – but it’s incredibly important that we don’t distract from the value of the real-world connection.

While brands should always experiment and challenge the norm, the reality is that – right now – most consumers still don’t know what the metaverse is, let alone how to get involved. Before launching headfirst into the digital universe, brands need to consider whether this is what their customers really want, and if it’s the right time.

Here are three key reasons brands need to stay rooted in reality:

1) Consumers are craving trusted, real-world connections

After a tough couple of years, we’re finally back out enjoying the real world. Many predicted that Covid would change the way we socialized and interacted with other people for good. But it’s amazing how quickly and readily we ditched the Zoom drinks for in-person meet-ups – as evidenced by the hospitality sector experiencing pre-pandemic visitor numbers and video conferencing usage on the decline. There’s simply no replacement for face-to-face contact.

Prolonged periods of lockdown made us realize how important real, human connections are – and brands must pay attention to this trend if they want to win consumer trust. This is why we are seeing more digital-native brands – like Freddie’s Flowers and Bloom & Wild – launching local pop-ups, seeking to engage with real people, in real life.

Meaningful connections between brands and consumers are built on trust, and bringing interactions into the real world can help to accelerate this process.

2) There’s an opportunity to capture a broader audience

In a hyper-competitive landscape, companies need to pay closer attention to their total addressable market to maximize revenue opportunities. Who are their ‘hard-to-reach’ customers and how can they build a relationship with them?

Analyzing audience segments, including insights and location, will help brands identify which customers they may be leaving behind - and they can then find creative new ways to reach them. For example, one in 10 people in the UK opt not to use the traditional social media platforms, so where else are they spending their time? Is it in the real world? Or are there other online communities ripe for engagement?

Companies need to look across both online and offline to identify where hard-to-reach audiences live, work and play. Buyer personas can be created by conducting surveys, monitoring audience feedback, and reviewing company data and analytics. This will help organisations to boost engagement with the broadest possible customer base - when and where it matters most.

3) The future of commerce is social

Consumers today want to buy products and services based on recommendations from people they trust.

Reviews and recommendations are a critical part of any marketing strategy – but word of mouth is more impactful when it is rooted in the real world. In fact, over four in five (83%) Nextdoor users say their purchase decisions are influenced by their neighbors. Our members give and get help from a local perspective, and trust local, real-world connections.

With hyper-local recommendations and perspectives critical to buying decisions, brands need to stay focused on encouraging reviews and recommendations from people who are real and authentic. There is, of course, crossover here with the online world and companies should use platforms which verify members and make sure they use their real names, locations, and photos. They can also proactively encourage online reviews by automating the ask, providing a template, and offering an incentive.

Overall, digital technology is a means to make our real lives better – and brands must consider how they can bring digital and real-life (or URL and IRL) together for maximum marketing impact. Companies that keep their feet firmly in the real world are the most likely to remain relevant in the months and years ahead. IRL connections and community have never been more important.

By Paps Shaikh, EMEA commercial director, Nextdoor

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local marketing