MetaBeat: Activating in the metaverse when every dollar counts

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Ed. note 10/4/22: Corrected Speedway sales figure from 200 million to 2 million in the sentence saying, "7-Eleven subsidiary Speedway is the most successful case study in the metaverse 'you’ve never heard of,' with 2 million in measurable sales from Atlas Earth to Speedway..."

MetaBeat, the metaverse event for enterprise decision-makers, started its day with a keynote introduction by Sami Khan, CEO and cofounder of Atlas Earth, a mobile game experience where users can purchase virtual real estate and brand partners can offer promotions tied to the company’s in-app currency. 

Right off the bat, Khan told the MetaBeat audience that no one can fully explain what the metaverse is, in all its iterations. 

“My humble advice is to use the metaverse to enhance people’s experience in the real world,” he said. “I don’t want my daughter growing up in a world where the future is escaping this world to live in a virtual reality world — that sounds pretty depressing.” 

Creating an enhanced experience in the real world, he explained, is different for every company. Nvidia, for example, is using digital twins as a metaverse to help teach future self-driving cars in a 3D world. 

An enhanced real-world experience is the goal of Atlas Earth, he added, that is, using people’s mobile devices to buy virtual land right where they live, work and play. 

“We’re taking local marketing to a national scale,” he said. “It offers the ability for innovative brands like Sonic to drive a quarter-million in revenue from metaverse gamers to their doors.” 7-Eleven subsidiary Speedway is the most successful case study in the metaverse “you’ve never heard of,” with 2 million in measurable sales from Atlas Earth to Speedway, he added: “When you do this authentically people are excited about it.” 

After Khan’s welcoming remarks, he brought up Ethan Chuang, VP of loyalty solutions at Mastercard Advisors and Mike Paley, EVP of business development at Atlas Earth, up for a Fireside Chat about activating the metaverse at a time when every dollar counts. 

Paley, who was previously at popular browser extension Honey, which was acquired by PayPal for $4 billion, said that in his previous role he learned how important it is to deliver incremental value to your customers. “Even leveraging a simple piece of technology, I learned how incredibly transformative that could be to your user community,” he said. 

Mastercard, which links Atlas Earth to its loyalty program, is all about helping its business customers – merchants, CPGs, financial institutions — grow their businesses, Chuang said. 

“What marketers and retailers are looking for is access to consumers in the channels of their choosing,” he explained. “Consumers are moving away from traditional media — what you’re doing in the metaverse, from the standpoint of extending reach to segments of the audience that a lot of retailers and marketers prize, is authentic dialogue. At the end of the day, the goal is to bring people into stores, into ecommerce and drive sales with a virtual circle.”

Khan emphasized that he does not want the metaverse to be a “flash in the pan.” That means building an ecosystem that builds positive value, he said. 

“My hope is that everyone walks away today thinking about how marketers think about the metaverse,” he said. “This ecosystem will continue to thrive when the economy flows through it. Understanding how they spend money is so important.” 

When every dollar counts, he asked the panelists, where does the thought process come in when it comes to spending money in an “experimental” channel like the metaverse? 

Paley answered by saying he doesn’t like the word “experimental channel.” Instead, he said that Atlas Earth’s efforts in the metaverse are not experimental, but build on previous performance marketing strategies. 

“The program is set up so that brands are positioned for success from day one, especially as Mastercard gives us on their platform.” 

Mastercard’s card linking strategy with Alpha Earth is an example of providing a frictionless experiment that makes it simple for users to take advantage of offers. 

“You don’t need to show anything at the point of sale, you’re not constrained to digital or in store,” he said, which is important in an era where gamers, and consumers generally, expect an instantaneous feedback loop. 

Paley added that we live in a society based on instant gratification. 

“In our experience, the metaverse is about bringing disparate parties together for real-time experiences – and anytime there is the opportunity to increase the value of the experience of the person having it in the real world, you’re delivering on something special.” 

Still, a healthy metaverse — like any financially healthy ecosystem — requires the right balance. 

“You need to find a home for marketing to make money to pay the other hand,” he explained. “In the middle, I need a virtual cycle and an ecosystem that keeps growing.”

The notion of metaverse is about to be tested, he cautioned. 

“If markets keep going down, free money will dry up and our job is to challenge ourselves to think about how to build a healthy ecosystem as quickly as possible so we can count to move forward as the technology evolves,” Paley said.

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