Web3 Brands Try Serving Customers in the Real World

Companies are bringing NFTs to life in physical spaces, opening stores and pop-up experiences to draw in existing and new customers.

Marketers, artists and others have dived into offering nonfungible tokens, digital tokens of authenticity that exist on the blockchain, but the concept remains abstract to many consumers.

The brick-and-mortar efforts are partly a strategy by companies involved with NFTs and other elements of Web3 to educate consumers about what they’re selling, enlisting strengths of the physical world such as the chance for real-world human interaction, retail experts said.

Web3 refers to the idea of a decentralized internet that uses cryptocurrencies, blockchain and other technologies.

“At some point, it becomes really expensive to win customers online only, or you don’t have the same ability to unlock fandom in a way that you do in physical [spaces],” said

Melissa Gonzalez,

principal at architecture and design firm MG2 Corp.

“There’s such a demystification that’s needed around what Web3 is,” said Ms. Gonzalez, who is also founder of Lionesque Group, a studio at MG2 that creates experiential retail for direct-to-consumer brands.

Doodles’ pop-up at South by Southwest included limited-edition merchandise for sale only to owners of the company’s NFTs.



Photo:

Doodles

Doodles, a Web3 media and entertainment company that includes a collection of 10,000 NFTs, has created several pop-up shops over the past year. The company’s pop-up at South by Southwest was open to the public, although it gave owners of Doodles NFTs custom badges to use throughout the site and access to limited-edition merchandise. NFT holders could scan their badges at specific installations for unique experiences and see their NFTs projected on a wall, bouncing around with other Doodles.

“We saw South by Southwest as a great place to showcase our brand, and differentiate ourselves from what everybody else was up to,” said

Evan Keast,

co-founder of Doodles.

About 6,000 people came to the pop-up and more than 2,500 people bought merchandise there, the company said.

At NFT.NYC, a four-day event that took place in June, Doodles held another public pop-up. This one gave its NFT holders a chance to buy additional digital goods associated with an upcoming NFT collection.

Doodles plans to eventually expand its scope to include concerts, according to Mr. Keast.

“Every time we show up is very important for us,” he said. “And we do want to stand out amongst the noise not only in the Web3 space, but in traditional entertainment or advertising.”

Other NFT projects have rolled out similar exclusive perks for NFT holders at their shops.

Entertainment company SuperPlastic Inc. opened a retail store in New York in July as a way to bring its digital characters into the physical world, said

Paul Budnitz,

founder and chief executive of the company.

The store is open to the public, but SuperPlastic next month plans to open an area for exclusive products and events that will be restricted to owners of its NFTs.

Decentralized cryptoart platform SuperRare Labs Inc. opened a temporary gallery space in New York this summer to raise awareness of its brand. The gallery has held exclusive events for people who are NFT collectors as well as programming about digital and interactive art for people who are not familiar with the company.

“It is not just things that you put on your wall but these are also interactive pieces that you can use—immerse yourself with,” said

John Crain,

chief executive and co-founder of the company.

Some 5,000 visitors have come to the gallery since its opening date, the company said.

Educating the public is a key goal for many of these Web3 stores, including retail startup Sol Stores Inc.

Its Solana Spaces shop in New York encourages shoppers to interact with various displays to learn about blockchain and Web3, for example. People can also buy limited-edition merchandise and view an NFT gallery.

Sol Stores CEO

Vibhu Norby

was previously head of b8ta, a retail store that encouraged people to test new technology items such as robots and drones before it dissolved in February.

Visitors to the Solana Spaces store can earn rewards through activities such as setting up a crypto wallet. The rewards include payments in the cryptocurrency USDC and NFT badges.

Paying customers to try products is a tactic Mr. Norby wanted to try with b8ta stores but didn’t because “it felt sleazy,” he said. But it doesn’t feel as odd at Solana Spaces because the store is partly about crypto, he said. More than 87% of people who have visited have completed all the tasks at the installations, according to the company. About 5,000 people visited the store in its first two weeks, the company said.

“The store is the product itself, which is an experience that rewards you for participating and engaging,” Mr. Norby said.

Web3 communities have largely existed in online spaces only, so stores and pop-ups can help bring human connection back to it, Ms. Gonzalez said.

Online Web3 communities can get a little bit transactional, she said. “And so when you bring [that] into the in-store environment, it’s actually the opportunity to make it more human again, which makes it more sticky.”

Write to Ann-Marie Alcántara at ann-marie.alcantara@wsj.com

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