Chances are you will have come across the term Web3 over the course of 2022. It is the catch-all term for a new, better internet – coined by the tech gurus intent on using things like blockchain, cryptocurrencies and non-fungible tokens (NFTs) to give more power to internet users.

The way brands and businesses communicate with their customers has evolved hand-in-hand with the evolution of the internet.

In the Web1 – the original internet – world, we were consuming news from printed papers and magazines. Jump forward to Web2, the era of large, centralised software services run by the tech giants, we were absorbed by user-generated content which powered social media and provided a plethora of new opportunities for brands to reach consumers.

Although Web3 is still in its infancy, it is worth understanding how it will affect the way that we communicate with decision makers affecting our businesses.

This new technology will bring with it a whole raft of new opportunities for businesses. Just think of an interactive virtual reality shopping experience, rather than the uninspiring 2D online grocery stores we use at present. Imagine if you could create a truly transparent world where every single product is traceable, and products can be verified at every point of its lifecycle.

Marketing professionals need to always be one step ahead of the crowd and should now be looking for strategies that can exploit these new infrastructures.

The reason is simple. In the Web1 and Web2 ages, brands who innovated first and had the fastest development of digital capabilities gained a huge competitive advantage, with new customers and enhanced loyalty. Coca Cola’s ‘Share A Coke’ social media campaign from 2011 – which saw 1.5m+ personalised products sold – is just one example of a business utilising what was possible in the advent of new marketing channels.

With the advent of Web3, we will see a similar journey being followed by brands and businesses. Early adopters that understand what Web3 is, and act fast will have a chance to differentiate themselves from their competitors.

One area that FMCG businesses could look at first is how they use Web3 to highlight their ESG credentials. Backing up the findings of Pro Carton’s own Consumer Perceptions study, Kantar’s Sustainability Sector Index 2022 revealed that 79% of people, globally, want to buy environmentally friendly products. But 57% find it hard to tell which products are good, bad, ethical or for the environment.

Thanks to the actions of campaigners, consumers have become increasingly aware of brands that engage in “Greenwashing”. Web3 will give brands new tools to tell their story in engaging ways. Digitally savvy shoppers will have options to dive behind the scenes and see first-hand how farmers are treated, how local communities have been affected and even the impact of the packaging material on the planet.

It is an opportunity for brands to really demonstrate their environmental credentials. For the cartonboard industry that could take shape in a variety of ways. We could create the most engaging and educational recycling campaigns ever known, there could be new ways to bust the myths around forest destruction, we could show consumers how quickly a carton can breakdown organically versus a can. We could also show them how the industry creates materials, driving home the message about how many times the fibres used in cartonboard can be recycled in a way not possible by websites or magazines today.

Beyond that, we will also be able to engage with influencers in a new way. As a PR professional, generating media coverage is a critical part of my job, but relationships with our contacts remains pivotal to our success. If you have a responsibility for managing the perception of your business, you need to consider how these developing technologies will affect the way we engage with people. Email has overtaken the phone. Zoom has overtaken the F2F meeting. What will Web3 deliver in the future?

Our new challenge is, and will always be, to change with the times and advance our usage of online technologies. Like it or not, Web3 will become an essential part of our working lives over the coming years.

But let’s be clear. It is not a race to the top. Strategies need to be thought through carefully. Afterall, you don’t want to be reading about yourself as the follow-up act of the EU’s Foreign Aid department’s disastrous €387,000 (around £350,000) “virtual party” which attracted just six attendees!

As John F Kennedy once said, ‘the time to repair the roof is when the sun is shining.” It is shining at the moment, so get out there and think up new strategies in preparation for when Web3 comes alive!

Adam Craig is Head of Corporate at Storm Communications, an independent PR and Digital agency based in London.