NFTs have been making headlines, but they are more than their use-case trends.

Like many blockchain technologies, NFTs can be considered solutions in search of a problem. With behavioral design and consumer motivations driving the innovation space, we’re seeing a rising interest around which innovation challenges could be solved using NFTs. Here’s one take on it.

A take on the hype

The world speaks of NFTs based on their most known use cases. Their place within the business design space, however, should revolve around what NFTs really are: digital tools with a twist. NFTs are blockchain-powered digital elements with an added value – they cannot be copied. The simple, yet unique, concept of having digital elements that cannot be replicated turns NFTs into assets, as long as these are approached as any other digital tool. Incorporating NFTs in a business strategy requires valid, strategic reasoning.

The role of digital tools in a hybrid world

Incorporating NFTs as a reaction to hype is not an illegitimate marketing approach. But, because we believe NFTs should be treated like any other digital tool, we know there are holistic ways to leverage their potential. In the case of NFTs, identifying the value behind the trend will open the doors to understanding their potential. NFTs’ value is tied closely to their role as connecting agents between the digital and physical worlds. An online reality existing parallel to our physical world is not something the Metaverse invented. But it takes on a new meaning in today’s world, where we have reached a stage in which digital doesn’t mean unreal, and where who we are in the virtual world impacts our lives in the physical world too. This is the value proposition of NFTs, and this is how they can meaningfully come into play in various industries. Whether they’re used to price digital assets, grant access to ownership rights, or even access real-world events, NFTs represent human identity through ownership in both worlds.

Tools for markets that service the consumers of the future

Because of how flexible their applications are, the uses of NFTs can’t be limited by single-use cases. The many roles they could play will depend on how much traction they gain from any market’s key stakeholder: consumers. Consumers drive all markets. And, as we advance towards more digitized environments, consumer habits, and demand change too. The many possible applications of NFTs allow them to be the counterpart of consumer omnichannel experiences. NFTs could be the first step towards a future where tangible products and their online versions are offered as one, completely disrupting the traditional user experience. Working as a binding agent between the real and the digital market space is one of the many possibilities of what the future holds for NFTs as next-generation digital tools.

When the digital and physical world become one

H&M's digital fashion collection featuring Maisie Williams © H&M

As long as the digital reality impacts the physical world, we cannot separate the two. This impacts the role digital tools play in our personal lives, in consequence changing the market requirements of the services and products of tomorrow.

Because of their digital nature, the future use of NFTs is ‘up in the cloud’. But, there are current examples of how they are already being used to offer new consumer experiences. And the consumer goods sector is one of the spaces leveraging this idea. 

NFTs are already being used as sustainable solutions to fast fashion trends without compromising the essence of an industry – expressing identity through fashion. Companies like DRESSX provide zero waste solutions to meet the consumer demand of rapid-changing trends, and without costing retail consumers their value proposition. Recently, fashion megabrand H&M launched a digital clothing collection in collaboration with DRESSX, proving that not only boutique brands can play in this space.

This example outlines the potential of NFTs as tools that can lead to drawing parallels between the consumer space and all their possible applications, ultimately expanding the reach of businesses that use them in both – the digital, and the real world.

Are NFTs a risk worth taking?

We took an informal temperature of our industry to see what innovators are thinking about NFTs.

What our completely informal poll says about how innovation consultants think about nft's

The nature and possibilities opened through NFTs have interesting touchpoints beyond the hype of owning one, a potential to impact the world economy, ownership transactions, and the way we approach goods trading. The use-cases for NFTs seem to grow wider as they evolve.  The future of a single digital tool can’t be predicted. But, as designers get access to more advanced technologies, and consumption keeps shifting, there’s enough space for NFTs to become tomorrow’s common trade elements, or to serve as today’s gateway into the future.