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What Do Shipping Containers and NFTs Have in Common?

More than you might think

NFTs have gained a lot of attention in the past few years, with everyone from musicians to sports teams dropping their own tokens.

Forget buzzwords and the hype you see in the news. NFTs are really just better technology that enable brands to create better customer experiences. In the same way you wouldn’t ask a company, “What programming language did you build your website on?” — why would you care about the technology a brand builds its loyalty program on?

When it comes down to it, NFTs & blockchain tech are just standardized endpoints that power a better brand ecosystem.

Standardized endpoints make the world run more smoothly. They’re important aspects of various industries that help to ensure compatibility, consistency, and efficiency. Think about some of the most impactful standardizations in the world:

  1. Shipping Containers

  2. Time Zones

  3. Computer Programming Languages

Through a standardized medium of customer data, brands can easily connect various touchpoints, ensuring a seamless customer experience and reduced waste (i.e. system redundancies, incompatible backends, and other slowdowns).

Shipping Containers

The standardization of shipping container sizes has been a critical component of the global shipping industry, and it has helped to streamline and improve the efficiency of global trade.

The standard size for shipping containers is 20 feet long, 8 feet wide, and 8.5 feet tall — each is called a TEU. Why are they all the same size?

For one, having a standard size allows for easier and more efficient loading, unloading, and transportation of goods. TEUs can be easily stacked onto ships, trains, and trucks (the common “mediums” of the global transportation industry).

Prior to TEUs, people moved goods across different modes of transportation in containers of all shapes, sizes, and materials — crates, sacks, kegs, and more. As you can imagine, it was a nightmare loading and unloading items of an infinite number of weights and forms across shipping vessels.

And even when the idea of shipping containers came around, they weren’t standardized. It wasn’t until 1968 that the International Organization for Standardization agreed on the standard container size as we know it today.

The takeaway? New technology doesn’t always lead to more efficient outcomes. While the number of new marketing tools out there today seems endless, very few of them actually reduce inefficiencies.

For brands, their common “mediums” (like ships, trains, and trucks) are all of the various customer touchpoints (both their own and those of third-parties).

  • Social Media

  • Physical Stores & POS

  • Online Stores & POS

  • IRL Activations & Events

  • Owned Media — i.e. Email & Podcasts

  • Advertising Channels

  • Other third-party retail channels

Since data is siloed across each of these various channels, the blockchain (a commonly accepted means of connecting them) creates a more holistic view of a single customer.

Returning to the shipping example, TEUs are also valuable because they can be transferred between “mediums” without the need for repacking or rearranging goods. This reduces waste in saved time, energy, and costs.

Without NFTs, tracking and transferring customer data across all of a brand’s touchpoints is like moving around crates, sacks, kegs, wagons, and more — all of various sizes — from boats to trains and trucks. It takes a lot more time and resources, so it’s often limited to the major brand players who have deep pockets of marketing budget to deal with.

Additionally, standardized shipping units are valuable because they reduce damage to goods during transportation. By standardizing the “container” (like NFTs through blockchain technology), you reduce the risk of accidents or damage. This could be mistakes made during data transfer, but it could also be the risk of bad actors (since blockchains are publicly viewable ledgers). Put simply, standardization reduces mistakes.

Time Zones

Beyond shipping containers, time zones are another modern form of standardization that make sense due to technological advances.

For centuries, when people traveled by foot or horseback, there was no reason to synchronize clocks. In fact, it was actually better not to do so. “Noon” was when the sun was at its highest point, which varied across every city — every city had its own “time.”

After transportation advancements like trains made it easy to travel more quickly, it became confusing and inefficient to have to recalculate unique times for every city. So, in 1883, the world split into 24 time zones, and the discrepancy between “true noon” and 12pm became less than 30 minutes. This universal adoption of time zones allows for seamless communication and cooperation across businesses, cities, and cultures.

Let’s draw a parallel to software — if every brand used its own point-of-sale system, its own email software, and its own in-house CRM tools, it would be a nightmare to connect them all.

Now imagine one brand trying to connect its loyalty program to another brand’s (what we call “Multiplayer Commerce”). It’s like trying to travel between different cities before we had standardized time zones — confusing, time-intensive, and inefficient.

NFTs are to modern brands as time zones were to pre-1800s cities.

By standardizing points, reward mechanisms, and customer data capture, brands can better understand their customers and more easily launch partnerships & collaborations with other brands, because everyone is using the same language — or the same standardized unit of measurement.

We call this interoperability.

Computer Programming Languages

Standardized computer languages ensure that programs written in those languages are easily understood and executed by different computers and software systems. It provides a common syntax and structure that can be used by programmers and software developers, anywhere in the world.

It makes sense to standardize for a few reasons:

  1. Compatibility — ensures programs can be understood and executed by different systems.

  2. Portability — makes it easier to move data between different systems.

  3. Development — simplifies it for others to learn and use new languages.

In general, standardizing NFTs as the “vehicle” that moves across all sorts of endpoints (just like computer languages did with different platforms) ensures that different systems and touchpoints work together.

Better Technology → Better Customer Experiences

NFTs are just better technology that enable better loyalty programs, and therefore better customer relationships. They provide a standardized medium for tracking and transferring customer data, ensuring compatibility, consistency, and efficiency across all customer touchpoints.

Let’s stop using buzzwords and confusing acronyms and start by just using technology to solve customer problems.

Just like shipping containers, time zones, and computer programming languages, NFTs are a universal language for brands to communicate and connect with their customers, creating more exciting and valuable experiences and giving them a reason to stay engaged.

At Hang, we’re building the next generation of brand loyalty — one where any brand can create valuable, fun, and engaging experiences for their customers. Learn more.

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