What Retail Can Learn from Discord

What Retail Can Learn from Discord

What Retail Can Learn from Discord 1440 428 Chute Gerdeman

Picture this: a space where you can have direct chats with your favorite brands, helping design the curves of the next Porsche or influencing which Prada bag comes out next.

It might sound wild, but that’s the power of Discord, the go-to spot for gamers to geek out over e-sports. But it’s not just for gamers anymore. Businesses, especially luxury retailers, are implementing Discord strategies to engage their fans in exciting new ways. Retailers of all kinds should take note—the opportunities for connecting community to commerce and content with Discord are immense.

The Dawn of Discord

Launched in 2015 without a specific audience in mind, Discord quickly became the hangout for gamers to chat and bond over their love of all things videogames, often while livestreaming videogames.

Today, Discord is emerging as a versatile tool for savvy businesses, and a place where retailers can connect with Gen Z, who are “tired of being tracked, targeted, and retargeted,” according to an article by Qulture. “They want a private place away from the algorithms where they can be themselves, hang out with friends, and go deep on what they love.”

Discord is all about servers—digital spaces where people with similar interests come together. Think of it as a mix of everything: instant messaging, audio calls, video calls, file-sharing, you name it. You get to choose how you want to chat, and whether it’s in a public room or a more private setting.

Without paid ads, Discord generates revenue from paid premium “Nitro” services that offer users additional functionality and customization options. In December 2023, they rolled out an in-app shop for all users to buy digital decorations for their profiles like flashy profile effects or animations that play over your avatar picture.

Despite its clunky aesthetic, the platform has been adopted by fashion brands like AllSaints, Kenzo, RTFKT, StockX, Louis Vuitton, Gucci, and Prada—all thirsty for the lively community, authentic engagement, and access to a younger generation Discord offers.

Brands like Gucci have even hired dedicated Discord moderators, who ensure customer experience with the brand is personal and top-notch. Brand moderators can deliver messages directly to fans, without having to rely on an algorithm or the hopes of going viral.

“If I have 20,000 people on Discord, I can reach 20,000 people with a single post. That doesn’t happen on Instagram, right? If you build a real community, you have direct access,” founder of resale site Basic.space Jesse Lee told Glossy.

Discord’s Unique Position: An Opt-In Model

What sets Discord apart? Besides being the hottest social platform for online gaming and e-sports, Discord is the fourth-largest video-game streaming platform, boasting an impressive 563 million registered users and 19 million active communities (servers). It’s currently valued at about $15 billion.

Futurist and tech consultant Matt Maher told Retail TouchPoints that Discord is a “bellwether for what the future of digital is going to look like.” While it’s not as large as other social platforms and is completely decentralized, that is by design.

There are no ads, and you usually can’t just hop on and follow any brand you fancy, unless the brand’s server is public. This gives brands an opportunity to allow exclusive access, inviting users to their Discord server in different ways, depending on how they plan to use their channels.

Joining a Discord community is always a deliberate decision, not an accidental drop-in. When marketing strategies like data collection, email blasts, and opting into text messages fail, brands can succeed by opening their chat servers to their audience for input, feedback, and real conversation.

People actively choose to be on Discord, it’s not just a random place you stumble upon. If you’re a client or a customer, how do you connect with the brand? You can go on Twitter and @mention them, you can fill out a form on a dot.com, maybe there’s a chatbot, you can always do a phone call or direct email, but the reality is you’re putting a call out and hoping the brand will respond. There’s still a wall there. But Discord is becoming an always-on communications platform.” – Futurist Matt Maher

NFTs Reward Brand Loyalty

Customers of luxury goods are buying status when purchasing a Prada bag or Louis Vuitton suitcase. But how do brands ensure their customers achieve that same high status in digital spaces?

Prada is providing digital clout to members of its Discord community, allowing users to showcase their status through the ownership of rare digital goods like non-fungible tokens (NFTs), which represent a special status to Discord users. Those users get a gold label next to their name and are bestowed a prestigious role within Prada’s Discord community.

After a popular web3 collaboration with Adidas, Prada developed its Prada Timecapsule NFT Collection. It launched in 2019 and features monthly drops linked to both a limited-edition physical product and a gifted NFT for its fans.

Similarly, to capitalize on the exclusive nature of NFTs, Louis Vuitton created two tiers of Discord chat channels. The first floor welcomes users without NFTs to the Louis Vuitton general chat and announcements. The second floor is only for NFT holders and provides access to private conversations and content.

Pierre-Nicolas Hurstel, CEO and co-founder of .arianee, told Retail TouchPoints that shoppers see their luxury NFTs as an investment and it’s up to brands to provide a return on that investment.

“All the brands [currently entering this space] start with digital twins for the expensive products. But the more they understand, the more they are trying to use this as the new foundation of their relationship with clients,” he said. “What they are all trying to unlock is, ‘What can I do when I have a digital piece of value? What can I open? Can I open a physical door? A digital door? Access exclusive content? Where can I generate trust and transparency?’ ”

Lessons & Opportunities for Retailers

What can retail brands learn from all of this? Discord’s potential is immense. Its two-way communication capabilities, innovative digital brand experiences, and focus on digital clout offer a roadmap for retail brands outside of the luxury sector to consider.

Brands can use Discord to drive engagement by:

  1. Meeting customers where they are: With more people using Discord, brands can listen, connect, and collaborate with their actual customers in real-time. We see Discord as an always-on connection to your Gen Z ambassadors.
  2. Gaining a deeper understanding: Consumers today expect personalized experiences from brands. The only way brands can deliver is if they interact directly with their target audiences to understand their needs. Discord is a place to do this.
  3. Building brand loyalty: Offering exclusive access to products, content, and experiences to Discord members builds brand loyalty. Team up with relevant influencers to engage your community. Giveaways, contests and collabs also work well. This creates a sense of privilege and exclusivity among your most loyal brand enthusiasts.

Is the next step in retail marketing an NFT strategy for Discord?  We are excited to find out what the future holds as we approach this new technological horizon.

With more brands building consumer infrastructure online, we have to wonder: Does Anyone Care About the Metaverse?

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