STEPN: Propelling the NFT Utility Movement Mainstream

Earlier this year, we released a 3-piece series on NFTs. One of our pieces provided more insight into the technology and took a deep dive into the NFT ecosystem while busting myths and public misconceptions. Another piece pondered the cultural significance and rising prominence of NFTs in the digital art scene. And yet another piece took a closer look at the endless potential NFTs have to offer in terms of utility.

Here at STEPN, we’ve always believed wholeheartedly in leveraging that powerful tech — and today we’ll be discussing how we’ve built utility into the very heart of our product and what we’re building towards in the future…

Going beyond PFPs

When we began building STEPN from the ground up, NFTs were at the height of their popularity. Collectibles and PFP (profile picture) NFTs were sweeping the internet and gaining substantial momentum.

Projects like Bored Ape Yacht Club and Azuki were notching million-dollar sales of their NFTs, smashing record after record. CryptoPunks’ artwork were fetching massive amounts of money, over $11.8 million, at prominent, well-respected auctions like Sotheby’s. And OpenSea saw incredible 646x increases in trading volume, surpassing $14 billion throughout 2021.

The hype seemed unstoppable, and many projects piled on, eager to cash in. In fact, the NFT market itself became a $40 billion market in 2021, with around 28.6 million wallets engaging in minting, selling, and trading.

But among NFT skeptics, a common refrain was the question of utility. In other words, beyond speculative hype and social proof, was the mooning value of these projects really proportional to the value they were delivering?

The limitless potential of NFTs

Let’s take a quick step back and review what NFTs are exactly. When you really get to the core of it, the immense value and potential that this technology holds is staggering.

As a unique digital asset that’s backed by the blockchain, a decentralised and permissionless ledger that’s immutable and maintained collectively, NFTs have nearly limitless applications beyond art.

Non-Fungibility

They are non-fungible and unique — no two NFTs are the same, and the metadata of every NFT is public and unalterable, conferring it a digital certificate of authenticity. This makes it impossible to counterfeit, as the code beneath each NFT is different and irreplaceable— giving substantial real world use-cases especially in the fashion/industry, where counterfeiting is rampant.

Indivisible

They are also indivisible, meant to be owned wholly, thus retaining its original value. Think about it like buying a ticket to a concert. Each ticket can’t be divided between two people. So if you own an NFT, you’re the only one that has that exact copy — no one else in the world can have it. While solutions exist to break an NFT up, they do not directly tamper with the NFT itself, but instead issue tokens through smart contracts that represent ownership of said NFT.

Ownership and Transparency

They also democratise ownership and provide transparency, since publicly distributed ledgers are by nature decentralised with public records of token issuance, transfer, and activity that is all publicly variable. Any buyer can trust and verify the authenticity of their asset, thus potentially signalling the next step forward for digital payments.

Scarcity

What else? They also endow digital assets with scarcity for the first time, redefining digital ownership entirely as we know it. Before non-fungible technology, there was no way for digital creators to imbue their creations with verifiable scarcity — this ability to do so transforms creator markets across the economy.

Versatility

Like a digital passport, NFTs are also uniquely portable, able to be traded, purchased, or sold across various blockchains. Rather than the walled-garden model of platforms or games, NFTs can serve as the foundation for interoperability on the internet, empowering creators and communities instead of third-parties. Indeed, many believe that we’ve only scratched the surface of the potential of NFTs — and that includes us at STEPN.

With the recent turbulence in the crypto economy, many projects have come to understand this. Good art alone is not sufficient for projects to weather rocky markets — utility has become indispensable.

Therefore, many projects are beginning to weave in utility to complement their art, adding value for holders and creating a more immersive experiences. These examples include staking, exclusive benefits, redeemability, or even breeding.

Superpowering NFTs with utility

Building our product, we’ve always believed first and foremost that utility should be at the core of everything. And that’s because we always prioritize our community, committed to delivering value day in and day out. We may not be the first attach utility to NFTs, but we sure as heck are going to be an impetus to Web3 adoption!

Our NFTs are not just flower vases meant to be displayed as an ornament. In fact, the aesthetics is the last thing on our priority list. We want our NFTs to be a gateway into our ecosystem, and that utility is reflected in how our users engage with and use STEPN — as well as the real-world transformations that have occurred as a result.

NFT Sneakers

For those already using our app, most of you should be familiar with our NFT sneakers, equipping one grants our users with the ability to earn crypto ($GST) for moving outdoors — walking, jogging, or running. From the very beginning, the NFTs we’ve created aren’t just art to simply admire, they open up an entirely new world of possibility.

Incentivised Rewards Structure — We structured our utility in such a way to create a strong motivational force within our app. Through combining tangible (tokens) and intangible (physical health) rewards, our NFTs act as a nudge and digital representation of your real-world commitment to your health.

Personal Achievements — There are incentives tied to earning $GST — it is required to level your sneaker up, mint new sneakers, open mystery boxes and so much more. You can say we gamified our utility, which is exactly what we did! By featuring in upgrade systems, users are given a sense of progression in-app, which is compounded by the real life progression they will witness from regular usage.

Attached Perks — Apart from daily use, various NFTs also offer unique benefits. For instance, during the launch of our 2nd Realm (BNB), we airdropped an OG sneaker for each Genesis Sneaker held. Subsequently, when we released our 3rd Realm (ETH), Genesis Sneaker holders were also given an airdropped sneaker in the new realm, while OG sneakers were given an airdrop upon performing a successful sneaker enhancement.

For those unfamiliar, all initial sneakers were not sold, but instead airdropped to earlier users. These were subsequently named Genesis Sneakers, as a means of rewarding users who stuck with us from the beginning.

And that’s just to name a few. We continue to brainstorm and ideate behind the scenes to come up with new ways to inject new forms of utility into our NFTs and app.

All these translate across how STEPN has blossomed and grown as a company. NFTs have enabled us to build an ecosystem with incredible retention, with users all around the globe walking and jogging and engaging with the game. We have one of the finest Web3 products on the market, with UI/UX comparable to that of Web2 startups.

And we’re steadily disrupting the fitness industry with our model of utility. For many fitness businesses, retention is incredibly difficult. A part of our evolutionary hardwiring, of wanting to conserve energy, it’s human to prefer staying inside and relaxing rather than sweat it out at the gym. And in the age of phones and TikTok and television, instant gratification makes it even harder.

By weaving in layers of utility into our NFT sneakers and fostering a vibrant community of walkers, joggers, and runners, we are empowering utility across the entire Web3 ecosystem.

Conclusion

We’re not stopping there. As mentioned, we have big plans to layer in even more value every day: environmental, social, and more. Looking ahead, we have big plans to continue pioneering the utility NFT movement, even providing base utility to NFTs as a service to other ecosystems. We’re excited for the future — join us!

Team STEPN

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STEPN is a Web3 lifestyle app with Social and Game elements.