The convergence of media is a hot topic, but there’s a much more disruptive story at play. Just as the lines blur between paid, owned, and earned, they’re blurring between brand and retailer, data, devices, and more.
Convergence of brands and retailer voices
A brand or retailer’s online real estate is no longer simply an owned property. Sites integrate streams of brand mentions by consumers on Twitter and Facebook. They allow consumer feedback and Q&A forums. We discuss this more in depth here and here.
Now retailers are inviting brands’ owned media onto their sites. The brand voice joins the retailer’s site in the form of review responses and answers to consumer questions. It’s like having a brand rep in a brick and mortar retail store, guiding shoppers through the aisles. Consumers find these answers from brand representatives 66% more helpful than answers from fellow consumers – which helps the brand and retailer alike make more sales. Shoppers who interact with both reviews and Q&A on retail sites show 153% higher average conversion.
Samsung, for example, answers questions on their products on retailer sites under the moniker “Mr. Samsung.” These answers help fill information gaps that could otherwise prevent shoppers from buying; 91% of the content Mr. Samsung provided in answers to consumer questions was not already available elsewhere on the site.
Convergence of data streams
All data streams are converging. Marketers combine demographic data, shopper purchase data, interest graphs (Facebook Likes, Twitter brand mentions, etc.), sentiment graphs (reviews), social graphs (connections on social networks), etc. for a more holistic view of the consumer. Mashing it all together makes looking at any one type of data in isolation less valuable – but together, more valuable than ever.
As marketers’ ability to analyze and interpret this data gets stronger, we create a deeper understanding of both individual consumers and of the consumer population as a whole. These insights lead to smarter targeting, segmentation, product development, customer service; truly, improvement at nearly every business level
Convergence of devices
Mobile, TV, PC, tablets, smartphones – they’re all beginning to support the same functions, just on different sized screens. Our connected TVs let us surf the web. Our tablets and phones let us stream cable TV. We’re buying “phablets” – giant phones that are mini tablets, like the Sony Xperia Z.
And we want more, fast. We want to make calls and video conference from our smart TV. We want to use our phones and tablets as TV remotes. We want to share documents and mirror screens wirelessly across all connected devices.
Many brands already struggle to be consistent across PCs and mobile. Once all of our screens are essentially the same device, brands will need to be consistent across everything. And new innovations like Google Glass (which could lead to glasses with screens embedded in the lenses) complicate the picture even further.
Convergence of identities
A brand’s identity is now defined not only by its corporate positioning. Brands’ identities are now actively being shaped by the consumers who buy from them. They share a brand’s products and media, and their experience with them, with their social networks, collectively reaching a larger audience than the brand could alone. Says Wendy Clark, SVP Integrated Marketing Communications & Capabilities for Coca-Cola:
“The days of controlling the message are absolutely over. At best you’ll be invited in and you’ll get to co-create and participate with consumers.”
Consumers aren’t just converging with marketers, though. They’re product developers, R&D, designers, investors. They want to be part of a brand on a deeper level, to actively be involved. They want to be the brand, and the best brands give them the power to do so. We discuss this more in depth here.
Convergence of the online and physical worlds
“Online,” “in-store,” “the real world” – these terms don’t mean anything different anymore. Mobile makes the digital world ubiquitous. We can pull out our smartphones on the street and find a restaurant we’ll like. We take our tablets to the store and research (and even order) products while in the aisles.
Smart brands are enabling these activities, converging their channels as we already have. We can order online and pick up later in store. Walmart even lets us pay cash upon pickup. Stores arm their associates with tablets to help us get more information or order online for home delivery.
Millennials are a demographic that sees little difference between online and “the real world.” The internet is as much a part of their real world as anything else, because it’s always with them. Other generations are adopting the same POV – and brands must as well.
Convergence is a powerfully disruptive force. Converged media is getting the most attention today, but we can’t ignore the larger-scale convergence all around us. It’s time to expand the conversation.