Marketing has always been at the forefront of new channel adoption. In fact, the economic success of newer channels (like Facebook or Wechat, etc.) is dependent on the ability of the marketers to leverage the same. Looking forward let’s deep-dive into some inflexion points and challenges facing global immersive omnichannel marketing.

The Evolution Of Marketing Channels

From TV disrupting print to the Internet and digital media; channels have been evolving forever!! The pace of new channels springing up or taking a fall is greatly accelerated, though. A very recent example includes how Pokemon Go took the world by storm. It gave rise to a zombie-esque outdoor walking, glued-to-their-screen cult. All sorts of marketing opportunities cropped up as part of this latest phenomenon and the agile hustlers got the first word on that channel (advertising their local businesses and such).

While new channels constantly crop up, existing channels may reduce in significance or pivot to a new user segment with minimal notice (examples include the rapid decline of MySpace or flatlining/declining Tumblr users in the more recent past). Being able to repurpose and redistribute marketing funds to the right channels has always been a challenge – and it will definitely get harder in the future.

Now consider the huge impending technology waves such as the Internet of Things, Smart Everything (Smart Cars, Smart Cities, and Smart Factories, etc.), and xR (AR, VR, MR). As companies like Intel, Google, etc. build products in this space, we are potentially looking at an inflexion point as significant as the original explosion of the Internet. Eyeballs to be attracted and pursued across multiple, truly disparate, channels. The challenges of marketing message consistency will be significant but so will the access to users, their habits, and their interests, giving rise to endless possibilities. We need to collectively gear up to leverage the dramatic increase of user engagement in a dynamic digital world.

Channels Adding Transaction Centricity

WeChat evolved quickly to a social channel that facilitated ‘in channel’ transactional experiences. WeChat users can use the app to order food, or hail a cab, or raise a customer service ticket, etc. Products like Facebook Messenger or Apple’s iMessage are evolving to a similar vision. These platforms are aiming to lock users into their channel for as much of their usage as possible. They almost become a ‘Social OS’ of sorts.

This leads to an in-app vs out-of-app battle for control and branding. With Uber for example, do you lose your ‘in app’ value proposition by allowing users to order from iMessage, or do you look at it as an additional channel to make a sale through? The landscape in the past was generally well separated with channels owning enticing content to draw users in, then taking advertising dollars to shuttle them to the in-app transactions. The merging of content-rich channels to also allow transactions implies that the users may never have to leave their channel of choice.

Continuing with our example, I may be able to order a cab thru Facebook Messenger, but the cab app loses a potential opportunity to sell me its new ‘food’ or ‘laundry’ delivery service. However, the cab app can now use the FB Messenger platform to solicit these new services when users transact with a ‘food app’ from a competitor. This definitely disrupts branding and digital media spend dynamics, though.

In my opinion, it will put the primary content-rich channels in a much stronger position, as far as media spend is concerned. Come for the content, and stay for the transactional services and content. Never leave my experience. At what point are service/product owners willing to let users completely interact in their channel of choice without having to visit the in-app experience providing the service?

Additionally, this trend of digital channels adding transaction centricity further antiquates older media channels such as traditional TV.

Customer Centricity

As the channels evolve and digital engagement becomes even more ubiquitous, albeit disparate, care needs to be taken to ensure that customers don’t get easily disenfranchised due to the conflicting messaging or unclear branding across these channels.

While corporations and marketers will have access to a lot more information around customers’ digital footprints, stitching it together may become much more complicated as well. As of now, straddling the laptop, smartphone, and an occasional wearable is challenging enough. As we add a lot more devices (referred to above as IOT, Smart Everything, xR, etc.), we will stray from the ‘Apple wall garden,’ ‘PC ecosystem,’ ‘Android ecosystem,’ to a complex reality of multiple ‘walled gardens/eco systems’ – each of them needing to exchange data with the others for full utility.

This is a level of complexity that needs to be well comprehended. It also raises a myriad of perceived and real privacy concerns as well. While regulation will follow, it will probably be turbulent unchartered waters for a while. Stay away from new channels and risk losing out on a new wave, or jump in and risk a lot of churn and negative ROI.

So in summary, our digital channels are evolving very rapidly both in form and function. Marketing challenges are evolving, as well as opportunities abound, in providing a true omnichannel customer experience.