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Soundview Executive Book SummariesDuring the advent of the Internet, marketers thought of consumers in terms of those who shopped in the non-virtual marketplace (traditional consumers) and those who shopped online (cyberconsumers). In reality, neither extreme truly reflected the habits of tech-savvy consumers. This new audience took on the hybrid qualities of the centaurs of Greek myth - half man, half beast - as they shuttled between online and offline storefronts and information centers, according to their needs. The companies best suited to meet these needs are those that engage in strategies of convergence, adjusting and adapting their businesses between online and offline environments to meet centaurs on their own terms. The authors of Convergence Marketing examine many ways companies can successfully engage centaurs, and look into the future of business and technology.
New and emerging technologies have changed the way customers behave - what they expect and how they view their relationships with corporations - both online and offline. These centaurs - consumers who interact with companies in both marketing spheres - are radically transforming the practice of marketing. They have enduring human needs and desires, but these have been sharpened and attenuated by the promise of technology. Centaurs desire uniqueness, personalization and customization; social interaction; convenience and channel options; value; and the ability to make better decisions.
The authors write that the right balance of "bricks" and "clicks" depends on both the type of business and its consumers. Businesses must take their understanding of their audiences' complex behaviors and build products and services to meet those needs. The authors remind companies that the consumer must be at the center of this process.
With new technologies, consumers can do things they never could do before. With these new capabilities, customers are changing in ways heretofore unimaginable by combining their traditional behaviors with the constantly advancing possibilities of the technology. Indeed, there is a convergence of the consumer with the technology.
Consumers can have very different reactions to personalization and customerization. Sometimes, they even prefer standard, off-the-shelf products to similar products with many different customizable options, for a number of reasons, including: fitting in with the crowd, experience, uncertainty and unarticulated needs. The authors write that companies can effectively and creatively combine standardized and customized marketing messages and experiences by integrating online and offline customization, asking the next question, using customized choices to inform mass production and increasing digital content.
The authors write that companies can build interactions and bridges between virtual and physical communities by:
- Gathering lost tribes. Take natural physical communities that are diffused and give them a place to meet online.
- Creating parallel universes. Sometimes, the physical community becomes the basis for the virtual community, and vice versa.
- Engaging in cross-pollination. Even when parallel universes are not created, the interactions in the virtual community may lead to interactions in the physical community, and vice versa.
One of the key convergence challenges as virtual communities develop is to give them viable economic foundations without eroding their social fabric. This is not a new challenge - when communities are exploited for economic gain, their social strength is undermined. Companies must balance the economic and social objectives of the community by embedding the economic in the social, tapping into the energy of the community through community-generated content, building bridges to existing communities and sustaining trust.
The need to have clicks and bricks is now fairly obvious, and the authors write that companies need to create a coherent customer experience across multiple channels. People have always had the desire for speed, convenience and relevant channel options. But, a failure of integration or operation of the online and offline businesses can create slow and inconvenient interaction that undermines the reputations of both the online and offline businesses. Putting the right pieces together in the right way is critical.
The Internet is a rich and active source of information that consumers use in making key decisions. Consumers are overwhelmed with choices and data, both of which have been accelerated by online technologies, creating the need for search engines (like Yahoo) to find information, decision-making tools (like Expedia) to transform that information into knowledge, and life management tools (like Microsoft Office) that help consumers make sense of it all.
The authors write that convergence requires a fundamental set of difficult changes. Implementing convergence strategies entails a number of significant challenges, including:
- Do not make convergence change an IT initiative.
- Anticipate resistance.
- Change business practices, not just technology.
- Do not be limited by past experiences.
- Make the path to change temporary.
Why Soundview Likes This Book
The authors of Convergence Marketing are amazingly thorough in their coverage of the issues and ideas that surround a better approach to marketing in the 21st century. Throughout their book, they offer marketers myriad ways to connect the online markets with offline markets into a unified strategy. By looking at consumers and their behaviors with an updated perspective, they are able to help companies tap into the vast potential of convergence marketing. Copyright (c) 2002 Soundview Executive Book Summaries