Guess What? Convergence Is Already Here

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We hear a lot about convergence these days. Every business magazine seems to have an article about the day when our television will become our computer or vice versa.


This, of course, is based on advances in digital technology. You also hear many predictions about how marketing strategies will have to change dramatically to meet this new technology. But at this point, no one knows which technologies will dominate or when they'll be deployed.


Well, hang on, because the truth is convergence is already here.


It's not technological convergence, but it is a convergence that is just as powerful in its impact. We call it marketing convergence. And what it means is consumers are already combining television, computers and even retail in the purchasing process. For example, many consumers are using television and the Web simultaneously.


A study by ICR Research Group showed that nearly 10 million households are watching television and accessing the Internet at the same time. Others are driven from one medium to another - researching products on the Web and buying them at retail or with increasing frequency, seeing a product on TV and getting more information and closing the purchase online. In short, marketing convergence is happening now.


There are two major implications of this convergence. First, it means your marketing message as well as your product characteristics and pricing should be consistent across all mediums. This doesn't mean they have to be identical, just consistent. For example, short-form spots for products from the Denise Austin Lifetime Collection run daily on Lifetime Television. Viewers can find the same product featured on the network's Web site, www.lifetimetv.com, but they also are offered a variety of additional products from the collection. Second, it means you need to realize the strengths and weaknesses of each medium to maximize the effectiveness of a marketing campaign.


Let's take a look at the benefits and shortcomings of selling products on television, the Internet and in retail.


Television


Television is the medium that reaches the masses and is undoubtedly the best way to reach the largest number of people at one time. It provides viewers with an immediate opportunity to buy - and until sophisticated streaming video becomes widely available on the Web, television has a unique emotional appeal that can drive impulse buys.


But selling products on television has its downside. First, there is only a limited amount of product information you can provide within a set period of time. Second, in order to present a clear message, you can only offer a limited amount of products at one time. Third, customers must make a substantial leap of faith because they cannot touch or see the product in person. Finally, when a customer orders a product off of television there is no immediate satisfaction because they must wait for it to be delivered.


Internet


The biggest benefit of an online store is that it is always open. Consumers all over the world can view and purchase your product at their convenience at any time of the day or the year. You can offer browsers an unlimited amount of product information and a vast array of product offerings. However, having a Web site alone is not enough - you also need to generate traffic.


The Web is already cluttered with a multitude of sites, and it is necessary to find ways to bring people to your site. Plus, the current technology is still limited in that it cannot yet evoke the same emotional appeal or spirit of story-telling that television can. The Internet also has similar limitations to TV: People still cannot touch or feel your product and they have to wait for delivery.


Retail


The greatest benefit of a retail store is that a consumer can touch, smell and see a product in person. In most cases, once they make the purchase, a customer also can take the product home immediately. Like the Internet, retail sales are usually reliant on outside factors that motivate customers to go to the store. Print, radio or television advertising needs to be used to drive demand for a product. At most retail stores, there is very little product information or guidance available to shoppers, and in this environment it is easy for a customer to buy a competitive product.


The key to success in this era of increasing convergence is to develop a fully integrated campaign that involves television, Web, print and retail marketing efforts. The term, "24/7" (24 hours a day, seven days a week), has been used often when referring to the benefits of online shopping. However, it's not enough.


To be available to your customers at all times requires you to be available through a variety of mediums. In other words, 360 degrees wherever they turn. By providing truly integrated opportunities, people will be able to learn about a product, conduct research, comparison shop and purchase whenever and wherever they are.


When these marketing mediums - television, Web and retail - converge, their advantages and disadvantages tend to work themselves out. This is exactly what consumers are learning to do on their own.


Lee Frederiksen is chairman/CEO of Frederiksen Television and chairman of clickonfred.com.
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