Convergence is a term that's been with us for some time. As with many things we get used to, sometimes we just accept them without really knowing what they're all about.
In the world of mobile marketing, convergence has come to express the shift in how consumers use their mobile devices when engaging with retailers. Whereas previously it used to be that mobile consumers were primarily researchers, using their devices to make better and more informed purchasing decisions, today the percentage of mobile users who engage with brands on their devices with the intent to buy is increasing at a fantastic rate. The mobile device is no longer the electronic catalogue of information it used to be. Convergence means it's also the purchasing tool.
The overriding implication for marketers is that retailers who cannot deliver a quality customer experience in mobile - mostly through apps - will perish. The volume of lost business associated with not being able to immediately meet customers' needs when it comes to in-app mobile purchases will be too much for some retailers to bear in a 'bricks and mortar" environment characterised by a particularly difficult trading environment. Think of the formerly trendy Aca Joe clothing brand that just last year disappeared overnight. Our digital worlds are converging and this means opportunity and welcome respite in challenging times for marketers that can get it right.
So what's driving convergence? I believe two phenomena, in particular, are enabling consumers to use their devices to not only research potential purchasing decisions, but also to ultimately make those purchasing decisions. The one enables the flow of information to the consumer and the other enables the flow of information from the consumer in order to complete a transaction.
Firstly, technical differences between different categories of hardware such as tablets, desktops and smartphones are blurring the lines between the capabilities of each. It's now true that everything you can do on a desktop, you can do on a smartphone or a tablet. While that's indeed theoretically true, we all know that it often takes significantly longer to complete digital tasks on smaller screens. However, the limitations of compact mobile devices aside, powerful operating systems mean consumers can engage with brands at practically any time whether they are choosing to do so on their cellphones or their tablets. That's helping convergence enormously.
Secondly, the robust app development sector is ensuring that digital mobile marketing convergence is no longer a theoretical concept beloved of those on the conference circuit, but a real life phenomenon that's changing our daily commercial lives. While mobile users are still primarily researchers, the percentage of us who now engage with retailers using our mobile devices with the intent to buy is growing strong and steady. I'd have to say that easy-to-use apps designed by people who understand mobile behaviour is driving this. I think we've all had mobile experiences where we have downloaded a certain app and been so hugely impressed by the fact that not only does it actually work, but it works beautifully, and one is somehow compelled to purchase just to experience the seamless - and entertaining - transaction right through to the end.
In my mind, apps are the little cogs that make the larger wheel work. Convergence, as a mobile term, made its appearance over 15 years ago. Finally, we have the tools to make the theory practicable. That consumers love engaging with apps is abundantly clear. South Africa's app developers can convert even greater numbers of consumers from mobile researchers into mobile purchasers and thereby give our hard-pressed economy a welcome shot in the arm. If one thinks of app development in these terms, as a national priority because of its GDP-boosting ability, then how can we not fail to get our creative, app development juices flowing for the greater good?
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