Suddenly, it’s not enough for content to be attention-grabbing. With phone in hand and the big screen on the wall, consumers today want their viewing experience to also be a place where they can socialize and buy.
This movement toward “converged consumption” started with streaming and broadcast experiences that enabled viewers to chat virtually with friends and followers while watching a show. Then, media companies devised ways to purchase items such as clothing and skincare products as part of the viewing experience.
Next up is an even bigger leap. People will be able to make purchases and interact with their communities without ever disengaging from the entertainment they’re watching.
To meet viewers’ needs for an experience that combines content, community and commerce, media companies will need to reconceptualize the user experience, rethink their partners, build out cloud capabilities, and figure out how everyone can make money from the venture. But before they can do that, media companies need to understand how commerce came to content and who the big players are in the field.
The three C’s: commerce, community, content
It was only a matter of time before the buying experiences of Instagram and TikTok made their way to streaming and network content. What makes the media world different from these social channels, however, is consumers’ propensity to wield multiple devices as part of a single viewing experience. Viewers now move seamlessly among a mix of devices, from big screens and smartphones to tablets and laptops.
Creating an all-inclusive media experience that combines content, community and commerce takes an ensemble cast of characters unaccustomed to sharing the screen together. Leading the way in bringing content and community together are standalone apps like Kast and cable industry efforts such as Verizon Media’s “Watch Together” feature for its Yahoo Sports app. Big tech is also doing its part: Apple built SharePlay into IoS 15, providing platform-level co-viewing capabilities.
On a parallel path is the commerce component, where early entrant NBC Universal reports its shoppable TV campaigns convert 73% more consumers than traditional campaigns. Cable programmer Discovery is now airing shoppable ads that align with its catalog of food and home programming, and Netflix operates an online store that sells clothing featured in its hit series Emily in Paris.
While it remains to be seen how the metaverse will play into the convergence trend, media brands are signaling they’re all in. The Disney Metaverse is in progress. And the Recording Academy will host a series of events related to the Grammy Awards on the Roblox virtual platform.
Despite these advances, major challenges loom in the form of siloed ecosystems and lack of agility. Creators of content, community and commerce are typically unaccustomed to collaborating and sharing data. For their part, media companies are often unable to adapt quickly to consumers’ changing expectations. Our recent research found that while half of media respondents identified analytics capabilities as a priority for creating a complete customer view, only 16% said their organizations collect, analyze and apply customer data well enough to enable the personalized CX that’s at the heart of converged environments.
How to make converged environments a reality
Here are four ways media companies can get ahead of the curve and achieve early success in enabling converged environments:
- Get to know your audience. Media companies need to rely less on focus groups and surveys and more on actual subscriber behavior. Qualitative insights from initiatives such as ethnographic research reveal not only consumers’ wants and preferences but also how they live their lives—insights that customers themselves may be unaware of or unable to articulate.
On the quantitative side, media companies should use multivariate testing (MVT) to home in on the specific page elements that viewers engage with. MVT goes beyond A/B testing because it connects disparate datasets and sources, which enables media companies to gain a cohesive, comprehensive view of audiences.
By conducting pilots that include MVT at scale, media organizations can figure out what the new streams of data mean and deploy meaningful changes. The result: a more humanistic product design, as well as features that feel intuitive for audiences.
- Be an ensemble player. Amid the roster of businesses needed to support converged environments, you’ll need to choose partners wisely. Form alliances with partners that can support the needs of the new viewer. For example, what capabilities could a social platform offer that relate to sharing and editing content? How can partners’ platform and integration capabilities enable community building and e-commerce transactions?
- Make use of the cloud. Through the cloud, media companies can more quickly and easily grow or shrink their offerings, collaborate with partners and ensure fair monetization for all. The cloud inherently makes things more standardized than if each partner ran their own separate system in-house.
- Create shared value through data management. Converged media environments extend the value of content and commerce to all parties, but this requires new thinking about data ownership, data monetization and data governance, especially as the volume of data grows. Now is the time to evaluate options for scalable data management and governance.
While still nascent, converged media holds the potential to grab even greater audience attention. By tackling the obstacles they’re likely to encounter, media companies can reframe how they interact with the broader consumer value chain—and move closer to the entertainment experience of the future.