Thursday, May 23, 2024

    EDITORIAL Navigating a rapidly changing (virtual) world

    We are living through changing times. The technology landscape that surrounds telemedia is poised for a next generation shift, with old certainties falling away to be replaced by new ways of doing things.

    This is particularly true of how consumers themselves are using the tech that surrounds them. The old ways of doing things are suddenly shifting, with super apps, conversational commerce, AR, the metaverse and AI all starting to radically reshape what they can do – and what they want to do.

    Take Super apps – apps that do everything –  as a prime example. These tools allow consumers to do multiple things all in one place, from browsing to booking to buying to sharing and more. Popularised in China, where WeChat, LINE and KakaoTalk offer the ability to do everything from find to buy – and use their own built in payment mechanisms – these apps are starting to attract a lot of interest in the West. They are set to drive conversational commerce, where consumers engage in a more conversational interaction with a brand, rather than one led by reacting to marketing, and brands are starting to see that this is where consumers are heading. And they need to move fast.

    According to research out this week, conversational commerce is set to be worth $39bn this year alone, hitting $135bn by 2027 as these super apps take hold everywhere. Businesses need to be ready, and that means fine tuning their CPaaS offerings to accommodate all the tools needed to make conversational commerce fly.

    Getting the tools to handle OTT messaging is just the first step and CPaaS players need to be ready to rapidly add the other tropes of conversational commerce – payments, typically – in short order. There is going to be a sudden move from OTT to conversational commerce and it’s going to happen really soon.

    This is a boon for the payment industry, with the likes of DCB and open banking services, set to be the chief beneficiaries of this conversational commerce explosion. This is very much the next evolution of telemedia billing services, not to mention the future of value added services (VAS). They will be built into other services and will become part of the very fabric of everything from marketing and sales to customer service and ecommerce.

    Technology is also fundamentally reshaping the actual experience that consumers are getting – and indeed want to get – from the services that they are using. There is a rapid growth in the use of augmented reality (AR) and to a lesser extent virtual reality (VR) to add enhancements and depth of experience to pretty much everything that is being done online.

    This is, to my mind, the true face of the metaverse. Sure you can use a VR headset to get totally immersive, but what the metaverse really is centres on adding this level of engagement that is more augmented and additional to reality. Let’s not forget, Roblox is the metaverse and that is largely accessed by kids using phones and iPads. These are your customers of the near future and this is how they want to use the internet.

    Interestingly, a recent study finds that curiosity about this more immersive engagement with the web has stretched as far as online casino gamers, with two thirds of them intrigued by the level of semi-realism that AR could bring to online poker and roulette.

    This embrace of AR hasn’t been wasted on Sam Media, with its impressive Holozonia AR platform and putative metaverse platform being nominated for an award at Mobile World Congress.

    Of course, all of this is underpinned by 5G, which is starting to now come into its own as the super-fast backbone that allows everything to be connected. And this too is helping both facilitate and reshape the world we live in. 5G is now delivering its promise of ubiquitous, broadband access everywhere and with it connecting not only consumers and services, but devices and inanimate objects, the possibilities of what consumers can interact with – and moreover what they can then pay for – is set for its own step change.

    And with AI tech such as ChatGPT starting to attract interest from all quarters – if nothing else it can write really good, SEO-friendly and totally targeted marketing copy – the market that telemedia companies find themselves poised to work in is about to shift dramatically.

    With Telemedia8.1 LIVE poised to kick off in a couple of weeks, and with Mobile World Congress also taking place, now is the time to explore this new tech landscape. See you there.

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