March 25, 2016

Messaging platforms & the old chimera of VRM

Marketing evolves at a very high pace, and will continue along our insatiable hunger for technology adoption.

Direct Marketing, One-to-One Marketing, Permission Marketing, and so on, are solely models aiming at engaging a privileged and personalized relationship with the consumer.

In order to deeply understand where marketing is going, it’s interesting to look at the evolution of the platforms trying to be the gateway between you and your usage of the Internet.

The first wave of platforms was focused on linking content. Search giants that emerged there were Google and Yahoo. They helped us find content on the web.

The second wave was about linking people. Social media giants Facebook and Twitter experienced tremendous growth, allowing us to connect through content with the people we know (or not).

Today, I would say our Internet usage is shifting towards services, like transport, personal finance, travel, etc. How to link us up with those services we use everyday in a streamlined and simple way? Messaging platforms (like Facebook Messenger, Slack, Telegram, Kik, etc.) and Agents (like Apple Siri, Google Now, Microsoft Cortana, Amazon Alexa, etc.) are at the forefront of this shift.

Search, Social Media and Messaging are different layers, but they all aim at one simple goal: being your entry point to the Internet. Because when you are the first door, everyone is knocking at you. To sponsor their business, to sell their services, to distribute their product: you are the platform that rules them all.

At this game, Messaging should win.

Messaging > Social Media > Search in so many ways. This is by far the best experience to leverage consumer intimacy. This is a race for who will be better to connect every aspect of our life.

In the following months we’ll observe how the landscape evolves and different moves from the big players, and maybe we’ll witness the awakening of an old marketing chimera which fits perfectly with Messaging platforms: the VRM.

What the hell is VRM?!

VRM stands for Vendor Relationship Management, as opposed to CRM (Customer Relationship Management). VRM is about buyers finding sellers, not sellers finding —or « targeting »— buyers.

Let’s take a concrete example: a car rental customer should be able to say to the car rental market:

« I’ll be skiing in the French Alps from March 20-25. I want to rent a 4-wheel drive SUV from Lyon Airport. What can you find for me? »

— and have the sellers compete for the buyer’s business, as Doc Searls brilliantly explained in his essay The Intention Economy.

Messaging platforms are the new VRM

VRM provides customers with the means to control their own experiences. Imagine, just by a simple conversation, you could organise all your winter trip — the flight, the ski material renting, the accommodation, etc.— tailored for you, according to your constraints and your desires, and possibly also the ones from your friends or family.

Today conversations matter more than ever, because we are probably looking for more experiences, than simple transactions.

The boom of concierge apps, assistants & bots is the sign that we are close to achieve this vision, through Messaging platforms.

« We are not seats or eyeballs or end users or consumers. We are human beings—and our reach exceeds your grasp. Deal with it. » — The Cluetrain Manifesto

Facebook’s Big Plan: becoming the ultimate VRM?

Maybe you’ve heard about this rumor of Facebook opening a Bot Store, or all the recent announces from the different Messaging platforms. They all seem to embrace the asian way of life from WeChat or Line, in order to become the ultimate platform, turn upside down markets, and invert the balance power.

I’m quite curious to see if Facebook or others will follow some VRM principles. Is the move to open APIs to let developers reach their massive audience just a first step? Will Facebook M learn from this ecosystem and replace one day all the bots? What about the information master Google? And how will all those Messaging platforms and concierge apps from Slack to Operator compete?

There is huge opportunities to develop a brand new business model in this area, which would be very interesting to analyze.

Maybe it’s time for brands to seize the opportunity of the Messaging wave, and avoid being disrupted again by a new Internet giant.


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