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There’s a rumor that a new channel is on its way and it will likely spawn several prominent new social networks, interaction types and other innovations. Will your company and your team be ready? What I’m referring to is the several articles in the news about the impending release of Apple's augmented reality headset. Many of them have been focused on general availability of the device landing somewhere between 2020 and 2022. The timing, if it happens, is kind of cool as there will certainly be many references to the year 2020 and vision. How your company will react to the reality of a new device that creates a totally new channel can be found in how your organization approaches the ever-changing omnichannel environment we are currently experiencing. I have seen three approaches:

1. Omnichannel Leaders

If you are an omnichannel leader, any new device on the horizon will already be a part of your three-year planning. Aside from the device itself, you are aware that there will be a crop of new social networks, data to collect and the customer experience to consider. This is where omnichannel leaders have different perspectives than most. Omnichannel leaders are already planning on how they will support this new device even though the app development kits are not yet released. The omnichannel leader will reserve some placeholder budget for new software, some new hardware, new people, additional cloud computing capabilities and some updated microservice integrations. Being first to market is important in your environment.

2. Fast Followers

If you are a fast follower, you will not have this device featured in your three-year planning process just yet. You need to see if it’s going to be popular and transformative before you invest any time or money in the idea. In fact, you might wait for the device to be released before you determine if you want to embrace it as a new channel. You might watch what other firms are doing to help you formulate a plan of action. Then, when this research is behind you, you can pounce because you have enough flexibility on the finance side of the business to execute projects that are outside of the budget when they make sense and there is a good business case for doing so.

3. Late Adopters

If you are a late adopter, most likely you don’t pay attention to tech rumors. And you are not alone. Plenty of people wait to react until after a technology adoption has matured. There are many good reasons to take this approach. First, there are already several AR/VR offerings that haven’t caught on yet and which many think are toys, including the HoloLens from Microsoft, Vive from HTC, Oculus Rift from Facebook, PlayStation VR from Sony and Glass from Google. Your analysis may determine that the communities are small and the development costs for engagement on these channels is too high. You may be waiting not only until a competitor engages, but for the ecosystem to be large and valid. Jumping into new channels is a serious matter for many enterprises, so it pays to be cautious about adding channels, as the exit costs can be high.

Whether you or your company sees itself as a leader, first follower or late adopter, it is important to understand that, while it is unknown when a rumored device will release, what types of social networks may be created around it, or how this could impact the customer and employee experiences that comprise your business, we are in control of our reactions. Just for fun, let’s take this opportunity to think about which team would potentially support the new device first.

What came before may be an indicator of what comes next

How your business approached the last new channel is a good predictor of how your company will support any upcoming channel. Were you early to mobile apps? When was your first QR code introduced? Are you delivering rich push notifications yet? Did you dodge a bullet by passing on Google Glass (unlike my team)? Most importantly, do you wish any of your answers to the above questions were different? If so, 2020 is the perfect time to exercise some vision and look at the infrastructure, business constraints and organizational goals that are shaping your channel strategy. If there is any confusion in direction, this is a great opportunity for your team to take the time to define a clear picture of each. It’s the key to being prepared for the next big idea – and knowing how you plan to respond to it.

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