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The IRL channel: Offline to online, Online to offline

(📷 dmagazine)

We’ve heard about Facebook ads, Google adwords – but today let’s talk about the “IRL Channel.”

The IRL channel is an underappreciated advantage of companies that exist in the real world – Amazon Echo, Envoy, Lime, Uber, etc – that use constant in-real-life reminders to try out and use the product

The viral acquisition benefits are pretty obvious. If you’ve never seen/tried a product, but you see them swarming around your city (or your workplace), then naturally you’ll want to try it out

More importantly, some product usage patterns are naturally viral. Couple examples:

  • Transportation fits into this bucket, which is why Uber’s rider acquisition mostly viral/WOM Traveling and going out are social activities. You bring your friends and loved ones in the car with you, to share the costs. Even the fully utilitarian version – going from point A to point B – can be social, since there’s often a person on the other side.
  • The new scooter/bike trend is another obvious example. Lots of brightly painted Lime scooters all over SF makes a splash. Put some pricing and instructions on the actual hardware, and riders who have big smiles on their faces, and you have a natural acquisition channel.
  • With Amazon Echo, the physical presence gets you an retention/engagement benefit. Sitting on your kitchen counter naturally encourages you to use it. The newest one, the Show, has a display which invites you to interact. Sometimes the Amazon Echo thinks you’re talking to it when you’re not. I’ve always thought that Amazon is unlikely to ever fix this since it probably increases engagement when it occasionally gets things wrong :)
  • Envoy is a B2B example. I’ve signed in with the system at the lobbies of dozens of companies, which means if I ever have to make a purchasing decision in the category, they’ll be the natural choice.

There’s not a ton of entrepreneurs who are brave enough to build new consumer hardware cos, but if you are, I think this has to be a key consideration!

The IRL channel is about a physical experience that drives you into a digital one. But the other way around is pretty profound as well.

When you see your social feeds populated with photos from highly instagrammable retail experiences like Boba Guys or the Museum of Ice Cream, like below…

(📷 Boba Guys fb page)

(📷 laweekly)

… you can’t help but pull up Yelp to figure out the closest place to go!

The other mega trend here is esports and the fandom community, of course. One day you’re playing League of Legends and reading Star Trek fan fiction, and the next day you’re going to esports arenas and checking out vidcon. It’s a thing.

The IRL channel is real. It helps you with acquisition, retention, and more. It’s starting to go both ways – from online to offline, which has been a force in retail for the past few years – but also offline to online, where IRL products remind you to interact with their digital sides.

Super fascinating, and I’m excited to see where this will all go!

[Published with some modifications, originally tweetstormed at @andrewchen]

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