We function in a connected world, and the amount of time we spend hunched over our screens is frightening. We’re all addicted. But, are we witnessing the end of human interaction? No. Digital technology hasn’t diluted human contact; it has actually left us craving real, person-to-person interactions. So how are we seeing this emerge in society and what does it mean for brands?
Pokemon Go, despite the initial buzz fading, is not just another individual escape or fad. Using Discord, a two-year old chat platform, Pokemon Go enthusiasts are coming together in real life—in parks, on sidewalks, on street corners. And it's no accident. Gamers actively hacked the lack of a chat function in order to create this ability to commune. And just recently, Community Day launched. It’s a new monthly worldwide event that the developer sponsors to encourage people to get out and meet other like-minded players.
People crave the opportunity to network and meet people with shared interests. The continued growth of tradeshows is a case in point. CES is the biggest technology trade show in the world. Over 180,000 people convened last month. Comic-Con is another –so popular that its 150,000+ attendees may outgrow its San Diego location. This trend transcends into B2B too: DockerCon, an industry event that didn’t exist four years ago now draws almost 6,000 fervent attendees, and Google Cloud Next, which drew 6,000 last year expects around 25,000 in 2018. Considering almost everything at a trade show can be viewed from home with a digital device, it’s interesting that it’s people gathering face-to-face in a single location to collectively share experiences that sticks. These pilgrimages are not just about the content, but the power of community.
Our devices—and technology in general—have not made us more solitary. What they’ve done is introduce us to new and more niche tribes with whom we feel a sense of belonging. But what does this mean for brands? It means they need to stop thinking about digital/non-digital, online/offline and get back to thinking about how people actually live their lives. Only then can brands create experiences which truly add value to people’s lives.
However, brands have a long way to go. According to Forrester Research’s Customer Experience Trends, 2017, only one percent of brands ranked excellent for customer experience, and the Harvard Business Review’s Digital-Physical Mash-Ups points out that people “weave their digital and physical worlds so tightly together that they can’t fathom why companies haven’t done the same.”
To shift the status quo, brands need to focus on three things in order to create positive experiences at every touchpoint in the digital and physical world.
- Understand the user journey. Brands need to better understand the user journey. There is only one place to successfully start building extraordinary experiences in the age of digital everywhere: people. Successful brands need to understand, ask and mine for insights to get a sense of user behavior on and offline. Brands need to start by analyzing online behavior, such as through search and social conversations. Then, they can create a user journey map that integrates information that has been analyzed (digital and social listening data) with data that has been collected by asking (interviews, focus groups) and observed (ethnographies, diaries, field observations).
- Meet a need and add value. Once brands understand the facets of the experience journey, they have the insight to figure out how to meet an individual’s needs and aspirations and add value to their lives. If done right, brands can create something that people love and want to share.
- Design an extraordinary experience. Our agency has been creating experiences for a long time (in fact, almost 80 years), so after tens of thousands of events, we’ve found that to in order to build experiences that are powerful and that people love and want to share, they should follow three rules: be simple, moving and original. These principles have stood the test of time and are as relevant online as offline. Simple because it is easy to understand, moving because humans make decisions emotionally and original because it unique nature makes people want to share it.
In the end, brand perceptions are driven by the TOTAL sum of interactions. Brands must adopt a strategy that is never completely digital nor wholly non-digital. Because when left to our own devices, we realize soon enough that our own devices are not enough and that there is no substitute for coming together.
Steve Mooney is Executive Vice President and Managing Director of Jack Morton Worldwide’s Boston office.