The lines between the digital and physical worlds are getting blurrier every day. Consumers can now pull out their smartphones and do virtually anything — from shopping to dating.
But to reach those consumers, today’s digital experiences have to evoke an emotional reaction — they must extend beyond technology, interactive widgets, and provocative descriptions. Recently, I’ve been playing around with the idea of “the curve of terrible experience.” It’s my own playful take on the digital industry’s past, present, and future. Check it out:
Clearly, we’ve seen a lot of growth in technology over the past 15 years — growth that drove new ways to engage with digital content but had no real consideration for the user. But everything changed with the rise of experiential design; suddenly, customer experience became top of mind for decision makers. As we use imaginative ways to continually improve the customer experience, we need to consider these points:
1. Make the intangible tangible. Successful digital experiences must be authentic. As the physical and digital worlds begin to look more and more alike, consumers will gravitate to consistency and authenticity in branding. The further a brand extends on either side of the boundary, the stronger it is. That means we need an authentic style, tone, voice, and experience — regardless of when, where, and how consumers interact with our brands.
For example, Amazon Echo responds to the name “Alexa” and becomes part of consumers’ lives. A cloud-based digital assistant driven by artificial intelligence and natural language, Alexa personifies the Amazon brand and is surprisingly human.
This is where the bar is being set. I don’t need to open my computer, type an address, and search for a product to add it to my shopping list. I just say, “Alexa, add apples to my shopping list.” When I go to the supermarket, I don’t fill out forms or use interfaces to find apples, so why should I do that in a digital marketplace? Adapting to this shift isn’t a choice; it’s a necessity.
2. Tap into the technology toolbox. Connect physical interactions to digital profiles to better understand customers. Using sensors, analytics, and location information, we can gain an important understanding of the hyperlocal context of each transaction.
To make the process easier, there are many tools available. Estimote, for instance, has an amazing platform for contextual computing that gives us the hardware to connect a product to digital. It will tell me how long a shopper is pondering a purchase. Then it will utilize a digital experience to connect to him right there or build a wish list in the app.
3. Be imaginative. Anyone who tells me the digital age takes away from creativity and imagination clearly doesn’t understand the empowering nature of technology. New interfaces allow us to personify the consumer experience in increasingly customized ways — we need to use our imagination to capitalize on this.
Three years ago, I started a company to change the way surfboards are designed and built. Surfboards, after all, are like suits — they must be tailored to our bodies. We had to create a connection across the digital and physical boundaries, and we did it with a combination of personal profile data, sensor-based telematics, and a digital customer experience that focused on the emotional qualities of the surfing lifestyle.
4. Lose the Big Brother mentality. Predictive experiences are powerful mechanisms for creating surprising moments that leave real impressions. Yet there’s still a lingering sense that predictive experiences somehow invade individual privacy and diminish the customer experience. That’s not true. Privacy is a balance, and when there’s a benefit of sharing information, people are happy to do so. Our world is moving toward intelligent experiences that will make interfaces invisible and interactions as simple as saying “yes.”
As the digital and physical worlds collide, we must create customer interactions that encourage communication across boundaries. The more invisible the experience becomes, the more disbelief is suspended. It’s not about marketing, descriptions, or details — it’s about absolute immersion. It’s what technology is enabling, and it’s what customers demand.