Closeness does not equal engagement

Enabled by technology, branded experiences are more powerful than ever. Technology has brought brands further into people’s lives. But don’t mistake proximity for engagement. Simply displaying ads on smartphones and social media or getting a voice assistant to broadcast your message isn’t a substitute for a real relationship.

New mediums for marketing such as VR and AR (the top two most-searched marketing trends on Google) are in the hands of more customers each day. However according to this survey, despite the attention each gets in the media, the technology that the majority of people want is mobile payment technology, with AR being the technology consumers say they want to use the least.

The virtual reality software and hardware market size is expected to grow to USD $40.4 billion by 2020. [1]

There are two insights here. One, the buzz around new technology does not necessarily align with what customers really want. Practicality and necessity come before impressive but less-relevant technology. Two, it shows that customers don’t ask for what they can’t imagine using. AR is an abstract concept—overlaying digital experiences in the physical world. However, that’s not to say that once tangible applications come into play, it won’t shoot to the top of their wish lists.

More tech means more places to communicate, but just because brands can doesn’t mean they should. The average adult already spends two hours and 51 minutes looking at his or her mobile phone each day.

Increasingly, people are looking to unplug and get back to the real world. When accounting for all the different brands looking to communicate with them over proliferating channels, it’s clear why so many want to unplug. Brands need to prioritize making their digital marketing meaningful, useful, and experiential—otherwise it’s just more noise that audiences are increasingly tuning out. As such, they are beginning to see the value of real, in-person interactions more and more.

1 in 5 are looking to disconnect from their screens and spend more time in the real world this year. [2]

The digitally native generation doesn’t remember a time without technology embedded into almost every facet of daily life. Their understanding and expectations of technology are different than the generations before them. They expect instant responses and an on-demand world. It’s up to brands to keep pace, or fall behind.

When it comes to the real world, brick-and-mortar experiences are not the dead end they were prophesied to be. They’re becoming part of a cross-digital “brand ecosystem.” These need to be strategically engineered around the user—digital is just part of the equation. People expect the full package: a great digital service with tons of capabilities, bolstered by a convenient physical location that enhances the online experience without any interruptions.

As IoT, AI, cloud technology, persona-building, and data analytics continue to work together to create surprising connection and capabilities, the idea of a brand ecosystem becomes more relevant. Via a mobile device, we carry around an instant connection to untold data about ourselves as we move through the world. As more and more devices become connected, brands that want to be omnipresent will need to form partnerships with one another to get a complete view of the customer. For example, as voice assistants learn more about you and hospitality brands find more ways to work with connected technology, it’s in the interest of both to work together to deliver a meaningful experience informed by shared pools of data.

As the world changes and brands grow, experience will to become paramount. Brands that use technology in a way that improves and enables a positive experience are going to attract the ever-shifting interests of new customers.


[1] Statista – Virtual Reality (VR) – Statistics & Facts
[2] Code – Digital Trends 2017