Winning digital minds, analog hearts

Jun 20, 2016


Through a special arrangement, what follows is a summary of an article from COLLOQUY, provider of loyalty-marketing publishing, education and research since 1990.

Does anyone really remember the first time they downloaded an MP3 of a song? By show of hands at the 2016 COLLOQUY Summit in Los Angeles, at least, the answer is a resounding “no.”

But ask around — many people have a clear, strong memory of buying their first vinyl record. They recall exactly how it sounded, where they got it, how exciting it was to set the record player needle down in its grooves for the first time. The Summit attendees were no exception when keynote speaker Anders Sorman-Nilsson asked about their vinyl memories.

It’s a great example, he said, of how important — and tricky — it is for companies, brands and marketers to understand the digital disruption they all face. Another is the persistent love of the humble wristwatch, even though the time can easily and instantly be found on people’s ever-present smartphones, not to mention features-heavy smartwatches.

“There’s a dichotomy: We’re increasingly in the digital era, but your customers’ hearts are still analog and emotional,” the futurist and innovation strategist told the audience. “How do you seamlessly weave analog and digital together?”

With the lightning-fast clip of change, the future could be incredibly dehumanized, Mr. Sorman-Nilsson said, citing research predicting that machine power will bypass the brainpower of a human by 2023. As companies learn to adapt to digital disruption rather than fighting it, he said, “They don’t have to throw the analog baby out with the digital bathwater.”

Yet there is still a great deal of friction for something as easy, for example, as payments. Removing friction as much as possible will be key for all brands as they continue to transform into an ever-more digital world.

As an example of seamless transformation, Mr. Sorman-Nilsson cited Nike, which once sold simply athletic gear and shoes. Today, through advanced interactive analytics that let people customize and elevate their performance, he said, “What they’re really selling is self-actualization and transformation.”

The key for tackling the future in a way that combines the best of analog and digital: “Ask, ‘What does that transformation look like inside your organization?’ And get really deliberate about how you design the customer experience of the future.”


DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Does developing a brand in a way that connects digital minds with analog hearts make sense for retail? Which parts of the retail experience do you think shouldn’t be allowed to go digital that might?

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"I still believe shoppers want to touch apparel, smell fresh fruit and hear music on a stereo speaker in a store."

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14 Comments on "Winning digital minds, analog hearts"

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Adrian Weidmann

Not only does connecting the digital conscience with the analog heart make sense for retail, it is imperative for success. The connection can be made through human senses — smell, touch, sound, taste, sight and the experiences that weave them together into an emotional tapestry.

Coke’s “Share a Coke and a Song” summer campaign is a perfect example of how a major brand is connecting to the emotion of music with its digital delivery, from listening to the tune through to reading lyrics on the soda can to touching the cold beverage and tasting that Coke. Weaving it all together into an emotive experience that lasts long after the beverage is gone.

Kim Garretson
3 years 5 months ago

The auto industry may be a good leading indicator of connecting digital minds with analog hearts. With cultural currents making individual auto ownership less attractive for young people, plus other trends such as transportation infrastructure that is unable to keep up with traffic, the forecast for driverless cars and more, watch all the investments the auto makers are making. They realize what the world could look like in 20 years unless they are seriously innovative around the digital minds relating to going from point A to point B.

Ralph Jacobson
When I bought my first vinyl album in 1972 (yes, I do remember that), records were an integral part of a young person’s world. We didn’t have mobile phones, easy-to-carry cameras, 500 channels of TV, etc. So we had fewer things to capture our attention and also fewer distractions from them. Today there are so many choices and distractions that brands are challenged, to say the least, to create those “moments of truth” that last a lifetime and develop a strong connection with the consumer. I’m not all that certain that it is still possible to make that connection today, however perhaps I simply don’t have a good enough imagination to create those moments. Should physical stores continue to exist? Sure, and they certainly will, in my view. I still believe shoppers want to touch apparel, smell fresh fruit and hear music on a stereo speaker in a store. These sensory experiences are hard to duplicate digitally, and I think the purists in all of us won’t allow this replacement to happen for a very… Read more »
David Slavick

Clearly personal service, a one-to-one relationship with the store associate — cannot truly be replaced by a digital engagement for most consumers. Access to information that enables an informed and highly satisfying retail experience is heavily reliant on digital tools and capabilities. The retail customer’s heart is warmed by feeling appreciated through personal interaction, getting unique benefits that matter to them. As retail customers continue to rely on digital access to information and transact virtually, the role of the retail brand representative will evolve with even more demand on having real-time access to information as well as training that ensures a highly satisfying experience.

Tom Redd
Leaving digital as a reference and an option means you can own more of the heart and the wallet. Digital has no emotion — retail is all emotion. So win with the emotion and obtain or speed up in the hands with digital. The speed element is not what makes people share the value message around the product. The emotion part does that. After a short time shoppers forget how fast that they got their new watch or whatever — but they never forget the emotional link they have. Especially the heavily materialistic people of each generational group. They love their stuff. Yes, I remember my first album purchase — The Jackson 5’s ABC (I still have it). And my first MP3 download — Bread. Next was Chicago. It was so cool, but a mess to do it. Now I have 25,000 songs in iTunes and listen to Spotify — the reason is simple, digital in iTunes has too many rules so makes using and grouping music too hard. Spotify is easy. I keep the… Read more »
Lee Kent

This may be a tad off-base but … I just wrote a post about the new approach to innovation where I looked at the Amazon Echo, Google’s Project Tango, Facebook’s Chatbots and Microsoft’s Bot Framework. What did I see through all this? How digital is there to help us navigate the shopping experience, not replace it.

The actual decision to buy is still, and will continue to be IMHO, that “aha!” moment when all of the senses converge and it’s time to “Say Yes To The Dress,” so to speak.

Retail needs to be in that moment. Creating the whole experience that moves the customer along the path, making it easy and stirring emotions every step of the way.

And that’s my 2 cents.

Ross Ely

The “analog heart” can be a foundation of a retailer’s value proposition. Shoppers want emotional connections with their preferred brands and retailers should strive to build these connections wherever possible, particularly with their physical stores that digital-only retailers cannot match.

The challenge is that digital-only retailers are building emotional affinity as well, as evidenced by shoppers’ emotional attraction to retailers like Amazon and Zappos. Retailers must meet shoppers’ expectations for their digital presences, while using both digital and analog means to establish a differentiated value in the shoppers’ mind.

William Hogben

The physical goods are what move people — digital should be used to get rid of all the excess friction between the person and the thing they want. For example, grocery stores will start blending digital into shopping next year with the first generation of checkout apps. Shoppers touch and smell the fruit and browse the products in the physical world — but then the waiting in line, customer service and checkout all happens digitally. This is a great model for how retailers should use digital — digital lets retailers abstract out the lousy parts of the experience leaving only the good.

Kai Clarke

This issue is really a non-issue. People are purchasing things from the Internet because of what it offers, not what it doesn’t offer. Purchasing online is lower cost, easy, fast, and offers better comparisons and “shopping” in less time. For many consumers this is key in their shopping decisions. Best of all, with low-cost (or no-cost) freight as well as easy returns, you can shop “from your home” rather than go to a store and deal with the crowds, parking, etc. The online shopping experience is its own experience, not to be confused with the on-ground, brick and mortar experience.

Jerry Gelsomino

The analog of “new,” “fresh,” “never opened,” is very powerful in retail, but it applies to things, not services. The feel of a downloading service can never be as memorable as ripping off the plastic wrapper of a new vinyl album (or the frustration of CD packaging). You also got pictures, sometimes the lyric sheets, or even a poster, all in the same package.

I was never a smoker, but as a graphic designer I was impressed with cigarette packaging. All those perfect little soldiers revealed under the silver foil was capturing to the hooked-in generation. We remember those unveilings; whether it’s a new car smell, or the sound of opening a pop-top. Ever wonder the camera on your smartphone makes the sound of a physical camera lens?

Brian Numainville

As one of the other panelists pointed out, digital only retailers are indeed also connecting emotionally with shoppers. The “analog heart” may be defined individually and for some that can come through a relationship with a digital retailer. I would argue that some of the younger shoppers today may not feel the need for the “analog” that many older shoppers hold so dear to their heart.

Shep Hyken

No doubt we remember those “special moments” when we bought our first album at the music store. That’s a great metaphor for so many of those types of moments. So what is a retailer to do? Content! Deliver some value in the form of content. Let’s stay with the music example. The band has a fan club. Get the customer enrolled. Get them to connect emotionally by being a part of something. The customer becomes a part of the community. That’s one (of the many) things that digital has made easier than ever — digital communities. It’s the same game we’ve always played. Just some different rules.

Marge Laney
3 years 5 months ago

The fit experience for apparel retailers will never be successfully satisfied digitally. Shopping may be digital, but the decision to buy is still an analog process requiring the customer to try on before saying, “Yes, I’m going to buy this garment.”

Customers won’t decide to buy until they have tried on an article of clothing, either at home or in the store’s fitting room. Between 20 and 50% of apparel purchased online is returned. 70% of that is returned because of fit issues.

It’s not that virtual fitting shouldn’t be allowed, it’s that it’s simply will never really work, and the resulting returns will always be a fact of life.

Ken Morris
Ken Morris
Retail industry thought leader
3 years 5 months ago
For a lot of commodity items, the purchase decision is very calculated and methodical and doesn’t involved much, if any, emotion. For these products, retailers can automate and use digital selling tools and it won’t negatively impact sales. However, for many products like big ticket items, clothing and anything that is complicated and requires subjective advice from a knowledgeable sales associates, digital selling will not be a smart replacement for the human touch. There is a soft side to selling that computers can’t replicate. For example, if Olivia is shopping for a dress and the computer or robot suggests a specific style, color and size based on the customer data, the computer/robot can’t react to the customer’s facial expressions to suggest a better alternative. In addition, for important or personal purchases, consumers develop a relationship with the sales associate and this emotional bond with the associate can significantly influence their purchase decision. You can’t create meaningful customer intimacy online for big ticket items … you can enhance the journey, but the theater of shopping needs… Read more »
"I still believe shoppers want to touch apparel, smell fresh fruit and hear music on a stereo speaker in a store."

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