Whilst waiting for coffee and cake in our favourite coffee shops, we’ve all taken a glance around, the influence of the digital world on this real-world setting is all too apparent; Instagram handles etched onto chalkboards, JustEat stickers adorning the windows, entire tables of people from which the only noises are taps and buzzes.
Increasingly, the offline and online worlds are becoming more inseparable.
This presents huge challenges for business. We are still offline entities that trust people more than we trust machines; the transactional world still relies on meeting and greeting. Failing that, it relies on testimonials from real people – some studies have suggested that people read a minimum of 10 reviews per online purchase.
In a world full of digital connections, but with limited access to real people, how do businesses reach the real needs of their consumers?
This ‘digital version of ourselves’ is not a myth. We are different people online than we are in the real world, to some extent.
How many Facebook ‘friends’ do you have that you’d struggle to hold a conversation with over coffee?
If Channel 4’s The Circle is the most extreme separation of the digital and real person, then does my watching Formula One highlights on YouTube, with no real intention of ever seeing a race in person, overestimate my interest in the sport? Suddenly subtle differences between my real and digital self begins to appear, constructing two sometimes distinct personalities. The algorithms that determine which ads we see only act in accordance with our digital selves, meaning some messages might miss the mark. To demonstrate this, I invite you to stop whatever you’re doing and take a minute to look through your own Instagram Ads Interests.
How many of those interest groups feel wildly inaccurate?
At some point, you’ve acted in a way that has suggested you are interested in every single hobby, item, person or team on that list. How far would a business trying to interact with you get, leading with some of the topics that your digital self is interested in? Interpreting this data and recognising the differences between the real and digital versions of customers, is of paramount importance to business in the digital age.
Let’s not forget the relevance of a real connection.
Statistically, we are less likely to speak to someone than we are to text, email or send some form of digital message. Business still works on real world connections, where exchanges over coffee or a round of golf might unveil your next best customer. In the digital world, targeted adverts are triggered by the actions of a digital consumer; perhaps a Google search, or following a social media page. In the digital world, our predictions and strategies are often based on reflecting what people want to hear; we sell trainers to those interested in sports, and Parisian lunches to people already interested in flights to France.
By connecting with people in the real world, we have a chance to be proactive with our suggestions, make lasting impressions and build relationships that go beyond brand loyalty.
Our digital self is a shadow of our real self – it follows us, it goes where we go, and it tracks our movements. However, if low-budget horror movies have taught us anything, it’s that shadows can, just sometimes, appear to be something very different from whatever casts them in the real world. So instead of starting that internal email back-and-forth, go and speak with your colleague. Could your next conference call become a coffee catch up?
In a world where time is money, we might find there’s some value in connecting with people, rather than their profiles. For more information on this or any other aspect of digital business development call 0161 368 9100 or visit www.asone.co.uk
Joel Rush, Director, AsOne Digital Business Development