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Connected Spaces, Connected Experiences

2015 Vol.13 Ed. 1


Reclaiming Life Outside the Screen

The other day on Canal Street, I bumped into an entire class of high school juniors from Sioux Center, Iowa. They weren’t looking up at the buildings, checking out knockoff handbags, or searching for illegal fireworks. They were buried in their phones: screening. Even in one of the liveliest shopping districts of the greatest city in the world, their digital screens were winning the attention war.

While these teens were buried in their phones, I couldn’t help but think of my own behavior, and the behavior of my peers. We’ve all had those out-of-body experiences before, engrossed in our phones instead of what’s going on in front of our faces.

But things are starting to change. People are beginning to react against this real missing out on life. They are beginning to demand rich, human experiences that may use screens, but don’t depend entirely on them.

As marketers, we have the opportunity to help brands reclaim life outside the screen. This is most evident in two areas: the reinvention of brick-and-mortar stores and the renaissance of live events.

As digital screens compete for customers by offering shoppers a hassle-free, convenient way to make a purchase, brick-and-mortar stores are focusing on engagement, creating connected spaces that invite interaction and give consumers additional reasons to visit in person. Brands are realizing that purely digital services may not be enough to satisfy consumers, and are creating hybrid experiences that combine the ease and immediacy of digital channels with the tactile nature of physical stores. At the core of this experience is a human connection: technology is enhancing the relationship between the sales associate and the shopper, not replacing it.

Live events are undergoing a similar rebirth. Just as commerce has been hijacked by e-commerce, digital screens have eroded the appeal of live entertainment. High-definition screens, live streams, and ubiquitous social updates have commoditized what used to be an exclusive, communal, in-person experience. And the burgeoning field of virtual reality promises an even more realistic way to see an event without having to be part of it. The ease and interactivity of these innovations have put pressure on brands to offer one-of-a-kind experiences that can’t be pirated or replicated.

Technology is at the core of the changes we’re seeing in these two areas, shifting the paradigm from the all-too-common scenario where devices make us miss out on the best parts of life, to a new reality where we use them to augment and enhance the in-person experience. This doesn’t mean that digital screens will disappear; it means that we will learn how to harness them to provide more engaging experiences in the real world. We’re entering a period when our devices will make the main attraction even better—not serve as a distraction. Things are about to get really good.

Andrea Ring
SVP, Managing Director, Insights & Planning, R/GA