pt.3 Physical vs digital worlds: Why hiding behind data is a mistake

July 25, 2019

It’s not only consumers who’ve been seduced by the digital world of course. Marketers too almost exclusively analyse customer engagement using numbers on screens instead of asking them in person. We are endlessly fascinated by click-through rate, organic traffic, bounce rates, behaviour flows, number of shares and page performance.

But what does it all actually mean?

Numbers can look impressive in a report. Yet without a human voice to explain them, to put them into context, what are they actually telling us? Remember, regardless of page views and unique impressions, only 18% of sales worldwide today are digital. 82% of sales still occur in person, over a counter.

Knowing what we now know about dopamine and screen time, could it be that our obsession with data analysis is also led by a chemical response?

Looking at data might make us feel safe in our conversion figures, but how much influence do we really have digitally? When was the last time you convinced someone of something on social media? For some things, there is no substitute for talking to someone in person. Being influential and compelling is one of the them.

People are not going to stop using websites or buying things online any time soon but the way we buy things is as subject to fashion as hemlines and jeans. Remember cheque books and credit card slips?

It’s not only consumers who’ve been seduced by the digital world of course. Marketers too almost exclusively analyse customer engagement using numbers on screens instead of asking them in person. We are endlessly fascinated by click-through rate, organic traffic, bounce rates, behaviour flows, number of shares and page performance.

But what does it all actually mean?

Numbers can look impressive in a report. Yet without a human voice to explain them, to put them into context, what are they actually telling us? Remember, regardless of page views and unique impressions, only 18% of sales worldwide today are digital. 82% of sales still occur in person, over a counter.

Knowing what we now know about dopamine and screen time, could it be that our obsession with data analysis is also led by a chemical response?

Looking at data might make us feel safe in our conversion figures, but how much influence do we really have digitally? When was the last time you convinced someone of something on social media? For some things, there is no substitute for talking to someone in person. Being influential and compelling is one of the them.

People are not going to stop using websites or buying things online any time soon but the way we buy things is as subject to fashion as hemlines and jeans. Remember cheque books and credit card slips?

When Microsoft got it wrong: How not to combine the physical with the digital

The unassuming paper clip has been around for over 100 years. There is something inherently likeable about a paper clip despite, or perhaps because of, its simple usefulness.

Reflecting this, despite our increasingly digital world, the stock price of ACCO, America’s major paperclip producer, has rocketed over the past five years, with 11 billion of the little metal loops sold in the US in 2011 alone.

It might be a tiny, anachronistic office tool but it continues to hold its appeal.

Certainly, a paper clip is perfectly designed for its use. But with email, text and even electronic contracts now mainstream, it’s hard to understand how we can still be getting through so many of them. Perhaps it is because the paper clip is no longer only an office tool, but also a symbol of its own resilience.

According to an article on Quartz, during the second world war, Norwegians wore paper clips
on their lapels as a symbol of opposition to Nazism. Today, 
this practice is still followed by thousands, to remember victims of the Holocaust.

You would think, therefore, that something capable of holding so much meaning would be a positive symbol in any medium. Microsoft certainly thought so, when they introduced ‘Clippy’, their digital paper clip helper for users of their MS Office Suite in 1997. They were wrong.

Clippy was roundly hated, particularly by women, who found him patronising and leering. When Microsoft finally did away with him, it was via an online game where haters finally got their revenge by pelting Clippy with staplers, rubber bands and other office equipment.

The lesson to learn here, of course, is that different media matters. What works in the physical world might not translate into digital and vice versa. But get the two worlds to work in harmony with each other and, as we’ll look at in the next chapter, you could be onto something really special.

 

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