Analog Touchpoints in a Digital World

By Nora Schäfer

In a world in which everyone talks about digital transformation, the new truth seems to be clear: Analogue is old school, complicated, and slow. Digital is state of the art, convenient, and fast.

Nowadays the main focus of brand shapers lies on digital touchpoints. As a digital native, I obviously embrace most of these new technologies and the arising new opportunities in my private and professional life. However, today I would like to bat for the analog.

The excitement (or should I say hysteria?) around everything digital produces more and more hybrid solutions on the edge of digital and analog. Digital is no world in itself but closely connected to our everyday life.

We experience that along a brand’s analog touchpoints. When I go to a sneakers store to buy new running shoes, the first thing I’m handed isn’t a shoe but an iPad to insert my data. Or I find myself placing my dinner order on a touchscreen at a Japanese restaurant. The idea of attentive, friendly waiters has apparently become very yesterday.

With all these digital services at analog touchpoints, companies intend to ease my stay or enhance my shopping experience — a big fail if not done thoughtfully! The measures described above might ease the process of finally getting the right shoe or the right sushi roll. But if it doesn’t add true value to the brand experience, one could ask, Why not stay at home and order the stuff from the couch if the experience doesn’t vary?  Sushi, shoes, washing machines, insurance … there is nothing one could not get comfortably from the same spot. So why would I move if there was no added value?

The important difference between analog and digital is that experience is analog. Today the reasons why people decide to visit a store (instead of buying online) have changed. Visiting a store is not about the purchase itself but a multisensory experience with the brand — beyond the possibilities of digital. It is a huge disappointment if I tear myself away from my computer, mobile, and/or television screen, fight my way through the city jungle, and end up in a store where even more screens stare at me. I want it to be sensory. I want to be disturbed, inspired, and excited with all my senses.

I appreciate when I get the time to walk around and experience a store, a booth, a pop-up. I want to hear, smell, taste, and feel the brand in all its facets: its products, its usability, the people behind it. The analog experience should not be old school and complicated. But it should not be trimmed to maximum speed and convenience either.

Don’t get me wrong. I give a big YES to digital add-ons at analog brand touchpoints, but only if they are sensitive, thought through, and add real value to my experience. Digital for the sake of digital can’t be the answer to this buzzing digital transformation everyone is running after.

Nora Schäfer is brand strategist at MetaDesign Düsseldorf.

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