Digital, Meet Analogue

Our online and offline experiences have officially merged. Amazon, that bastion of online sales and service, now has its own bookshop made from bricks and glass instead of the usual 1s and 0s.

The message is pretty clear. Humans still want that ever so tactile experience of feeling the product in our hands, carrying away a real shopping bag (recycled, of course) and sipping a coffee with friends afterwards. In other words, discovering brilliant new products the old-fashioned way.

Purely digital businesses are in need of a little analogue in the mix. Humans are the most analogue thing on the planet – it’s pointless to deny millions of years of primate heritage. This means we want to speak to real people when we have a service request that really matters to us. It’s part of the customer experience that we crave. Customer experience will likely be more important than price by 2020. We want it our way and we are prepared to pay for it, or to vote with our feet and thumbs and find a different service that will offer us what we want.

Companies like Uber provide minimal frontline customer service solutions. It is almost impossible to get through to a human with a bill query or to discuss service. Everything is taken care of through a seductive app that fools us into believing that we are connected to an infrastructure that could help us. But how does this provide for the analogue aspect of serving human needs – those emotional moments that happen each and every day and simply cannot be handled by an app or by 1s and 0s?

Combining digital and analogue is a vital move if you want to treat customers in the way we want to be treated. Businesses can no longer dictate the terms of customer interaction and hope that we will fall in line: The balance of power in the relationship between consumer and business has shifted forever toward us customers. If we want a bookshop, we get a bookshop. If we want to pick up the phone, we had better get through to a real person – because we feel that this conversation needs to be done right, and that means with another human being.

Just as brick-and-mortar stores had to move into the online game in recent years to compete with the explosion of digital marketplaces, the opposite is true today. Purely digital businesses need to get themselves down to the market in order to learn some of the frontline staples that can only be mastered the hard way – by getting their hands dirty meeting us real customers.

There are simple lessons to be learned about channel and context, and experience on both sides of the fence is essential in order to build new ways of supporting customers. Of course, what is most important is that you are there when we need you to be brilliant. We’ll continue to give you our loyalty and money – just as long you continue to adapt to meet our appetite for human interaction when and where it is needed most.