Empower & enrich the customer experience with real-world digital opportunities

by: on 05 November 2014

Ikea and Icebreaker are both leading the charge of real-world digital experiences

Annabel Sampson at 1000heads explores some of the cutting edge brand examples of the merging of real-world and digital shopping experiences

  • "People are remembering the powerful appeal of face-to-face over interface and we’re reminded that our ever more digital minds are paired with eternally analogue hearts."
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  • Annabel Sampson, 1000heads 

We’ve all acclimatized to the knowledge that “the future is digital.” Day in, day out we’re reminded that: print is in decline; a computer is after your job…people now look to Google over a friend for advice (a top Googled question of 2014 is ‘how to kiss’ - a once popular teen conversation subject). Sir Tim Berners-Lee, best known for his invention of the World Wide Web, depressingly observed that “Computer’s are getting smarter, you’re not.” An observation that rings loud, clear and true.

Interestingly, amidst this seismic digital shift, solid bricks are emerging from half-hearted clicks and fickle digital meanderings. People are remembering the powerful appeal of face-to-face over interface and we’re reminded that our ever more digital minds are paired with eternally analogue hearts.

The cleverest bands are tapping into this trend and targeting consumers two-way. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the “clicks to bricks” transition. Born and bred digital companies are popping up (literally) in a temporary as well as permanent state. A shop front akin to the digital home page; and carefully considered copy replaced with old-fashioned, reliable customer service.

Ikea have successfully maintained the relevance of an analogue, “real-world” catalogue in a digital world by embracing augmented reality. Rather than throwing the analogue baby out in the digital bathwater they have neighboured digital prowess alongside tangible familiarity.  The Ikea catalogue, as before, is delivered to your doorstep; unlike before, the catalogue allows you to sample furniture in your home…only without any furniture. All one must do is position the catalogue wherever furniture is desired and use the Ikea Catalogue App to digitally scan and “place” the desired piece in chosen room. The room is displayed on the device screen through the camera with the product miraculously super imposed in. No DIY necessary. The app comes with a range of other features including inspirational ‘how to’ films and stories surrounding products and designers, “glimpses” of personality – yet more qualities of the real world.

Far from losing relevance, the Ikea catagloue is mail order gold dust. Two hundred million copies are printed each year in 27 languages across 38 countries. Adding fuel to the fire was Ikea’s tongue-in-cheek ad, released just prior to the launch of the iPhone 6 introducing a competitive digital masterpiece, the “bookbook.” This bog standard book humorously boasts “eternal battery life” and pages that “load instantly, with zero lag.” Expertly and goofily tapping into real-world humor; poking fun at hyperbolic digital jargon and successfully charming our analogue hearts.

As real and digital worlds merge, customer expectations grow. Another example of a brand successfully tapping into real-world desires through digital means is Icebreaker. An outdoor clothing company, who pride themselves on their garments made from prized merino wool. Icebreaker boast full visibility of the items they sell. Each garment operates a unique ‘baacode’ which customers can use to trace the wool in their garment all the way back to the source. Showing full commitment to a sustainable business model and giving customers the opportunity to “own” their understanding. Customers can purchase items content in the knowledge that both animal and employee welfare throughout the production process was unprecedented and can acquire knowledge on farmer’s backgrounds, sheep living conditions down to their names, preferences and stock count. The digital experience is enriching and rewarding. Bringing the affability of real-life relationships and trust to a digital shopping experience and making their products all the more valuable for it.

Realistically, the arrival of unexpected digital outlets on the high-street such as Amazon and Birchbox doesn’t gesture to an age “Post Digital”, rather an attempt to help sellers assist customers deal with the physical realities of shopping online, creating more brand “touchpoints,” channels of distribution and real-world exposure. What Y+R chairman and CEO David Cable calls “Digital Exponential.” This is a move towards an ever more seamless integration between online, offline channels and the ultimate experience. Whether you’re purchasing with tweets a la Marc Jacobs, bitcoins in trendy coffee joints, Google Wallet or pounds sterling life will continue to evolve merging real and digital worlds.