My son is putting the finishing touches on a photo edit. He adds color filters, graphic overlays, texture, text – and a delicate insignia that expresses his authorship. A swipe of his finger sends the artwork into the “digisphere.” Within seconds, the first “ping” resonates with affirmation. He is good. His social network says so. He is 13.
Soon, my son will join a shopping cohort with completely different expectations of “customer experience.”
Their brains and their world – each person’s brain and world, in fact – are in a continuous give-and-make loop of experience: The environment creates our brains, wiring neural connections together, and the wiring of our brains influences how we experience the world. Digital technology and the influence of social media networks are changing the ways in which our brains are wired. In turn, how we communicate and the manner in which brands and retailers connect with us must change.
The foundations of relationships, built on embodied interaction, are disintegrating as we communicate more through our screens than our faces. Increasingly, embodied empathic relationships are missing. This is not entirely awful news, because it’s being augmented with something new – the empowerment that comes from crafting experiences that are relevant because we, in part, have made them ourselves.
Until recently, the exchange of information between brands and customers has been unidirectional – flowing from the brands, through marketing and advertising channels, toward the people who buy their goods and services. In the digital sphere, this exchange is becoming more profound in the opposite direction, coming from customers who are continuously producing and pushing digital content into the system.
Today, we capture our life experiences in episodic moments, creating the brand of ME. ME is a brand built not on vast demographic trends but on my specific preferences. The long-term viability of the ME brand relies on continual creation of new “product,” not unlike retailers satisfying their customers’ need for novelty, context and belonging. In the process, all of those ME brands – billions of them – are becoming remarkably good marketers, adept at knowing what can be sold by them – and at knowing what is being sold to them. Being good marketers themselves, a generation of MEs will see through traditional marketing techniques.
How do you remain relevant in such an environment? By fostering relationships that allow for customer-created content to become part of the shopping experience. This process, known as “Creative Collaborative Consumerism,” will be a major component in the future of retail placemaking. Brands and retailers will co-op the shopping experience with their customers, offering empowerment and novelty by allowing shoppers to craft shopping experiences for themselves, by themselves. ◆
“DIGITAL TECHNOLOGY AND THE INFLUENCE OF SOCIAL MEDIA NETWORKS ARE CHANGING THE WAYS IN WHICH OUR BRAINS ARE WIRED.”DAVID KEPRON
AUTHOR AND CREATIVE DIRECTOR, BRAND EXPERIENCE STUDIO, LITTLE DIVERSIFIED ARCHITECTURAL CONSULTING
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