Tactile digital experiences


Thoughts Piece

We just don’t see the point of doing digital experiences in store…

That is, we don’t if you’re just going to stick in an iPad or a touch screen to give customers access to your web site. What’s the point? We’d much rather surf the web from the comfort of a sofa with a beer, safe in the knowledge the kids are, at last, in bed! Add to that, everyone from our eldest at the age of 3 to Nana at the age of 92 can, and has, used a touch screen. The novelty factor has pretty much worn off.

So how can digital offer more in the real world?

Everyone is talking about digital. At Euroshop earlier this year, everyone was talking about the impact of digital on physical space. Yet few we’re actually saying anything at all (unless it was back end operational processes….yawn).

This got us thinking and we reckon there is an answer that makes digital in the real world totally unique. Tactile Digital experiences.

Think about the main reasons we flock to physical retail spaces:

1. We like to touch things
2. We like to smell things
3. We like to discover things for ourselves
4. Its convenient
5. Its social

Think about pretty much every digital experience you’ve ever had in store. Its cold. You’re never really ‘in it’ or ‘part of it’. Just a mere controller of pre-determined routes.

Think differently. Try to imagine a digital experience that you become part of. One that is activated by something physical rather than touching a button or a screen. This is a Tactile Digital Experience.

Our first ever experience of this type of experience was back in 1992. Disney had just opened the Alien ride/experience in Florida and when the Alien escaped and ran around the building in the pitch black, air jets behind your legs sent burst of air at the same time the surround sound made it seem like he just ran behind you. Oh, and when he was shot, they shot jets of water at you that felt like the aliens blood. Lovely. We now know this as Haptic technology and it will become part of the home 4D cinema experience within the next 5 years.

Although this is a theme park ride, its parallels with retail are vast. At the end of the day, this is true theatre. And this is what landlords and brands want to recreate in the retail world. Experiences that you are a part of, that you can feel. That make you smile and want to tell your friends about.

Bring it right up to 2014 and there have been some superb examples of Tactile Digital Experiences.

Audi City with their RFID enable car configurator that has changed the way you buy an Audi today (click here to read more). Pick up any swatch from the colour wall and whilst your personalised Audi is displayed on screen, place it on the table and the car automatically changes colour. You didn’t touch any buttons, you didn’t ask it to, it just did. And why did you pick up that Flame Red swatch instead of the black you choose on screen? Because its vibrant and looks lush in real life that you just can’t appreciate on screen.

Klepierre’s inspiration tunnel is another wonderful example whereby a whole immersive experience is kick started by the products you have just bought. Through ID recognition and push notification messaging you are invited to a world of inspiration that again would be impossible to do within the restrictions of the real world.

Next up was an experimental installation at the Digital Revolution exhibit at the Barbican recently. The last room was almost pitch black, filled with smoke and had lasers pointing downwards. Step up to the laser and you could knock it away from you by pushing it, kicking it, bumping it. But it would always come back like a pendulum. You could bounce it between friends or put your arms around it to trap it. Although purely experimental, you could almost feel it as you touched it. It felt like it had a physical entity. And what made it a true Tactile Digital Experience was that its impossible to recreate online.

Not all Tactile Digital Experiences work out though. The highest profile example of this is Burberry Live on Regent St. Pick up a handbag and hold it in front of a mirror. The mirror magically becomes a screen and then shows you the bag….turning round. That’s it. The same bag your holding is now turning round on a screen. Why on Gods earth did someone think this would heighten the shopping experience? The content of the digital has to go way past what the physical space will allow.

Don’t get us wrong, there are some awesome digital experiences out there that aren’t touch screens that work beautifully. Inamo’s projection tables, the Boots app, The Pepsi Max bus shelter, Disney MagicBand, Emart Sale Navigation, they all offer more to enhance the real world experience. Tactile Digital Experiences just go that bit further and push it in a whole new direction.

So how do we define a truly worthwhile Tactile Digital Experience? 3 key components:

1. It has to be initiated by something physical
2. It has to go further than the limitations of physical space
3. It can’t be recreated online

TYC are currently working on a Tactile Digital Experience for one of our clients who wants to change the UK public perception of health retail. This experience will allow customers to engage in a sector that currently seems almost impossible to understand and in a way that just seem natural. We’ll be able to share more details shortly as it will hit the high street in December.

In a time when everyone is talking about saving the high street and reshaping the physical space with digital, these type of experiences may very well bring the excitement back to bricks and mortar and provide a reason to step away from the mouse. Go the real world!

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