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  • Writer's pictureMichal Jerzy

Digital Physical Fusion: Innovations related to experiences across digital and physical touch-points


To consumers the real and virtual worlds are becoming one, especially to the millennial generation. In Western Europe, one in two citizens owns a smartphone. Through mobile devices our social media profiles become extension of our personalities. We share what we experience both in personal and professional life – through images, status updates, tweets, wall posts, groups of interests and chats. The digital revolution transformes the perception of reality and virtual.  In the consumers’ mind-set digital means fast solutions that are tailored to their specific needs that should be integrated to their life. Branding strategy needs to include the same experience online and in the real world. And so does communication and marketing. The way consumers perceive your products or your organisation became as much dependent on their real life interactions as on digital experience. Consumers are fusing digital and physical worlds and so do companies need to do to survive.

Yet, consumers continue to experience disconnects between physical and digital experience offered by a majority of companies. A quarter century into the digital revolution, many organisations still agonise over whether to invest significant resources in their digital capabilities. A lot of those that have done so tend to run their digital operations as independent business units – the way companies prefer to manage them, as oppose to the way customers expect to use them – integrated with real life operations.


Innovation that fuses digital and physical opens new opportunities for companies. Most industries are still in the early stages of digital – physical transformation. It seems that the greatest barrier to adopting fusion strategies is not skepticism about their promise but inexperience with their execution. Decision makers are often intrigued by the possibilities and recognise their potential but are uncertain how to make them work. Building your strategy around digital and physical fusion can provide an new competitive edge to your organisation.

Consumers rely heavily on smartphones and tablets to perform daily activities related to sectors such as banking, insurance, e-commerce, and entertainment. People tend to trust digital solutions offered by their service providers as perfect, and above all they trust the information and service they provide. Traditionally technology, media, telecommunication and banking companies have been the fastest to provide their customers a seamless integrated experience across digital and physical interactions. Take a look at Apple stores – both online and their flagships ones, both providing same intuitive, modern, enjoyable and easy to understand interactions between the company and the customers seeking to purchase or to learn Apple products.

Another interesting example comes from Coca-Cola innovation in marketing and sales. A project in the UK, for example, involves a partnership with an augmented reality app – Blippar – for mobile phones. When Coca-Cola introduced a new 250ml slim can, the company created special packaging that worked in conjunction with the app. When a consumer scans a special icon bottle silhouette on the can, an image appears on the phone screen. It looks like the can has come to life, wearing headphones and playing music right in front of the real-life background the person is looking at.

When we look across the media industry, those organisations that managed to transform their businesses by focusing on digital channels are thriving whereas the other delivering primarily print based editions are loosing their share of markets. Great examples here are Monocle, Newsweek, Huffington Post, Wired, Economist, New York Times or Harvard Business Review.


When we look across the media industry, those organisations that managed to transform their businesses by focusing on digital channels are thriving whereas the other delivering primarily print based editions are loosing their share of markets. Great examples here are Monocle, Newsweek, Huffington Post, Wired, Economist, New York Times or Harvard Business Review.

Change is inevitable in business, but the digital revolution is at the heart of many recent shifts in the workplace. Many HR functions are already playing an important role in helping to go beyond observing digital trends (and where the organisation falls short), and actually develop the talent to make and lead new trends. This new generation will be those who code, develop apps, build websites and work on digital initiatives such as search engine optimisation (SEO) or social media, and will be led by the people who can understand and drive digital strategies. The digital revolution hasn’t ignored HR. The proliferation of digital channels such as LinkedIn for recruitment has forced HR professionals to embrace new ways of working. Also significant portion of HR budget has been shifted from recruitment related advertising to HR related digital projects:on-boarding materials. career apps, career websites, digital recruitment campaigns.

Companies are moving their induction and on-boarding materials from paper based to digital driven solutions, making sure that all of the things that are available for their employees via laptops and desktops also work on phones and tablets. The way new generation perceives digital communication channels of any organisation has a significant impact on their perception of that organisation –  as an innovative employer and a competitive company.


Some industries are much harder and faster affected by consumer integration with digital experiences, so a key first step is to assess your organisation’s environment. Change has been several times as extensive in media, technology and telecoms as in oil and gas, mining and construction. Yet the biggest change is yet to come, especially in the emerging markets. The next several years will bring far more innovation related to digital technologies: airlines are seeking to become more cost effective in selling their services and offering the best customer experience on the market; tourism and travel related services jumped on the revolution quite early as travellers use websites as primary source of information when making purchase decisions. A great example  are some of the most successful travel gateways such as, Visitbritain, IAMSTERDAM, VisitCopenhagen or Canada’s Keep Exploring. Not only they aim to showcase unique style of each destination but directly connect consumers with travel related services such as accommodation, transportation, entertainment, events, cultural offering. Those countries tourism promotion strategy is based on digital and physical fusion – integrated activities across all sort of channels, redirecting travellers to their main portal.

Some industries will be held back by external factors. Medical technology and health care, in particular,  won’t evolve as quickly as they otherwise might due to industry regulations and liability issues. Nevertheless digital is already part of our medical and health check experience: test results being delivered online or through mobile apps, appointment booking systems, etc. A sense of threat in the proliferation of personal health apps, devices and wearable technologies that gather our personal data can be offset by ease of access to service, improved accessibility, and belief that we can use this data to manage serious long term conditions and track signs and symptoms of disease. We are about to witness a steady transformation of the healthcare industry, led by an independent, consumer-led (and largely unregulated) health tech market supported by service and UX design. Imagine a First-Point-of-Contact Doctor’s face appearing by Skype on our mobile phone or laptop. This is not the future anymore, it is happening today and it is just a start. The Design Museum in London is currently seeking the most interesting and promising health tech ideas, inventions and devices.


When traditional companies add digital features to its innovation programs, their approach typically resembles a waterfall. Marketers and product designers create ideas build prototypes, and then throw the idea downstream to IT, with instructions to develop specific digital features.  But another way to fuse digital with the physical is to create a team of complementary experts with deeper and broader integration, cross industry experience and understanding of digital technologies and its capabilities . Leaders engage digital experts at every stage, from idea generation to development, testing and launching in a  more agile approach. Today websites should be designed and developed as tools delivering services to users and representing organisation’s brand… from providing desired or needed information to influencing consumers spending behaviours, selling products or services. Users should be involved through co-creation in fine-tuning each website or app to ensure that those are designed and developed both with and for the defined user groups. Only this way a digital and physical fusion can be successfully executed.

Customers are surprised when a digital experience almost second-guesses them, and almost understands what they need before they do. This is the principle of an intuitive and seamless digital experience. Using the data captured across the digital eco system starts to build a unique picture of customers, which enables organisations to create highly personalised interactions, creating those “WOW” moments of insight. This leads to greater customer satisfaction, and stronger relationships between the brand and its customers. Through digital solutions, consumers expect organisations to play a greater role in their lives, not just at the moment of digital service touch point – but before and after as well. They expect their service provider to understand their lives and to support them in taking complex decisions, creating delightful experiences,  instead of creating more complexity through digital tools. Customers don’t want to become an expert in who is actually responsible for a specific part of a service, or who is at fault when this service fails.

When embracing digital solutions, we expect organisations to use digital means effectively to simplify our actions. In reality, however, a digital experience is often inconsistent and showcases the limitations of the organisation in taking advantage of the digital medium as an opportunity to provide a better customer experience. Consistency of the digital experience, easy access to relevant information, timely support and proactive contextual advice become key for a seamless digital experience.

Considering human behaviour there are four elements to why people stay with their service provider: content, contract, inertia and superior experience. It is the experience that ensures a higher rate of attachment to a brand and a service – experience results in an emotional layer affecting our decision. Customers get addicted to a digital offering when they recognise that the experience provided from the business is superior. The quality of the content, customised information, and timely engagement are key factors that make your service addictive.


The world continues to go through a digital transformation; customers and businesses are becoming much more connected, and physical and digital worlds become one, or in other words digital dimension becomes an integral part of our real world. These developments are creating real imperatives for companies. Success can only be realised when the organisation makes digital a key component of its strategy, and not just a single objective. This enables management to focus on the capabilities which are suitable for digital fusion, ensuring that technology and processes can be continually grown, aligned, and extended, based on the needs of the customer. Looking through the eyes of an end user is a key and service design helps to direct that focus. By investing more in the actual experience of the digital service and identifying relevant ‘addictive’ elements for the main customer segments, companies can grow their customer base over time. The goal is to create an experience people will not want to live without. Getting customers to make your service part of their lives becomes a priority in the new chapter of digital evolution.

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