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How two decades of digital has transformed human interaction

If you think you might be having more trouble concentrating than ever before, you're not alone! Studies suggest that our attention spans have shrunk by a third since the turn of the millennium. Hyperconnectivity is changing society, with figures showing that Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp process 60 billion messages a day around the world—three times more than SMS! So how has this changed the way people interact with each other—and how businesses interact with consumers?

 

Where people penned letters, they now craft texts; where consumers browsed shop fronts, they now scroll through thumbnails. Where people asked questions, they now ask Google; where they waited in line, they now click-and-collect. Interactions with businesses are quicker and more regular, and in many ways, consumers have more power than ever. 

 

Access to information and ease of communication is transferring power from businesses to buyers. Any consumer can now be a critic and review sites show that they are quick to share and compare. At the tap of a finger, they can read pages of reviews, compare prices and, in turn, make or break a business on Twitter in less than 140 characters. 

 

For brands, it's no longer enough to sell, and turning consumers into loyal customers requires forging an emotional, personal connection. Turning words to acronyms and smiles to emojis are just a couple of ways that speedier interactions are driving snappier, punchier content that's capable of instantly bringing topics to life.

 

Another way we're seeing this evolution is with the use of visual content over text. We're seeing much more than just images; animated video clips (GIFs), memes, live-streaming and 3-dimensional images, among other exciting formats. Many brands, including Starbucks and Red Bull, regularly use GIFs and videos on social media.

Social media is breaking down barriers between businesses and consumers, as well as friends and strangers. In Switzerland, a study found that 12- to 19-year olds on average online two hours and 30 minutes online per day. That’s more time than is spent eating, drinking, socializing, and on self-care. 

 

Seeing this window of communication, some brands are using this to rally the crowds for the greater good. Social network data is giving brands a more holistic understanding of consumers, ensuring content is personalized to engage people on a deeper level. Dove forges emotional ties with buyers through its 'Real Beauty' campaign, tackling female insecurities. Clean & Clear recruited a transgender teen to spark conversation on self-acceptance.

A rise in conscious consumerism is turning brands into activists, with research showing that 66% of consumers are willing to spend more on ethical products. Companies such as The Body Shop and Timberland are differentiating themselves through their social purpose, inspiring shoppers and driving loyalty by 'doing good'.

 

With the overwhelming choice of technology available to us, it looks like a trend in 'digital detox' is dawning. Forward-looking brands are tapping into this trend by readdressing the balance between the digital space and face-to-face. John Lewis, a British high-end department store (similar to Jelmoli), for example, plans to allow customers to spend a night in a fancy apartment to test out their mattresses. While the digital world is a fantastic portal, brands are realizing that no infographic or emoji can ever fully substitute what's real—the shake of a hand, or the warmth of a smile—and try to find the.

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