The world of the physical is becoming more digital every day. From smartphones to beacons, connected fridges to telematics, customers’ lives are connected 24/7. Digital touch points are transforming the physical world and there's no escaping the massive impact of the Internet of Things on the future of commerce.

In the second in our series on innovation, we looked at the immersive experiences that are capturing consumers’ engagement and how the world is changing to fit the digital lifestyles we all now lead. Kicking off our breakfast session with some fast-paced talks were e3’s specialists, Nicola Hinds (Head of Strategy and UX) and Dom Baker (Creative Director), the bustling breakfast session was also joined by Clare Reddington, Creative Director at Bristol’s innovation powerhouse, the Watershed.

“The elasticity of experience is what turns a normal digital moment, into something that creates a connection with the consumer,” Nicola Hinds opened.

She continued that millennials are the culprits for the difference consumer behaviour brands have to deal with. By changing the way brands work online and the way they offer services, the perception of what is valuable has shifted and so too should the brands. By creating a seamless experience, whether that’s through Wireless Communication technologies (VR/AR), Enhanced Environments or Haptics – digital should be having an affect hours, days and even weeks after an event.

Using examples like the Cooper Hewitt Museum, which uses an interactive pen to create a shared experience amongst museum goers, Nicola demonstrated how AR could be used for entertainment. Nivea Brazil’s NFC bracelet, which let’s you know when your child gets too far away from you so you can relax on the beach, could be used to solve a ‘pain point’ for mothers who need a break.

However, she warned that digital needs to be ‘a part of the experience, but not essential to it,’ citing the catastrophe at last year’s Download festival where the festivals cashless idea went down in flames.

“You need to find people who are not like you, so you can connect and create,” chimed Clare Reddington. “The future of innovation doesn’t sit with the old boys club of the past, it sits within the diverse communities of the future”, she continued.

How can smart technologies be used to connect each other in a city? In a playful way, in a fun way. Playable City, the initiative that was originally set up in Bristol, has far reaching potential. Clare went on to describe ‘Hello Lamp Post’, the first project from Playable City. It is a simple programme that allowed Bristol citizens to converse with inanimate objects in the city - the important technology that was involved? SMS. When you’re thinking of creating something immersive, you need to think about the technology people will have in their hands and the barriers of entries an app on your phone can cause for some audiences.

“We should push back on the very privileged and very seamless and boring cities that technology companies and futurist films want us to live in,” she exclaimed passionately.

“Sod the technology, the experience is everything,” exclaimed e3’s creative director, Dom Baker.

He went on to say, “Timeliness – creating an experience, depending on where you are and what time it is, is really important. We dislike advertising because it feels forced and shoved in, we only like advertising when we catch it when it when we want to see it.”

Dom drew on Nicola and Clare’s recommendations about low tech/high reward experiences and spoke about the importance of technology and how we should feel about it. “Technology is about being in a moment and getting a reward”, he said, “there are important moments in experience but most people enjoy successfully doing something quickly. It’s also important to keep in mind what your audience can do, dialing a number or texting, whilst it’s base technology – it’s accessible. Creating an immersive experience is pointless, is only 50% of people can access it”.

Dom spoke about how the critical principles of design are creating an experience,

“Digital is an invisible pipeline – work should change the way you’re thinking, it should create new worlds for you. But a lot of people can get bogged down on the ‘potential’ of technology; you should feel like you can do something immediately”.

In the second half of the session, delegates from brands such as Louis Vuitton, the British Heart Foundation and Swatch split into groups with an e3 expert and discussed their innovations and their challenges in the physical/digital space.

Some delegates were already ahead of the curve. Amnesty International spoke about their use of VR to raise funds, the scheme allows people on the street to feel like they’re going inside a devastated town or city in war-torn Syria. By effectively placing the users in the shoes as a Syrian person, they feel as if they’ve had a physical connection with the people they’re helping.

Similarly, GLH Hotels have an initiative called ‘radical hosting’ which ensures their hotels feel like a home from home for their guests by giving them a personalised experience. As 80% of their customers typically come through a third-party comparison site, a direct site booking experience won’t affect many guests. By creating a different experience for each guest based on the information they provide, they can ensure their stay can feel totally unique.

The challenges that were discussed were similar across many different types of brands. How do you use these emerging technologies to manage difficult processes within organisations, that may be stuck in the dark ages to some extent? How do you create an immersive experience when your audience may be older and therefore won’t have access to these technologies or the patience to understand them? Nicola and Clare both touched on the ideas of the using overlooked technologies like SMS to create an experience that everyone can access.

There was also agreement amongst the different delegates that it was important to be in keeping with the heritage and artisan behind their product and service. Dom chimed that “practical engagement was as important as emotional engagement” and while some people may not see their brand marrying with this emerging tech, by being a bit innovative and inventive, you can make it fit.

After the session ended many of the delegates and the speakers agreed that they all had come away bursting with ideas to take back to their respective brands. A successful day for all with delicious food and food for thought.

e3 will be continuing our innovation series throughout the year. If you want to register for our next event in June then click here.