The Intersection Where the Digital and Physical Worlds Meet

The typewriter was still clicking away when the word processor was invented; the word processor was a better experience. This better experience caused the collapse of the typewriter sales and service model.

The camera was still taking pictures on film when the digital camera was invented; the digital camera was a better experience. This better experience caused the collapse of the camera and film sales and service model.

The copier/printer will still be making copies and prints as its customers continue printing less and less and reading more and more digitally. Soon the customers of this industry will obtain a better experience. This better experience will cause the collapse of the current sales and service model.

The examples above are about innovation, disruption, change, and they destroyed industries. Those reading this article either defend why the industry they represent is safe or they admit their impending doom. Some will recognize the need for change and continue doing the same as they miscalculate the time remaining to continue capitalizing on the old way.

It seems unbelievable that any logical business person living today would ever question the reality that all products and services are susceptible to obsolescence. Today’s business world lives in both a physical and digital or virtual world. We have gone so far past the place where ideas and imaginations were held hostage by the restraints of limited technology and our physical reality. With today’s technology, one’s imagination can be fueled and nurtured in the realms of a virtual world and then completely disrupt the physical world.

“Innovative companies understand that customer experience lives at the intersection where the digital and physical worlds meet.” 

Organizations who continue making U-turns just before the intersection where the digital and physical worlds meet will soon find the intersection blocked permanently by a new competitor. In the past, the competitor was known; today the competitor or disrupter is unknown and unimagined. Competition today hides in the virtual world, waiting for the opportunity to catch off guard those who perceive that their physical world is safe and secure in its current circumstances.

Every business must have the capacity to live in the virtual world where they perfect their customers’ experience as they deliver in the physical world. Some organizations, like our friends at Uber, do quite well in the digital world; some would say they perfected it. However, Uber is struggling in the physical world. They have had many collisions at the intersection where their digital and physical worlds meet. Their apparent leadership dilemmas and poor management strategies are well known. When innovators completely disrupt a physical world’s deliverable with an innovative solution from the digital world, the disrupted will fight. The problem is they fight with the tools from the physical world. They will highlight the benefits of their outdated deliverable by discrediting the innovators’ inabilities to compete with them in the old way, discounting the fact their customers want the new way. Uber is proving an excellent customer experience will win over a poor management experience and the loud complaining of those disrupted. An innovator can learn how to manage better, but a customer won’t tolerate a bad customer experience. Today, you can be the best-managed company in the world and lose to the new, unknown competitor with terrible management who delivers a better experience.

The success at Uber is strictly about their customers’ experience. Back in the early days of Amazon, Jeff Bezos apparently understood the importance of this intersection between the digital and physical worlds. Amazon should have taught many that it is at this intersection where customer experience lives.

Today, many companies still believe their relationships of the past are what feeds their businesses. These beliefs will destroy many who think this way. Here’s my explanation. Relationships based on a push economy were for the most part built and maintained by the product’s pushers. In this ever-growing pull economy, customers will look for, find, engage with and trade in all old relationships for a better experience every time. In other words, the customer will form a relationship with an experience, and this experience could be void of human interaction. People who like Uber like their app; their great relationship is with the app on their phone.

Today the most successful companies in the world live in the digital world. Jim Crammer calls these companies FANG, Facebook, Amazon, Netflix, and Google.

Any organization who believes they can avoid the intersection between the digital and physical world is mistaken and will see their old customers and relationships leaving for the new, better experience.

The digital world has created a pull economy, the customer experience or a business’ remarkability becomes the most valuable asset the company has. More and more consumers will judge a company’s remarkability in the digital world first. What many are ignoring is this fast-growing pull economy is a result of the continuous advances and capabilities of innovative technologies. How customers interact for commerce and trade will become more and more problematic for those industries created for a push economy. The question is, will the legacy product and service providers living in the push economy innovate themselves to a place where their future customers will pull from?

“Today’s technology allows anyone with a spark of curiosity to create flames of knowledge.”  

That quote applies to both companies and their customers.

If you’re the leader that believes your current circumstances of continuing the practice of making U-turns back to the past instead of driving through the intersection where the digital and the physical worlds meet, you will soon find yourself in the parking lot called obsolescence.

Ray Stasieczko
About the Author
Over the last 25+ years, I have called the imaging industry (copy/print) home. Today this industry is navigating through transformation. The ways of delivery, sales approach, and marketing are redefining a decades-old deliverable. Managed print is just a small component of the greater deliverable of managed services. Today dealers must extract as much profitability from their print deliverable in-order to invest in their diversification. BEI Services has the facts and statistics allowing our partners to benefit greatly in accomplishing that. I stay determined to help the imaging channel bring the future to the present.