The Digital Delusion: How Online Interaction Misleads our Thinking

Posted: 2015.08.03

People spend an inordinate amount of time on the web these days - more and more interaction is being done via an internet connection every day. Our shopping, socializing, entertainment and work are all based in a virtual world that often feels quite real. So when we see something that appears to be successful (such as a viral social media post or video) online, we tend to think, "If we can just tap into what people want online by studying their behavior, we'll be successful too."

The Digital Delusion

Bob Hoffman, author of the best-selling book 101 Contrarian Ideas About Advertising identifies a phenomenon that reoccurs on the web that he calls "the digital delusion." In this case, something goes viral or becomes the "next big thing" in some other manner online. From there, people begin to jump on the bandwagon in droves in search of a re-creation of their own next big thing.

Even though the new fad's success realistically owes a lot to unplanned coincidence, an entire wave of people will jump into a new approach based on what they saw. From there, people will take it from conference to conference, write books, and preach how their technique is the best. As the fervor begins to fade and the phenomenon doesn't reproduce itself, the peddlers begin to back-pedal and claim that they never made such promises - or that it was some outside force's fault.

Hoffman points to the millions spent during the super bowl to recreate the famous "Oreo Superbowl Blackout Tweet," and how that money could have been spent better elsewhere. What it really means - in a nutshell - is that people are willing to spend literally millions on trying to predict or mimic the "next big thing" when in reality it is totally unpredictable and the corporate game of chasing randomness is big waste of money.

How to Get the Most Out of Your Marketing Dollars

The irony of all this is that figuring out what your customers want is best done through a tried-and-true process: by talking with them. Online technology serves its purpose well, but nothing replaces a properly administered in-store survey when it comes to gathering real, actionable data on what your paying customers want, and what would really increase your business. In fact, application of tablet technology has made this process even better, increasing the efficiency and effectiveness of this proven method of in-person data gathering.

The historical and ongoing success of in-store surveys shows us that people really respond to someone they can identify with as they are shopping. Instead of attempting to collect bulk data on the web, throwing tons of money at what you hope is going to be the next big hit, the best way is to still go right to the source and ask your customers face-to-face what they would like to see changed. Custom Intercept Solutions is here to be your trusted partner in the administration of quality in-store surveys. Contact us to find out more about how we can help.