The real world and the digital world are two interrelated realities that we sometimes have difficulty to differentiate. The connection between the two of them has exponentially grown in recent years for several reasons, one of them being the important and innovative omnichannel strategy.
The company point of view: the omnichannel strategy
The omnichannel strategy is a sales, marketing and customer support approach designed to provide customers with a seamless and unified brand experience regardless of the channel they use. The sales channels are well-integrated in the back end, so regardless of whether the customer is shopping online from a desktop or mobile device, or in a brick-and-mortar store, their experience will be seamless and consistent.
Omnichannel has become a key strategy as the average user has begun to interact with brands across multiple touchpoints. The task of companies, through this strategy, is to ensure the same level of quality in the management of each of these channels in order to multiply the chances of costumers’ satisfaction and retention.
From an enterprise perspective, a company must be able to share and communicate the same values and vision on each channel, and they must do this in a conscious and consistent way. This is because every channel requires a specific type of communication, but ultimately the message transmitted to the recipients needs to be the same.
The consumers point of view: the online disinhibition effect
On the consumer side the integration between real and digital world becomes more sensitive. At first sight we may think that digital communication has the same characteristics as face-to-face communication, but unfortunately this isn’t the case. People online are more open than people offline, and they tend to express their emotions in an easier an uncontrolled way.
Many people who use an aggressive terminology online, when facing a face-to-face communication, they tend to reveal a very different temper or at the very least a much more introverted approach.
This online behaviour is related to the so called ‘online disinhibition effect’, studied in 2004 by psychology professor John Suler. This happens when we can’t control our impulses, feel less limited, and feel more open to self-expression due to the anonymity and distance provided by the Internet. The difference between online and offline people is characterised by the internet which offers them anonymity and psychological distance.
This is the main reason why people reduce their inhibitions online and, at the same time, they increase their impulsiveness and aggression. It looks like people are less likely to feel judged or perceive the consequences of their actions when hiding behind a screen.
There are several identified reasons to explain this effect, the two of them directly influenced by lack of inhibition are:
- Invisibility, people can’t see each other therefore they don’t have to worry about how they look or sound when they type a message.
- Asynchronicity, people aren’t interacting with each other in real time and in general, a reply can take minutes, hours or more.
Conclusions and thoughts
In his research Professor Suler explains how different modalities of online communication (e.g., email, chat, etc.) and different environments (e.g., social, professional, etc.) may facilitate various expressions of oneself. At a deeper level, each context provides people with a different perspective on identity and none of these is necessarily more real than the others.
The omnichannel strategy and the online disinhibition effect can’t be compared with each other, they are two opposite examples used to understand how various aspects of integration exist between the online and offline world.
There are many pros and cons in this integration, and it is a phenomenon that we are and will see more and more.
Are we ready to address the critical issues related to this?
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