Last week, I was up at the cottage, visiting family in my home town of Fort Frances, Ont. We were so relaxed that we barely noticed the lack of Wi-Fi at our cabin.
And guess what? When it finally occurred to us and we clued in to the fact that we had all been offline for several hours, nobody panicked. This unintended unplugging was an instant reminder of the importance of disconnecting from the online world.
In the marketing world, and in so many other industries, so much of our focus is dedicated to what's happening online. Almost everything we do is in some way connected to the digital world. While the Internet has changed the game and opened up all manner of new sales channels and brand opportunities, it has also made us overly invested in the digital realm, at the expense of the tangible.
Which is why sometimes it's important to take a step back, do a little digital detox, and remember it's important not to neglect the offline world.
Increasingly, we are seeing a trend among brands and individuals who are putting their devices away, and rediscovering the importance of the offline world. It's as though they have suddenly realized the need for an in-person "experience." As my daughter would say: IRL (in real life).
For many years, marketers, retailers and businesses across other industries were solely focused on their digital strategies. But increasingly we are seeing a renewed importance placed on the physical world, on the bricks and mortar, as an integral part of the overall business strategy.
Take a company like Amazon.com. Five years ago, it might have been impossible to believe that one of the world's most powerful online retailers – a company largely responsible for decimating established businesses like book and record stores – would ever invest in a bricks-and-mortar location.
Of course, that was before Amazon announced, last week, that it's building another bricks-and-mortar store in New York City. This store will be the company's third retail location (after its first physical store in Seattle and a second planned store in San Diego).
And Amazon is not the only company ramping up its offline strategy. Many retailers are investing in bricks-and-mortar strategies as a way of putting the consumer at the centre of the experience, offering a personal touch to retail.
The Drake General Store opened its new three-story flagship retail location in Toronto last week, focused on the in-person experience. The owner sees the space acting as a "cultural hub in the community," an area to come together and host local events.
Shopping centres around the country are revamping their image, expanding, and adding more lifestyle brands to their roster and investing in unique experiences as a way of encouraging more foot traffic.
Of course, it's not just brands who are looking at the offline world. Many individuals are looking for ways to unplug for a little while, sometimes at digital detox camps, many of which are seeing increasingly high demand.
After years of the online world trumping all, the offline experience is making a comeback and it's not something to be ignored. Businesses need to pay close attention to this trend because it should be an integral part of their strategies moving forward.
The digital experience blossomed into the most important strategy during the height of the recession. Cutting fees and making things as cost effective as possible for the consumer became a top priority and a key to survival for many businesses. Companies who refused to innovate and create an online strategy failed.
While an online strategy is still of utmost importance for success in today's digital world, we must continue to pay attention to consumer trends and behaviours. And if we're paying attention right now, it's time to start thinking about how to innovate in a new way and enhance the online and offline experience.
As I go through my own digital detox this summer at the cottage, I encourage brands and business leaders to start thinking about how you can take it offline in order to take it up a notch and enhance your customers' experience.
Taking some time offline is something we so rarely get to do in the world we live in today, but it certainly has its perks. For the last two weeks, it allowed me to reconnect with my family, be present in the moment and relish the peace of the outdoors.
Sometimes, you just need to experience things IRL.