The Internet of Thrills
You may not realize it, but you and your phone are emotionally connected. Just glancing at your phone can cause your heart to beat faster, your pupils to dilate, and your sweat glands to activate.
Dr. David Greenfield, assistant professor of psychiatry at the University of Connecticut School of Medicine, recently explained the effects that the phone can have on the human brain, as part of a study on texting and driving.
"We compulsively check our phones because every time we get an update through text, email or social media, we experience an elevation of dopamine, which is a neurochemical in the brain that makes us feel happy," said Greenfield.
But it's not just the thrill of being acknowledged by a friend on social media. Plenty of other emotions are tied to advances in mobile technology. There's a feeling of comfort when your Nest thermostat knows exactly what temperature your house should be when you come home from work. You feel secure when you get a notification from Apple Pay that the charge you made a second ago went through. You experience a sense of heightened reality when your Philips hue lighting system responds in real time to the program on your TV.
It used to be that the only emotion that technology triggered was frustration, when it didn't work. Now we're seeing negative emotions like anxiety when we’re separated from our phones for extended periods of time.
We're certainly not yet at a point where these emotional connections are on the level of a face-to-face interaction with another human. The reality of interacting with your phone as an intelligent being, akin to the movie Her, is still at least a few years away. But we are seeing the first steps of this reality in products like Siri and Amazon Echo. Consumers attempt to talk to these products like they’re living beings with thoughts and feelings. The products are just not quite ready to talk back in a convincing way. But that emotional bond is already being formed.
And these emotions are powerful. It's easy for marketers to leap to the assumption that emotions can be manipulated, but emotional connections do not come easily. There needs to be value to consumers, an actual life benefit to their mobile interactions, to elicit an emotional response. Just sending a notification that a sale is going on is not enough. But what if a store kept track of the social media response on a recent outfit, found that it was positive, and shared that information with you? Suddenly that interaction would become a lot more personal. To get that emotional response, marketers need to earn it.
“New forms of delivering content and media will be game-changing. Imagine knowing when you’re close to an item on your shopping list and how long the checkout line is.”
— Steve Cheney, Co-Founder and SVP of Business Operations, Estimote