Physical Twins: New experiences for your customers!
[You read that correctly: Physical Twins, not Digital Twins!]
While the world is becoming increasingly virtualised and digitalised as a result of the Corona pandemic, we humans are developing a great longing for direct interaction. Our eye for the essential becomes sharper.
Insight in brief
- In times of Corona and growing digitalisation, the customer need for physical interaction is increasing
- The "physical twin" offers the possibility of making purely digital-virtual offerings tangible in the real world
- Customers receive digital products, merged with a physical-haptic experience
Classic telephone conference calls? These will probably be rare in the future – the other person's facial expression is too important. Conversely, we now even hold interactive online workshops, which are extremely productive after just a short period of getting used to them. Participants can brainstorm more effectively using their own individual touch screens than if we all crowd together in a room in front of the same whiteboard. And vice versa: what does this "New Normal" mean if my product had a purely digital-virtual character even before Corona? Am I then on the safe side – or, if anything, do I have to think about any new needs that my customers may have?
You notice something. Everything's merging! The physical and the digital are becoming interwoven. A new "haute cuisine" of customer relations is being created!
I am convinced that we are all affected and must think hard about the "New Normal"! If we don't, then businesses, and in particular the manufacturers and suppliers of purely digital-virtual products or services, could miss an opportunity here. As is so often the question: how can I get closer to my customers? How can I extend my products or services to encourage interaction – perhaps even provide a tactile experience? Everyone who has ever taken a new iPhone out of its packaging knows this feeling: there is something of value in this first physical encounter. We humans need that. Of course, I then very quickly start using the device for virtual things – and yet its tactile quality is crucial to the perception of value. It's the 'icing on the cake' in our relationship with the manufacturer's brand.
Our hypothesis: in the coming years, many providers will have to come up with something relating to their purely digital-virtual products and services so that in the real world they can become more "comprehensible" in the truest sense of the word. Sometimes it takes a good dose of creativity to take something purely digital and make it tangible. But it works.
We believe that a whole new product category is emerging in this area! We call it the "physical twin" – the physical twin of a digital whatever.
What you can learn from the digital twin applicable to the physical twin
You're familiar with this already, but the other way around? Certainly: thanks to the IoT, devices, machines and products that used to function autonomously are now digitally networked, and data is extracted and collected, for example to digitally reproduce the operating status: the "digital twin" is born. It is used to speed up development, secure operations, optimise maintenance, gain deeper insight into the real use of the product, and install on-demand software updates. Our bread-and-butter business at Zühlke. This is primarily of interest to the manufacturers: they gain deeper insights than ever before into what is pleasing about the product, and what is not. For users, the first step is not necessarily a rewarding experience: they usually have to register in some way, without having any clear idea at the beginning about what advantages the Digital Twin will bring them later. The user experience is only enriched in the second step, when surprising additional features are delivered or exciting insights into their own usage become clear.
With physical twins, interestingly, the increase in benefit is the other way round: It is not the manufacturer but the users who feel a clear added value in the first step. They have the product quite literally "in their hand". Registration comes afterwards, and in the best case seems quite natural: after all, you want to access the digital services that are hidden behind the physical twin. Too theoretical? I acknowledge that it is high time for some specific examples that will illustrate what is going on out there.
And – Action for the physical twin!
By this point, I hope that I have been able to provide a stimulus for your own new idea! Shouldn't you also be thinking about a "physical twin" in your organisation; one that supports a new business model and opens up an exclusive customer channel?
Our firm belief:
In times of crisis, we need to implement exactly such ideas to re-enthuse customers.
By now you may be wondering why you should discuss "your physical twin" with Zühlke, of all people. Well, we simply have everything already on board that is needed to conceive and then implement end-to-end a "physical twin", and all in partnership with you.
We see ourselves as a "one-stop shop" for innovations like these:
- Starting with a creative workshop to develop and evaluate exciting ideas.
- Through conception, building and testing of an experience prototype and using Lean Startup methods to validate the idea on the customer's territory. Does anyone want a product like this? And will someone pay money for it? And if yes, how much?
- All the way to the development of a production-ready finished product with attractive manufacturing costs.
We are helped in this by our broad expertise from the last 50 years in the market: beginning with developing the required customer experience, which is greatly helped by innovative customer channels , then considering whether there is a viable business case, to our roots in hardware engineering (mechanics, optics, electronics) and software topics (embedded, cloud, mobile, AI).
Join our round-table session
On 27 August we will be holding a virtual round table on "Product Development in the Digital World" – somewhat different from physical twins, but certainly related. Discussions will take place in a selected "small circle".