Can digital communication compete with f2f interactions in business?

Tech advancements and the development of digital communications tools, has made global business interaction possible for professionals working across multiple locations, hours and devices. However, face to face interaction allows people to discuss and build synergy through visual and verbal connection. True human interaction is a powerful way of fostering loyalty, credibility and trust in business. Can digital communication provide us with a viable alternative to f2f interactions, in a time when businesses are prompting an emergency remote-work plan?

Trade shows and direct meetings allow people to establish meaningful connections, experience demos of the products and receive realtime feedback from industry professionals. Several trade show startups and tech companies have attempted to host virtual events in the past with poor results. The figures have demonstrated that trade show popularity is on the increase and bearing fruitful results. The steady growth in trade show and convention revenue reached an estimated US$15.5 billion in 2019, according to a summary of various estimates. However, in 2020, the coronavirus outbreak has had damaging effects on the trade show and conference circuit. Tech companies have cancelled 12 high-profile conferences so far, causing an economic loss of $1 Billion Dollars, according to a Business Insider report.

Some of the latest technology provide engaging interactive experiences. Virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR), as well as various combinations of mixed reality (MR or XR), have come up leaps and bounds in recent years. What was initially thought of as a novel accessory to the demo experience is now being regarded as a fundamental aspect of consumer marketing strategy – bringing the product, and the experience that comes with it, to life. Much in the same way that people queue up for VR demos in real life at trade shows, they could queue for demos or meet company representatives in a virtual environment –providing a new channel for interaction without the need for physical presence.

Understandably, some cultures still honor the personalized meeting more than a remote one and find it difficult to integrate into a remote community. Whilst initiating a meeting is strategic (the ability to read facial expressions and body language), communication tools, can provide valuable ways to support, deliver and connect with consumers and other members of the workforce. The outbreak of COVID-19 virus is having a significant impact on the global economy, and may forcefully shift change in society through technology.