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What is a Connected Experience?

Managing Director, San Diego & SVP, Connected Experiences
Valtech, San Diego

December 16, 2019

If we were to use the dictionary definition of it, we’d say something like: Connected Experience: a means of unifying digital capabilities and the physical world.

That’s a fine definition, but it’s a wee bit sterile; it misses the true power of the concept. Perhaps it is better to ask the why behind it all: why create connected experiences? The answer to that question is as unique and complex as human beings are themselves, but at the heart of it are two crucial goals: removing friction and eliciting emotion.

Why create a connected experience? 

Removing friction is, to us, the low hanging fruit. What does it mean? The best way to explain this is with examples:

  • Placing a mobile coffee order and skipping the line at the coffee shop for pick-up.
  • Starting your hot tub on the way home after a long day of work so it’s ready when you arrive.
  • Watching a video on one device and seamlessly connecting to another when changing rooms.
  • Seeing a live video of who is at your door and deciding if you want to answer or not.
  • Customizing a product in the store and having it created right before your eyes.


We are lucky to live in an era when thoughtful designers, architects, and engineers seek to provide and continuously improve upon these experiences. We come to expect this fluidity and are delighted when something is made even easier for us. However, this fluidity doesn’t just happen; experiences must be anticipated, designed and engineered. If the effort isn’t made, a person will notice when they are inconvenienced by an experience. That feeling of difficulty or frustration is friction.

Remove friction

It’s crucial to test every touchpoint in a customer journey for potential friction and eliminate it. As customer expectations rise, minimizing all possible friction becomes the bare minimum a brand can offer customers. In short, if your connected retail, connected space or connected product have any friction at all, folks will find another offering. It is crucial to have world-class user experience and user testing practices in place to smooth out and make connected experiences useful and, in most cases, fun.

The deeper meaning of the
word “connected” goes beyond connecting digital with physical—we’re connecting people.

Where brands can achieve lasting, significant value is in the second component of why a connected experience should be created: eliciting emotion. This is where investigating the phrase “connected experiences” becomes important.

Connecting people

The deeper meaning of the word “connected” goes beyond connecting digital with physical—we’re connecting people. This is best done through storytelling. Just as continuous product improvement (removing friction) has been happening since the first clever caveman used flint for a tool, human connection through story has been around since the first campfire. Modern digital tools at our disposal enhance those stories.

Disney’s Haunted Mansion

In our work for Disney’s Haunted Mansion, we used digital tools to unlock physical experiences to tell a multi-part ghost story. This lived across retail subscriptions, at-home gameplay that drove people into Disneyland Park to interact digitally with physical objects, and the Haunted Mansion ride to open up new parts of the story. During every point in this customer journey, we delighted people – thousands of YouTube videos prove how powerful emotion was for this experience.

American Girl

For American Girl, we created a digital ecosystem to customize a doll in 1.3 million different ways. The crucial components to that customization are the Personality tools where a girl can give the doll a name, and tell us about her favorite things and places - all saved to the doll’s digital profile. This information then blossoms into rich stories by inserting their custom doll into the first few pages of the American Girl printed magazine, using their actual doll and personality in the content. This level of co-creation with kids fostered deep emotional ties to their dolls, and did something elusive and wonderful – it added joy to their lives.

Want to know more? 

So, we can say that there is a LOT that goes into building the best connected experiences in the world. If you want to learn more about this subject, download the Connected Experience Magazine here. We’ve concentrated on what we feel are the two most important pieces of this puzzle – removing friction and eliciting emotion. Starting with those two things alone while designing a connected experience will most certainly point you down the path to success.


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