Story 1

While watching cyberpunk movies I noticed that many Japanese and/or Hongkong street scenes with a lot of shop signs like the following are often displayed:

When I was in Hongkong walking on this kind of street, I felt overwhelmed by all the colors and information. At some point I could not read them anymore eventhough they are all written in Chinese. It seemed like every shop cried out 'LOOK AT ME' through their signs.   

One week later I came back to Germany and enjoyed the 'calm countryside feeling' in the big city - until all the advertisements on the public transportation stations were replaced by digital displays. They started playing videos on the street and I noticed how the caught my attention immediately even though I didn’t want it.

In the beginning, a partnership platform used this kind of digital advertising. Imagin a very attractive man or woman watching you, laughing and winking at you. It makes sense that I can not help myself but watch it. Later, however, everything, from yogurts to airplanes, are moving on big screens on the streets to draw people’s attention.

The feeling I had in Hongkong came back.  


Story 2

Few years ago, I started to go out without carrying my phone with me. I told my friends in China “I want to experience the feeling of 'not being aware of time' and not knowing what is happening in the world”. My friends told me “What you do can be called behavior art. This is not possible in Beijing. No matter where you go, what you do, you need an app and thus, your smartphone”.

In 2021, a Chinese student named Leo who studies Digital Sociology decided to make an experiment: He stoped using his smartphone. The reason for this experiment was that he realized how much non-relevant information each app has.

For example: You want to order a taxi and open the app. First, you need to answer the question of whether you want to loan some credit from the bank (link to another app), then you will be asked whether you want to purchase some fresh food. This taxi app might also bring you news every day. Many apps are like this, and all of them are trying their best to catch the attention of users.

When we conduct studies in China and ask Chinese consumers where they seek certain information, an answer we often hear is “I don’t have to search for information, it finds me”.


The question

Manufacturers often commission us to find out where, when, and what the consumers are searching for so that their services can be present at EVERY touchpoint on the customer journey.

For Germany, we are always able to write down a lot of touchpoints that are relevant for our clients.

When we conduct this kind of study with Chinese consumers, we sometimes must report that Chinese consumers do not need to search for information. They have too much information and too many choices. Being more present everywhere might bother them.

I start to ask myself if German consumers will be more and more like Chinese consumers in the future. Being overwhelmed by all the information, being targeted by tons of manufacturers everywhere, at any time.

In the Digital Sociology field, there are key questions to evaluate a person‘s digital health: What is the goal of using all the technical products and services? Do they really bring me the efficiency, satisfaction, and happiness that I expected at the first?

In terms of touchpoints on the customer’s journey, I think it makes sense for a user-centered manufacturer to ask “Does the presence of my product at EVERY touchpoint on the customer journey really bring my customers efficiency, satisfaction, and happiness? Or should it be a CERTAIN touchpoint where my customers really need me?”


Spiegel Institut conducts international consumer research studies, offering insights into cultural and social background information for a better understanding of the consumer’s mindset. Feel free to contact us:


Author: Yue Liu, Spiegel Institut Mannheim

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