Opinion | 04 November 2020

The experience economy is far from dead

Henry France 800

Henry France

Head of Strategy

Tags: Strategy

The experience economy is far from dead hero

We’re social creatures that crave experience, but with the world at various stages of lockdown, how are brands bringing us experiences to delight us in our own homes? Our Head of Strategy, Henry France, looks at how brands create advocates through memorable digital customer experiences.

What separates the good from the great of the brands you remember and interact with? What drives you to actually talk about that brand to your amassed groups of followers, friends and connections? Is it the service or product quality, the marketing around it, or the customer service? All of these things factor into your ambassadorship of a brand, but what really makes a brand stand out is the experience you get. The added value. The feeling that brand gives you as you engage their service or use their product. The best experiences create memories and, for consumers, this is priceless. Some brands are so consistently good at experience that consumers will willingly pay more, even if something similar is available for free elsewhere.

The number of likes does not a memorable experience make

When the term ‘experience economy’ was coined in the nineties, it drew on the mantra that the memories created are the true value gleaned from experiences. But this last decade, as social media strengthened its grip on the world, the value of experience seems to be measured in likes and shares rather than memories made. So much so that people are genuinely forgoing their experience for that sweet endorphin hit as the number of likes come flooding in. There’s no place where this phenomenon is more prevalent than on Instagram. And now whole Instagram feeds have been set up to poke fun at those (and those that are roped in to help) that spend hours perfecting the right shot in front of a beach sunset instead of taking in the glory of the sunset itself. But such experiences are fundamental to us and the reason those people went to that spot in the first place (before being distracted by the high of a spike in likes on the Gram).

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Real life experience can't be found in a phone

Is technology killing experience?

Our current relationship with technology is not making us happy. Millennials in particular crave experiences more than ever and to suggest that the experience economy is dead is to miss the point of how it came to be so prominent in the first place. We need those experiences; we crave them in our overly remote and digital world. Once the COVID-19 crisis fades away, the experience economy will come back, stronger than before, we need it to. We’ve been cooped up for eight months at this point and I never thought I’d miss escape rooms, gin making, museums, my specific drink order at Starbucks and even murder mystery parties!

The fact is, some of the more recently successful brands that seem to have had meteoric rises can point to the unique experiences they offer in otherwise heavily commoditised worlds. Hello Fresh and Harry’s Razors changed up the experience of distribution. Luxury brands have opened their doors to create immersive events like gin making and dining in a Michelin star restaurant kitchen.

The brands that create memories gain advocates and more than likely fiercely loyal customers than those brands lacking in strong experiences.

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Capturing memories

Experiential digital offerings

We need to do more with our digital offerings, whether that’s through customer experience, how you present your content, and how you follow up and proactively market to your target audience. Experience economy ‘coiner’ and expert Joe Pine put it best about creating experiences that are robust, cohesive, personal, dramatic and transformative.

An experience occurs when a company intentionally uses services as the stage, and goods as props, to engage individual customers in a way that creates a memorable event. Commodities are fungible, goods tangible, services intangible, and experiences memorable.

Joe Pine, Welcome to the Experience Economy, Harvard Business Review

Ikea’s app Ikea Place introduced us to a dynamic way of furniture planning and research (which more than likely helped double online sales) because they knew that effective augmented reality would increase the likelihood of customers paying more.

Starbucks is known for giving consistent and quality personal experiences through its highly customised drink choices that are literally given your name. You can even order these in advance on their app – a coffee made exactly how you like it with your name on it will be waiting for you at the end of the counter. Creating opportunities to make emotional connections is essential. Research by the Journal of Consumer Research found more than 50% of an experience is based on an emotion. Emotions are the driving force that shape the attitudes that influence and ultimately effect decision making.

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The Starbucks experience

Customers remember how they feel when they use a product or service, and this is primarily what keeps them loyal. A business that optimises for an emotional connection outperforms competitors by 85% in sales growth according to Harvard Business Review (The New Science of Customer Emotions).

The key is to think about all those ‘moments of truth’ touchpoints throughout a customer’s interaction with a brand, from the first moment they might see your branding through to aftersales customer service. And this is why employing a customer journey manager is essential in your product team. Empowering your employees to create emotional connections with customers is critical to creating brand loyalty.

Experiences are the things that people remember and cherish, more so now than ever before. Take John Lewis for example. They’ve always been at the pinnacle of fantastic customer service and their retail spaces revolve around giving their customers the best possible experience. But with footfall dropping off a cliff, they’ve looked at bringing their famous Christmas Shop experience online which is where the majority of their customers are right now. They’ve even created an experience microsite to satisfy their customer’s need for experiences at home.

It’s not enough to merely offer goods and services anymore. These are commodities and consumers expect goods and services to be commoditised so they can buy them at the lowest price and at the greatest convenience. But consumers will spend their hard-earned time and money on those experiences and transformations that they value highly. And this is where brands will find opportunity. Giving your customer memorable virtual experiences now will help you weather the storm while we wait for the COVID-19 crisis to pass. It’s more important than ever for your brand to be seen as providing memorable digital experiences until the experience economy returns in all its former glory.

If you’d like to talk about how you can make memorable customer experiences then get in touch. We’d love to hear from you.