As consumer tastes shift from the need to own material goods to sharing authentic experiences, how can brands keep up and connect with their customers? Companies are investing in the experience economy and evolving into experience-based businesses to adapt to changing times.
The experience economy was first introduced in a 1998 article in the Harvard Review by B. Joseph Pine II and James H. Gilmore. In it, they stated that, “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."
After two decades, the concept has matured, and companies are creating multi-sensory experiences that seek to engage their customers beyond a product or service.
It doesn't matter what type of business you have; it's about the way you make your customers feel.
Think about movie theaters. Once a single stop on an evening out, they're now a one-stop-shop for dinner, drinks and entertainment. Some of these services are even delivered directly to your comfy reclining chair. It's everything you need to create a memorable experience.
Building an experience-based business that considers its customers and their needs can lead to deeper engagement. So it's worth taking some time to contemplate the best ways to create a genuine experience that keeps you connected to your customers.
1. Perform market research.
Market research is the foundation of any good strategy and it's essential to creating an authentic experience-based business. So, start there.
The point of the study is to dig into the details of your customer base to better understand consumer preferences. Identify key findings that help make your customer's life easier and incorporate them into your experience-based business.
For example, my agency Tote + Pears created an entire branded experience called MORE for working parents. Through our research, we learned that the majority of working mothers have trouble maintaining a work-life balance and are often forced to choose between the two.
We were able to gain a deeper understanding of our customers' challenges and used these insights to find opportunities to better connect with them.
2. Do some brainstorming.
Time to get creative!
Keeping your customers' needs in mind, brainstorm ways to make their interactions with your brand more memorable. After all, that's the goal of the experience economy.
Generally, the best ideas are the ones where your customers feel fulfilled or wowed. But experience-based businesses don't have to be crazy or elaborate. It doesn't matter what type of business you have; it's about the way you make your customers feel.
At MORE, our focus was taking the stress out of work-related events by making sure the needs of working parents were addressed. We did this by creating a family-inclusive retreat that doubled as a family vacation.
We had business workshops, spa sessions, family dinners, on-site childcare and date nights. Everything was thoughtfully planned to ensure parents felt supported.
3. Conduct a feasibility study.
Ideas are great, but do you have the resources to pull it off?
Once you've explored all the possible opportunities, it's time for a reality check. Conducting a feasibility study will help you better understand what you can and cannot do.
- Think about your current resources: Do you have the capital to launch a new venture? Do you have the team to pull it off? What partnerships can you leverage?
- Consider the impact: How much will it cost? What is the potential return on investment (ROI)? How will your existing customers react to the change?
- Weigh the risks: Is it fulfilling a need in the market? What does the competition look like? What do you need for sustainability?
4. Review your business model.
At the end of the day, you want to ensure that your transition into an experience-based business aligns with your business goals.
Review or create a business model that supports this new direction as well as your strategic plans. While being a part of the experience economy can create additional revenue streams, you'll want to be certain you have a cohesive narrative and vision that speaks directly to your customer.
5. Map the customer journey.
A 2017-2018 global PwC survey reported, "73 percent of all people point to customer experience as an important factor in their purchasing decisions." (The report "surveyed a representative sample of 15,000 people from 12 countries.")
So, what's your strategy? From the first time they interact with your brand online to the time they write a review, you'll want to consider every touchpoint along your customer journey.
Be sure to create empathetic processes, systems and experiences to ensure a smooth transition.
6. Execute your strategy.
Time to establish your milestones and timeline, delegate responsibilities and bring your experience to life!
As you roll out your plan, set up checkpoints to evaluate your performance so you can pivot or make the necessary adjustments along the way. Just remember to always keep your customer at the center of this process.
Experience-based businesses are designed around people, not products. Find out what your customers want and need—then, build your experiences around them.
Read more articles on getting customers.