Do you remember the last time a business really impressed you? More likely than not, that business gave you an experience worth remembering, as opposed to a traditional good or service. That restaurant didn’t just serve you food — it had a fun Brazilian themed atmosphere and the waiter made guacamole at your table!
Our shopping habits are becoming more tailored to these enjoyable experiences, says authors Joseph Pine and James H. Gilmore in “The Experience Economy.” Businesses that associate products with an experience will excel in the new era. So naturally, that raises the question: How can you provide an unforgettable experience to your customers and master the experience economy?
Make Memories for Your Customers
Life would be great if every business deserved a 5 star rating, but the truth is that some businesses offer average or even poor experiences. In order for your business to be a key player in the experience economy, you need to give your customers experiences that are more memorable and enjoyable than your competitors are providing.
What it comes down to is how a customer feels — did you take care of them? Did you give them what they needed before they even asked for it? Did you offer additional value by calling in your service partners and facilitating enticing discounts?
Greet your buyers by name, personalize the interactions that you have with them, do things that make them smile, and always show your appreciation for their presence. All the little details will add up to a sublime, unforgettable end user experience which is an invaluable equity that you can’t acquire with money.
Treat Your Customers as Something More
If someone pays for a good or service, that person is technically a customer, but who wants to be acknowledged that way? Don’t remind them that they’re a revenue source — make them feel special. Depending on your business, you might refer to your customers as patrons, fans, friends, guests, visitors, or clients. Something as subtle as a name can make a huge difference in the subconscious impressions of your customers, either enhancing the experience or hurting it. Marketing and branding is of critical importance here. Creating a VIP club will not cost you any additional money. But if you provide your regular and loyal clients luxe treatment by sending them samplers, emails for new products about the hit the stores and the ability to redeem their accumulated points for gifts from the comfort of their home, you will make them feel privileged. And this sense of being exclusive and respected is a very strong psychological bias that loosens the purse strings and drives more “experience driven” sales.
Create Tie-In Products
When it comes to the experience economy, you can approach it in many ways. A proficient business owner will create a memorable experience, but a master of the experience economy will capitalize on it. For example, look at sporting events. According to the National Sports Goods Association, people in the United States spend over $8 billion on sports apparel every year, such as caps, jerseys, shirts, and even women’s handbags!
To be clear, this is money spent only on sports-related clothing, and does not include ticket sales. The sports industry provides experiences for fans, and monetizes those experiences through ancillary products and secondary experiences, making money on the backend by selling memorabilia that fans can use to remember their favorite sporting events, players, or teams.
There are countless other examples: a postcard after an excellent vacation, the book written by the author you just heard tell a lecture, a rewards card at a grocery store.
This grocery store example is particularly notable because the experience isn’t inherently full of entertainment or glamor. If a grocery store serves a particular niche group of customers and has optimized its store to serve them, it could certainly create a memorable or enjoyable experience. Albertsons does a Monopoly contest that gamifies the rather mundane experience of shopping for great results. The point is, when your customers become emotionally invested in the experience you provide, they’ll want to buy more and keep coming back. That’s when you’re truly acing the experience economy.