Today’s consumers are a digital bunch, and that’s an understatement if ever one existed. We’re constantly searching, communicating, and checking in.
Each action we take, whether we’re on our mobile device of choice or at our desktop, has the same end game: Satisfy me. Give me the answer to my search question. Give me a platform to reach out to those around me. Give me a way to share and explore. Oh, and do all those things immediately, if you don’t mind.
As consumers, our interactions with brands are no different. We no longer simply make a purchase and walk away. Consumers seek—and often expect, whether we realize it or not—additional utility from the brands we patronize. We want to feel like they’re listening. We don’t just want the goods or services, but we want an experience to sweeten the deal.
Welcome to the experience economy, where—as the Harvard Business Review so eloquently put it—”a company intentionally uses services as the stage, and goods as props, to engage individual customers in a way that creates a memorable event.”
It’s Not a B2B Thing or a B2C Thing—It’s a Value Thing
Consider this: Our personal and professional lives are weaved together digitally and through blended experiences. Does that “memorable event” in HBR’s definition above have to be earth shattering? Nope. Does ordering a pizza count? Actually, it could.
Think of Dominos Pizza, a brand that began allowing customers to order their favorites by texting, tweeting, or emailing. If you’re sitting in your last meeting of the day and can’t stop thinking about what to do for dinner, just shoot Dominos a quick email.
Your boss is none the wiser, and you’re not stressing about long ordering lines. You not only get the cheese and toppings, but you also get a fresh ordering experience that fulfills your specific need in real-time. It’s not a B2B or a B2C thing—it’s a value thing.
Two Types of Experiences: Customer Participation and Connection
Within the experience economy, there are two types of interfaces a consumer can have with a brand, and several conclusions to draw from the distinction between the two.
Customers can participate actively or passively in an experience. In active participation, a consumer plays a key role in creating the event or interaction that generates the experience. Have you ever gone to a mystery dinner theatre? You were an actively participating consumer in that space. Not a whodunit fan?
Some consumers prefer to participate passively just by showing up. Concert attendees, for example, participate with their presence. Whether you prefer active or passive consumer participation, you’re still getting exactly the experience you want.
Physical and mental connectivity determine experience levels, too. The two ends of the connection spectrum are absorption and immersion. If you’re taking notes in a lecture, for example, you’re more absorbed in the connection to the material than you would be if you were studying alone from a textbook.
If you watch a sporting event standing on the immediate sideline, you’re immersed in your connection to that experience (as opposed to watching it from the nosebleeds). One type of connection to experience is not more telling of consumer behavior than the other (although it is important to marketers). At the end of the day, having the connection in the first place is the most important part.
A Takeaway for Marketers
There are many considerations marketers can take away from this discussion of the experience economy, but one stands out: If you want to build brand affinity, give the people what they want. What they want, it turns out, is an experience—something memorable, something they can connect with, something that makes them feel like less of a check book and more of a participant.
Yes, you’re selling your goods or your services, but what else do you have to offer your consumer? Can you fulfill a need they didn’t ask you to, or maybe even one they didn’t know they had, somewhere within their interaction with your brand? Accomplish this, and you’ll have the loyalty of a mobile, social generation of consumers who can’t wait to share their experience.