The supersonic shift to eCommerce the retail industry experienced at the beginning of the pandemic — and is still experiencing today — has created a shift in customer loyalty. In some cases, it’s a matter of supply and demand. If a customer’s favorite product is out of stock due to supply chain issues, it doesn’t matter how much he loves it. He needs to buy something similar that’s actually available. In many other cases, it’s a matter of experiences. Some retailers have started to stand out more than others because of the customer experience they provide not just online, but also in store and curbside.
And that’s why you should be laser-focused on the experience economy.
Back in 1998, B. Joseph Pine II and James H. Gilmore introduced the world to a new reality — that experiences are their own distinct commodity, separate from goods and services. In the experience economy, it’s not about “stuff”; it’s about the way the customer feels when he’s doing business with you.
Why do you think Starbucks writes your name on your cup? It’s not merely about keeping track of who ordered what. It makes the customer’s order more than just a transaction. It’s an instant chance to elevate the experience, simply by giving the barista the power to call each customer by her name. As Dale Carnegie said, “A person’s name is to that person, the sweetest, most important sound in any language.” Just like that, a cup of coffee is a personal experience. That’s an awful lot to accomplish in just a couple of seconds with a Sharpie.
Consider the change First Watch made when it began offering alcoholic beverages. The company openly stated that this wasn’t about offering a new product; it was about offering a new, elevated experience. With just a few drink additions, First Watch created a laid-back brunch experience that instantly reminds customers of Sunday Funday with friends.
A robust product line is no longer your only differentiator. If that were the case, First Watch might have added completely different items to its menu. Instead, the customer experience has become a priority selling point. It’s a key differentiator when consumers are trying to decide whether to do business with you or your competitors.
We live in a world where customers can jump from website to website, app to app, or product to product in a matter of seconds. Luckily for retailers, technology exists today that Pine and Gilmore never could have imagined, and it can help create experiences that inspire customers, no matter where and how they’re interacting with you.
Technology that can accelerate meaningful digital innovation is the biggest driver of the experience economy.
In a recent Salesforce-sponsored study by Harvard Business Review Analytic Services, 82% of retailers said improving the customer experience is their top priority. Considering the average consumer uses nine different touchpoints to interact with retail brands, how can you possibly know where improvements need to be made? In order to know what each customer likes and dislikes, you need unified engagement data to create a 360 degree view, and that’s something only advanced retail technology can give you.
The right technology can also give you the power to build a strong omnichannel strategy so customers can have the same experience no matter how and where they interact with you — which is something they’ve come to expect.
This isn’t just a “retail thing,” though. The experience economy isn’t just an ever-rising bar that you and your top competitors are setting for each other. It’s actually a domino effect that stretches across every industry. If a customer has a great mobile experience buying tickets to a rock concert, he’s going to expect a similarly great experience when he uses his phone to buy groceries. Just like that, you have a new expectation to meet.
What are you doing today to capitalize on the experience economy? What will make your customers come back again and again? How does your technology create meaningful new solutions for that ever-rising bar? The answers to these questions will make or break your retail success in 2022 and beyond.