Jon Swallen, Chief Research Officer for Kantar Media, quoted in AdAge (October 2018) says, “Beauty brands are trying to court and develop the next generation of customers. These are customers who love the luxury experience, but don’t necessarily want the price tag. It’s not simply the price point that determines the (luxury) tag, but a brand approach that targets the luxury life experience.” And then PwC’s 2018 Global Consumer Insights Survey of 22,000 consumers in 26 countries finds, “The traditional path to purchase is being replaced by a highly-personalized consumer journey, enabled by smartphones, digital assistants, and other personal devices, and embedded in a new form of logistics such as curbside pickup and same-day delivery. Every product and brand is always accessible, information is limitless, variety is infinite, and delivery is nearly instantaneous.”
Health and Beauty brands may be courting customers by making “luxe” part of the everyday offering. And there’s no question technology, particularly that supercomputer in your pocket, has enabled brands to tailor highly-personalized experiences. Weave both observations together and it’s clear we are living in an age of higher than ever customer expectations. For emotional experiences. For things that matter. For connections with each other. For tactile hands-on experimentation. On our own terms.
We’ve been talking about the experience economy for decades. But when so much written about it still comes across as a big “ah ha!” it’s clear how truly challenging it is to execute. Mostly it comes down to scale. Large, standardized companies are at a disadvantage and are slow to react, burdened by legacy infrastructure, systems and processes that make change hard. There’s a reason “buy local” and “small business week” works. And they are putting many big legacy brands out of business.
Still, there are a growing number of big brand examples, like the Adidas concept store in NYC complete with a juice press, bleachers for customers to watch games on, and a miniature track to run and have their stride analyzed, to T-Mobile’s complete overhaul of their customer service model, delivered by location-specific cross-functional teams of experts (TEX)—making it local. The Idaho-based team serving customers in San Diego, for example, knows where the best fish tacos are and what the surf report is on a given week. When wildfires caused widespread service outage, TEX team members no longer respond with, “I have no idea why that’s happening, let me submit a service request to engineering.” now they know where the fire is and who on the ground is responding.
The Home Depot team that came out to measure my floors to replace carpet a week ago behaved like a big siloed, slow legacy brand, and missed an opportunity. I asked them to replace all the baseboards with thicker nicer ones, not just those measured in the rooms getting new tile floors. The answer, “We don’t replace baseboards over other people’s flooring, just on the floors we install.” I bet there is a department in Home Depot that would do that. What a missed opportunity. How about, “While we are here measuring for your tile, we’ll go ahead and measure the rest of your home for baseboards too, and you’ll be hearing from Taylor on that team who will call you with an estimate.” No need to stay home a second time for the measuring crew. Making my life easier, rather than following their internal charging protocol.
The T-Mobile service experience, or what Home Depot could have done may not rate as “luxury” like the health and beauty category example, but they could be clear differentiators in the faceless call center or home renovation space. Just like a great hotel check-in experience that starts with an RFID card mailed to loyalty members who then receive a text with their room number on the day of arrival and check in when and where they want. When they want. More than ever, customers are not in our funnel. We are on their journey, and it’s our job to make it memorable, easy, and fun. Brands who get this, even the big ones, will realize it’s not about how much customers pay. It’s about how much they are worth to you. And are they worth making their lives easier and their experiences better? Every business and every brand should believe this. Then get down to the awesome, motivating and exciting work of redefining what they do, how they do it and why it makes life better for their customers. One insight can be the trigger for a small change that makes a big impact. It’s really that simple.