Rise of Experience: the next horizon to captivate customers

Spice Market (Mısır Çarşısı) Istanbul
Image by exfordy via Flickr

This is the fifth in a series of short posts related to The CMO Agenda research. Informed by recent CMO conversations and CMG Partners‘ collective experience helping top marketers develop marketing strategy, we have compiled a list of seven ideas or jump starters for further conversation. These are meant to spark discussion, ideas, and action as we all enter a difficult 2009.

Many industries and sectors have seen new growth opportunities shift from products to services. For example, take the classic case of IBM and the switch from product to services, which is cited many times over as what saved the company.

“Experience” might be next frontier as customer service is now becoming a qualifier for purchase decisions versus an order winner. Differentiating on an experience could range from engaging all the senses in industries like travel and leisure to providing simple surprise and delight moments in less experiential industries like technology or manufacturing. The Experience Economy by B. Joseph Pine and James H. Gilmore is a source for much more to think about along these lines.

Recently, I worked with a luxury travel company on defining a new set of products for the high net worth baby boomer market. Through focus groups we learned that boomers were craving experiences. The example that sticks out most was a person stating: “I want to be guided by a well know chef through the Moroccan spice market, hand select ingredients for dinner, then participate in the cooking process — culminating in the meal itself.” Oh.. and research shows that they are willing to pay through the nose to get this!

For a more grounded example…
Not too long ago, I opened a college savings/investment account for my newborn daughter.  I picked Scottrade because I had previously opened a brokerage account and was satisfied.  Within 4 hours of applying for an account online, the local branch office, one mile away, called to make sure everything went as planned and to see that any questions I may have had were answered.  It was a simple yet effective point of differentiation, and I loved it.

Whether meandering through a spice market or simply calling your customers to make sure they had a good experience, marketers need to think beyond the widget or service offering of today. How will your company or industry take advantage of this opportunity to win or retain customers with a unique experience?

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