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Is experience alone enough in the experience economy?, Marketing & Advertising News, ET BrandEquity

Marketing researchers must observe customers and find out lasting impact to learn what they like, what they gain and how much credit they give providers for it. (Representative image/iStock)

It is everywhere. Whether you are an employee, customer, patient, or web user, every company catering to your needs talks of employee experience, customer experience, patient experience or user experience, respectively. In an experience economy, it is not just the brand or marketing folks who talk about experiential goals.

The buzzwords “experiential marketing” have been around for a while, ever since my friend Bernd Schmitt wrote his book by the same name way back in 2005 or so. However the words have their origins even many years before, from the book, The Experience Economy, by Pine and Gilmore. The proposition is that customers, employees, patients or users want more than the obvious basic product or service being offered; they want an entertaining, enjoyable and rewarding experience during the entire process of acquiring the same. An industry of sorts is still evolving around improving the experience under various permutations and combinations. The UX (user experience) industry alone is estimated at over US$500 million this year.

Going by the experience of the majority of online customers, this industry is not really succeeding in improving the user experience for most. From digital banking and mobile pay apps to online grocery and fashion, there is a whole lot of failed or miserable stories one can narrate and make a book of sorts on what not to do if great experiences have to be created.

Obviously, most marketers would undoubtedly benefit from any kind of focus on designing and delivering a good experience to their customers. But they seem to frequently overlook a critical element: the enduring value of service experiences. Even if one is selling products, the service element revolving around the points of sale, after sales or maintenance make the difference. Imagine even a great brand of water purifier can cease to exist with a shoddy or delayed maintenance service. A search in Twitter can throw up the depth and breadth of anguished customers of even reputed brands, searching for even basic promised service!

The reason influencers rose as a marketing vehicle over the last few years is because they were seen as authentic which celebrities weren’t seen as.

Interestingly, only a few service experiences leave a lasting impression on customers but when they do the impact may be far more impactful to them than the experience itself. University students may recall the parties and sports occasions but are also likely to consider the lasting camaraderie, companionships and career networking – occasionally even what they actually learned – as the enduring benefits of that graduation experience. An investment advisory services firm like a bank may decide to make the service experience more enjoyable with luxurious ambiences, refreshments and friendly conversations. But most clients desire safety, good returns, and risk avoidance, peace of mind regarding their financial security than the physical experience itself.

Hospitals may strive to make an admission, stay and medical treatment as painless as possible, but the outcomes of such experiences – surviving a COVID attack, delivering a healthy baby, resuming normal activities and no lasting effects of these treatments on quality of life – will more greatly affect their patients’ loyalty.

The concept of enduring value seems to have been underrated and ignored in most marketing discussions, perhaps because marketing tends to overemphasize the here and now. As marketers we tend to look for customer satisfaction with transactions as opposed to a commitment to relationships – one reason for the significant growth of the US$75 billion CRM industry. We want to quickly know how satisfied our customers are after or during a service experience in order to respond immediately to dissatisfaction and check patterns as soon as they are detected.

When customer attitudes are measured during or immediately after a service experience and not at a point at which lasting value would be perceived, customers would automatically discuss only the experience itself. They have no way of knowing what lasting impact or relationship they can have from the service provider. Only by deliberately focussing on lasting impact, measuring awareness and appreciation of that impact, and the extent to which it is attributed to the service provider can we as marketers gauge how important enduring value might be.

Businesses that can have a significant impact of enduring value on customers’ lives – such as education, training, investment advisory, healthcare, and insurance – desiring to exploit that value in experiential marketing must modify their traditional marketing function and perhaps add a few new ones . Marketing researchers must observe customers and find out lasting impact to learn what they like, what they gain and how much credit they give providers for it. Such information can give insight to the way the company delivers the service and how to modify it to improve the lasting impact and include elements of enduring value in the advertising. Use real cases, testimonials and word-of-mouth to make the information more powerful and credible.

Nostalgia in ads can evoke fuzzy feelings in consumers, as by Cadbury Dairy Milk’s 2021 ad, where the brand gender-flipped one of their own from the 1990s. But if the customers are uninitiated, younger millennials and Gen Z, who might have no idea of ​​the original ad creative or jingle, does drawing from the past really work?

Marketers should track the effects of campaigns by measuring the levels of awareness, appreciation and attribution in the minds of customers. Go beyond mere monitoring and promote each of those ideas by reminding customers of how much they have gained. Marketers can use the tracking system itself for this and when customers are asked about lasting impact, the question and their answers will serve to heighten the awareness.

Nudge customers to gauge the differences in their lives by asking the right questions or helping them calculate the effects in measurable terms. Or, in some cases, customers may track the impact on their own by keeping a log or a chart of weight loss or use the health band and specialized apps. The service providers may send regular reports outlining progress and corrective steps if any. Test different ways of reminding customers about their gains of enduring value as well as different ways of measuring what enduring value means to the overall strategy.

Undoubtedly the experience economy demands that the service experience is essential to marketing and delivery, but it is only half of the equation when enduring value is also a critical goal.

-The author is co-founder of Medici Institute. Views expressed are personal.


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