William Sonoma and Pottery Barn are offering in store classes. Everyone gets the main need to do these: move product off the shelves. However, there is another reason why ideas like this are important. They are experiences, they make the shopping moment feel person, local and more communal.
According to Joseph Pine and James Gilmore (authors of The Experience Economy), the bar of economic offerings is being raised again. The authors argue that the service economy is about to be superseded with something that critics will find even more ephemeral (and controversial) than services ever were: experiences. In part because of technology and the increasing expectations of consumers, services today are starting to look like commodities. The authors write that “Those businesses that relegate themselves to the diminishing world of goods and services will be rendered irrelevant. To avoid this fate, you must learn to stage a rich, compelling experience.”
The experiences in the book highlight highly stylized destinations: Disney, Las Vegas, etc…but the lesson is still applicable in microenvironments. Whether it is as large as a store that needs to move product, or as “small” as a conversation about consulting services, the mood you create through your branding, your presence, your environment will create the impression your customer walks away with.
“Since all commerce is moral choice, every business is a stage for glorifying something. Who or what does your business glorify? Your answer may not help you accept what is next, but it will certainly help guide what you do today.”
Southwest Airlines is but one example. Its CEO once observed:
“I keep telling [those interested in Southwest Airlines] that the intangibles are far more important than the tangibles in the competitive world because, obviously, you can replicate the tangibles. You can get the same airplanes. You can get the same ticket counters. You can get the same computers. But the hardest thing for a competitor to match is your culture and the spirit of your people and their focus on customer service because that isn’t something you can do overnight and it isn’t something you can do without a great deal of attention every day in a thousand different ways. That is why I say that our employees are our competitive protection.”
What is the experience do you strive for on behalf of your customers?