Moments over material – why selling experiences is the new reality for businesses

Why are we creating experience-centric environments?

What is the number one purpose of any business? According to economist Milton Friedman, the main purpose of a business is to ‘maximize profits for its owners’. Others contend that a business’s principal purpose is to serve the interests of a larger group of stakeholders, including employees, customers, and even society as a whole.

This may have been the case up until a few years ago, however there is no way of getting away from the fact that digital technology has disrupted and altered the business environment in every industry and vertical. Customer expectations have rocketed. It is the customer who now determines what a business is…what the business thinks it produces is no longer of first importance – especially not to the future of the business and to its success. What the customer think they are buying and what they consider “value” is decisive – it determines what a business is, what it produces and whether it will prosper. If the customers’ needs aren’t met on their terms, the business won’t have any customers.

So… what is the number one purpose of any business? …to create a customer.

Are you an experience-centric business?

We are all here for the same reason, to give people great experiences. It’s that simple and it’s that big. We are no longer an economy of products and services; experiences are what matter, to both our customers and our employees.

People today share a growing affinity for moments over material, and this is especially true for the millions of millennials that are out there. We need to stop selling products and trying to find a market for them and realise that we are selling experiences. The actual item that’s advertised and purchased to get that great experience, it’s just along for the ride. This is the new reality.

Digital traffic will overtake voice within the next year, and with mobile applications, email, web, chat, social media, and self-service channels, it’s become more complex. And now with the physical environment, in retail and in hotels, airports, restaurants and cars, the digital and physical are further being blended through software defined products, the Internet of Things and virtual and augmented reality. Our businesses have changed forever, it’s time to dump the complicated, goliath models of doing business and get back to a simpler time, one streamlined for innovation with the customer at the centre of all decisions.

Experiences are powered by digital technology

There is no such thing as a purely analogue experience these days, every physical interaction has a digital footprint. Everything is connected. We have evolved to ensure we deliver the best continuous experiences for our customers.

Great experiences always start with delivering the right service to the right person at the right time. And that starts with data. Insights and intelligence are the engine of engaging experiences.

We all know that robots are never going to do great CX, that human intelligence and human intuition cannot be replaced; but if we could harness, bring together the power of computing, both man and machine, to work faster and smarter. Big things will happen.

It is about empowering people. Giving them the tools to bring their ideas to life so that they can render the experiences their customers now expect. Meeting these increased expectations becomes increasingly challenging because every person, weather you are a local bar regular or a global brand loyalist, is now expected to not only know them but to deliver an experience and a journey that is consistent, continuous and compelling. This is now what’s expected, in B2B as well as B2C.

This has bought us all to this pivotal point. We are now on the cusp of an enterprise shift that will cause enterprises to transform in ways they haven’t had to for decades. It will change not just how enterprises market and sell their products, but it will change how they organise, how they reward employees and how they develop products. And it will force all of us as individuals to change too.

Disrupting the enterprise

The experience-centric business wave is now the new competitive battle ground. The first companies to adapt and evolve will be widely successful, but the laggards, they’re going to get called out by their customers, publicly and loudly. Because the experience-centric business is very democratic, everybody has a voice. Consider that since 2000 over half of the companies that were on the fortune 500 list are no longer on it. We know how big this opportunity is, but also how dire the consequences will be if we fail.

We know that as great as our products may be, if we fail in delivering the experience when they are shopping and buying and using our products, then it is game over. The question is, are you an experience-centric business? Putting people first and making experiences that matter?

What does an experience business look like through the eyes of the customer?

First, a business will know me and respect me. It can anticipate, predict and deliver what I want even before I ask for it. And it can do all of that whilst respecting and considering my privacy.

Second, an experience led business will speak in one voice, always in context. It knows I don’t care about its organisational charts, I don’t care if I’m speaking to your support team, your product team, your sales team, your instore team; I want it to be a consistent and a relevant message.

Third, an experience led business will make technology transparent. It lets me set the terms for our interaction knowing that the medium truly is not the message, the experience is. So, forcing an app, my phone or my car into the CX process just because you think it’s really cool… well that’s not cool. Only do it if it makes sense for the experience. I don’t care as a consumer about the process of how you get there, I care about the end result.

Fourth and finally, an experience led business will delight me at every turn and rapidly innovates and disrupts itself, to meet my changing expectations. These businesses know that today’s fantastic experience is tomorrows not so great experience.