Antonia Hock is Vice President of The Ritz-Carlton Leadership Center and a leading global expert on customer and luxury experience. Recently named in the top 25 women to watch by Luxury Daily, in this article she shares insights on how brands can – and must learn to – thrive within the experience economy.
How to Thrive in the Experience Economy
By Antonia Hock
Spending on experiences continues to show double digit growth (Euromonitor, 2018). The same research revealed that 75 per cent of millennials value experience over just purchasing a product. Showing that, while you need an exceptional product, the experience that you wrap around it will drive the brand loyalty that so many companies seek.
There is a multi-generational shift taking place with younger generations seeking experiences that challenge their viewpoint – from travelling to buying a car. While this shift has been widely attributed to younger generations, all generations are looking for experiences that enrich and enliven engagement with brands.
More than 90% of Ritz-Carlton guests asked said they think new experiences are essential for a fulfilled life and the majority feel that travel experiences define them as a person.
These powerful insights reveal a world all brands must navigate. But, how do brands and businesses do this? Where do we even start when looking to deliver authentic, meaningful and valued experiences?
Here are some of the most important areas to consider:
Lesson Number One: Personalisation and curation
For customers across all brands, personalisation is vital, and we are becoming increasingly frustrated when it is lacking or incorrect. From online shopping to watching television, thoughtful curation is expected, and it needs to be executed accurately.
Gucci is a great example. Gucci has grown its sales by 49 per cent through implementing a CRM platform that drives personal experience. Life-sized screens display a fashion show with which customers can interact. If the customer wants to browse dresses the interface changes to show dresses. If they decide to view red bags, they can touch the screen to do so. Products can be presented from every angle and with every level of desired detail.
The fashion brand offers an end to end (and everything in between) personal service which sees customers greeted by name with their products ready and a coffee or drink of their choice. There is a sense that you are known, understood and – above all – valued as an individual.
Nike has given us a glimpse of the personalised shopping future with their recent store opening in LA. Using geospatial facial recognition technology, customers can be tracked and recognised before they even enter and by the time they do, their products have been pulled and are ready for them. It offers an incredible level of tech-driven personalisation.
These brands – Nike, Gucci, and many others – are designing products with experience in mind.
Lesson Two: Link the personal and the digital
Using mobile and digital technology in cool and innovative ways to enhance experience is vital.
The Aloft Hotel offers ‘robot butlers’ and when guests call with a request for water or a phone charger or tooth brush; the robot picks up the item and dispatches it to the room. Seven-inch touch screens enable guests to interact with the robot and give feedback. It’s hugely efficient and often quicker than a person. Guests love it and naturally, people often share their experience with the robot on social media, further enlivening the intersection of personal and digital.
Another hotel that is no stranger to creating memorable experiences is Moxy Hotels, part of Marriott International’s experiential hotel brands. Moxy is known for its tech-enabled rooms and witty details that are a part of each guest’s stay. With its recent opening, Moxy Chelsea connects the personal and digital experience for guests with its soaring greenhouse-style atrium, where guests are often seen taking photographs and joining the #atthemoxy conversation on Instagram.
We are seeing a demand for connected and considered strategies that marry the digital and social to the human and personal experience. Brands that are mastering this continuum and using technology to drive human engagement and personalisation are forging ahead in the market.
Lesson Three: Don’t forget the human touch
Despite the creative and innovative ways to use technology, the impact of human interaction should never be underestimated. Humans will always crave genuine and heartfelt interaction with other humans.
In order to utilise human capital to the best advantage, brands and businesses must start with an investment in their people. Put simply, it’s vital to create the right culture and hire those who embrace it. A heart for service and desire to deliver amazing experiences is a must. At The Ritz-Carlton Leadership Center, we leverage the best practices and processes of The Ritz-Carlton to implement talent experience transformation, architect innovative customer experience, and craft sustainability strategies. It is because of this, we see the value of hiring for culture. If this is what companies are looking to strengthen, they must be seeking it in future employees.
The Next Steps?
Those looking to drive innovation through creating customer experiences need to focus on their current culture and look at what they can learn from other industries. Market making companies have two great features in common: 1.) they have built a great culture of trust, respect, and innovation 2.) they understand that a great brand is built on experiences and they have invested in and created mechanisms that allow digital and human connection.
As we move into 2019, brands that are investing and focusing on personalised, thoughtful, and immersive experiences for both internal employees and customers will have a distinct advantage in the market.