How the Anti-Materialist Is Changing the Shape of Business

A recent report estimated that the quantity of plastic in the world's oceans will triple by 2025, highlighting this need for consumers to change the way they approach materialism.

And, as we know, younger generations especially are passionate about environmental issues and are taking steps to live more eco-friendly lives. A huge part of this is reducing the amount of ‘things’ they own, meaning material purchases are on the decline and ‘experience’ purchases are on the rise. Here Bernie Janes, CEO of Geronigo, talks to CEO Today about the rise of the experience economy.

When we also look at the increase in awareness around mental health issues and the effect which materialism has on this, it’s unsurprising to see people becoming more inclined to invest in making memories rather than acquiring ‘stuff’. The world is experiencing a shift towards an ‘experience economy’.

What is an ‘experience economy’?

When people talk about the experience economy, they are referring to the idea that both customers and the businesses that serve them are interested in more than just a product or service, they’re interested in outstanding and memorable experiences that leave both parties with a sense of positivity. While this is not a new idea (the term was first used in 1998, and savvy businesses have been taking advantage of it for years), in recent years we have altered our expectations of what business interactions should look like, and that is drastically changing the shape of business. The experience economy is here, and it’s here to stay.

How have businesses adapted to the experience economy?

The best way to understand how your business can prepare for this new wave of business is to look at the pioneers who have not only thrived in an experience economy, but helped to define it. Walt Disney is one of the most successful business owners of all time. Why? Because he realised that if he capitalised on the experience aspect of his theme parks, people would be willing to spend huge amounts of money there. His customers became ‘guests’, photo opportunities became ‘character experiences’, and excitement became ‘magic’. It is this sense of hospitality and wonder that sets Disneyland apart from competitor theme parks and makes it a must-visit destination for children and adults alike.

Restaurants like the Hard Rock Cafe, Planet Hollywood, and the Rainforest Cafe are huge draws in the Disney parks. Often described as providing ‘eatertainment’, these restaurants offer an experience for all the senses, where the food is often an afterthought to the experience of eating there. They present an opportunity for friends and family to come together and experience something unique and memorable together. It is this bonding opportunity that makes them so attractive.

If we look to traditional retail, Lush is a great example of a company that has aligned its products, branding, and customer service experience to deliver the full package that its target audience is looking for. Not only do they use minimal packaging and produce ethically sourced products (key considerations for its environmentally-conscious customers), staff are also encouraged to chat to customers at length and offer exciting product demonstrations for free. In this way, they are addressing two of the most important aspects of selling in an experience economy – customer participation and connection.

What can your business do to survive in the experience economy?

It’s vital that companies reassess their offering in the face of this new economy, to make sure they can survive this move to a new form of business. Here are three ways which you can adapt for this new environment:

  1. Understand your audience – is their priority to get a great photo for social media? To make memories with their family? Or simply to have positive human interaction in an increasingly digital age? Whatever it is, make sure your business is ready to meet that need.
  2. Identify which areas of your business you can provide an exceptional experience with. Could your customer service team change the way they deal with customers? Could you deliver a unique website experience? Or could your product be used to make long-lasting memories?
  3. Marketing is key for getting people to buy into the experience you are offering. Can you tap into a sense of FOMO, or sell a sense of exclusivity around your brand? Offer some sort of experience-focused USP and you’ll be sure to stay ahead of your competitors in the experience economy.
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