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Many happy returns: stand out from the crowd in the experience economy

Many happy returns: stand out from the crowd in the experience economy


19 May 2022


As the experience economy prepares to celebrate its quarter century, retail and hospitality leaders keen to grow revenue are turning to connected commerce as a way to surprise and delight their customers and guests. Here are some ideas to help you stand out from the crowd.

Think back to your last weekend.

 

“The easiest way to turn a service into an experience is to provide poor service,” wrote Joseph Pine II and James Gilmore when they defined the experience economy in a 1998 edition of the Harvard Business Review [1].

 

In those far-off days, vanguard firms were introducing an element of theatre into their provision of goods and services. Think Disney, Starbucks and Hard Rock Café.

 

Providing a pleasant memory boosted sales, enabled higher margins and brought customers back for more.

 

Almost a quarter-century later, being part of the experience economy is a near-universal ambition. Retailers emulate the Apple Store and boutique hotels are flourishing, even though some copycat retailers and hospitality chains fail to nail it.

 

So, during your weekend, how many were getting it right?

 

What are the ingredients of a great experience? It must entertain, educate, look good and offer an escape from the ordinary. As Joseph Pine II wrote in a 2020 update [2], it has become truer than ever that the way to a customer’s heart (and purse or wallet) is by providing a positive – and truly memorable – experience.

 

But as we all know, that’s a sight harder to do than it is to say.

 

Bridging the gap with connected commerce


Connected commerce is the best place to start. Why? Because providing bad experiences is the best way to kill your business. By removing the pain points, you free up staff to focus on providing customers, or guests, with a great experience – the kind that brings them back for more.

 

In today’s world of extraordinary convenience, only brilliant experiences are memorable.

The pandemic brought this home as never before, raising the stakes in the recovery now underway. During lockdown we got used to the simplicity and ease of ordering online. Digital solutions delivered the meal or product, painlessly, to your door. The hardest part was getting up from the couch.

 

As spring weather draws us out, and travel shows signs of surging back to pre-pandemic levels, we want to be able to buy what we want, where we want, without hassle. But as we return to restaurants, hotels and physical stores to make up for two years of lost fun, we expect a joined-up experience.

 

The fact is, it isn’t always there.

 

It’s not just retail


When you walk into a store, like as not they’ve got the jacket you want, but not in blue, nor in your size. So, you walk out. A sale is lost. But why couldn’t they deliver the one you want tomorrow, to your home, as Amazon can? They must have a warehouse, somewhere. The problem is caused by fragmented systems and at times a certain, shall we say, lack of imagination…

 

What about when you check out of your hotel? Why do you have to hang around, while other guests hover, as the harassed receptionist traces the signed-for meals, tots up the mini-bar chits, adds the spa treatments – and then waits for some far-off computer to query your credit card?

 

Our hospitality industry is full of fabulous, brilliant people focused on making others happy. While keen to please, they are often left battling clunky systems that get in the way of the kind of smooth, personalised service they’re so keen to provide.

 

A joined-up solution


It doesn’t have to be this way. At Planet, we bring together smart payment systems and flexible software that puts the customer experience first, and your team in charge. Connected commerce means fewer headaches, less hassle, more time, more control and ultimately more revenue. Retailers can deliver hybrid solutions and hoteliers can turn checking in, and out, into a slick, painless experience where the consumer remembers the stay, rather than the cost or painful processes.

 

Even if you book via another platform, a smart system can alert the hotel that you previously stayed and requested extra towels. For hoteliers and retailers alike, payment systems are often an afterthought. But who hasn’t abandoned an online purchase because of problems making the payment?

 

For retailers, the barriers to any product, any place, are sometimes manifold. Systems often don’t talk to each other. But it may also be that the retailer has no warehouse staff or capacity to despatch individual orders to private addresses, no matter how simple this seems. Many can’t even tell you that their cross-town store has the right size and colour, nor get it transferred for you to pick up later, or shipped to your home, because the inventory management systems don’t speak to each other. And to cap it all, multiple payment and stock-control systems speak different computer languages. Staff are left frustrated and demotivated.

 

Hoteliers, meantime, are hamstrung by all-powerful property management systems that at best have payments tacked on as an afterthought.

 

They need someone to make these disparate systems communicate so that payment headaches – the bad memories at the end of the stay that too easily overlay those of the happy holiday – become a thing of the past. First impressions are still vital, but it’s the lasting impression that matters most.

 

Making friends brings benefits


Consumers are returning to malls, high streets and tourist destinations with higher expectations than ever. Getting this stuff right means more footfall converted into sales, and more return visits.

 

But it also brings other benefits. Joined-up data gives you the opportunity to forage among the numbers for better insights that illuminate – or sometimes shatter – your gut feelings about customer behaviour.

 

The world – and consumers – are changing so fast. Having a deep customer understanding and knowing what draws them to you, along with a total service ethos dedicated to retaining them, has never been more important. As the experience economy prepares to celebrate its quarter-century, providing memorable customer experiences that delight and leave a lasting impression has never been more important. Knowledge and nimbleness will be the keys to staying relevant now, and in the years ahead. Connected commerce makes that possible.

 

[1] https://hbr.org/1998/07/welcome-to-the-experience-economy