As Millenials have entered the marketplace over the past decade they have quietly influenced in the economy slowly and methodically. From a product/service economy to an experience economy. Now good quality customer service has always been important and businesses who were great at customer service typically fared better in their respective verticals. That’s not what I’m talking about.
For years companies have been trying to figure out online grocery shopping. I remember watching Good Morning America in the late 90s and they were discussing the idea–no one had quite figured out how to do it. The cost of shipping would be too high and what would someone do with the dry ice it was packed in? And will FedEx and UPS start driving refrigerated trucks. You see too many variables. The only system that is gaining any traction is buying at home and then a customer would pick them up at the store for a fee in many cases they don’t have to get out of the car. Then comes along companies like Blue Apron that for a fee will send you fresh food, enough for a recipe, and through their app deliver high-quality instructional videos on how to prepare their exact recipe. So, instead of selling just groceries they are selling a self-guided cooking class experience as you prepare dinner for your family. While the product may very well be great you are really purchasing the experience. And those types of businesses are popping up all over the place.
Seemingly, consumers are showing that their experience with a brand, product or service is just as important a price. If you’ve ever worked in a product based eCommerce you know that it’s brutal. I used to work for a manufacturer who had 150 online distributors; that’s right 150 online stores competed to sell the same products including the big names like Amazon. These online distributors will get a set of products that they are allowed to sell and each product came with a price range that they are allowed to sell the from within – the same prices; they weren’t allowed to go lower than the minimum price. Inevitably what would happen is that everyone would sell all of the same products at the lowest price possible. Because consumers are smart all they have to do is search google for the product name or SKU number and find the lowest price (this is why you don’t see a lot of 10% coupons online anymore the price is typically already at the lowest price). I dug into this to find solutions because our distributors weren’t making enough money to keep selling our products. I found some inconsistencies. The websites that were selling the most product were selling the most product at the lowest price. But the companies making the most money were selling the products as an experience. They would pair products together to make unique product set (that couldn’t be searched online), and were selling those products at the max price in our price range. They did the work for the consumer matching the product with accessories. One company even went further to do their own product photo shoots and pair our products with others from other companies. They went very far to do the work for their customer and it worked.
How could you create a customer experience online or offline to encourage greater sales and increase consumer satisfaction? What have you seen that fits this new economy?