Experiences that engage our senses and emotions have increasingly become a benchmark for how today’s ever-demanding consumers differentiate between products and services. Yet in a world where ‘meaningful’ experiences are typically consumed in a physical context, how do we retain this level of engagement and uniqueness as we move towards more touchless, virtual interactions with customers?

Our recent webinar explored how consumer engagement is set to change in the next normal. Below is a summary of the webinar or you can view the recording.

Meaningful experiences: consumer engagement in a touchless economy – 23 July

Exploring how the touchless economy is set to change in the next normal.

Meaningful experiences

“We increasingly find ourselves living in an economy that is driven by the experiences that we consume.”

A meaningful experience is when the emotion of engaging with a product or service embeds itself in our memory and we are enriched by the experience we derive. Consumers trade on experiences, and their uniqueness, as a measure of satisfaction and loyalty to a brand.

So, how do you create something meaningful in an increasingly competitive experience economy? When thinking about how to create a meaningful experience, there are four key elements to consider.

1. Doing the basics brilliantly

While it isn’t going to provide your customers with something meaningful, if you don’t invest in doing the basics well, you won’t have the foundations needed to create something meaningful. For example, think about how long you might wait in line for a drink at a bar or the time it takes to stream your favourite film. If there are too many unresolved difficulties, consumers will struggle to create an emotional connection with your organisation

2. Define your brand purpose

Research from Kantar suggests that brands with a purpose grow twice as fast as those without one. This is fuelled by millennials and Gen Z customers who believe purpose is an important part of their purchasing decisions.

3. Cultivate emotional intensity

Identify the key moments in a customer’s journey to cultivate an emotional connection. When done right, this will create a positive memory of your brand.

4. Curate unique experiences

Uniqueness has become a driver of value and meaning. Enduring memories are worth more than those that can be replaced, so stay competitive and invest in providing a unique experience.

The rise of the touchless economy

“The touchless economy comprises the economic activities that remain possible without close physical interaction between people” – NY Times, May 2020

While the term ‘touchless economy’ has become ever-more popular during the coronavirus pandemic, it’s not a new trend. We have seen it grow across a range of sectors where the main drivers are convenience and instant gratification, particularly in retail, banking and dining.

The transition to digital and virtual interaction has allowed things to happen faster – at a rate that works for individuals via their preferred channel or medium. Airbnb is a prime example of a ‘humanless’ experience, with many of its properties operating a self check-in system that doesn’t require human interaction. Concepts such as humanless hotels with robotic service may appear futuristic but, to differing degrees, it’s a natural progression of existing trends.

The challenge organisations face is understanding how far to go with the shift to touchless and where to maintain human contact.

Getting the right balance between human interaction and seamless digital experiences will be a key battleground for organisations in this continuum of a new normal.

How do you set yourself to win?

Experiment and research to respond to changing consumer behaviour and inform future decision-making.

Our customer experience framework identifies the key elements required to respond to ever-changing consumer expectations.

1. Make data- and insight-led decisions

To quickly identify and respond to changing consumer behaviour and make the right decisions at the right time.

2. Evolving customer and digital strategy

Traditional three- to five-year strategies are a thing of the past. Continually revisiting and challenging your strategic objectives and focus, based on real-time customer insight, is critical to making the right investments in your people and technology at the right time.

3. Design-led experiences

Apply a customer journey lens across how you deliver products and services. Ensure you understand existing pain points to do the basics brilliantly, as well as the points of the experience you need to build emotional intensity to cultivate uniqueness and lasting memories.

4. Empathy-based design

Continue to innovate, test new ideas and changes to your customers’ experience. This will help you understand if the changes are delivering the impact you anticipated and if you have invested in the right elements.

Where next?

COVID-19 has brought with it significant challenges but it has also accelerated the growth of pre-existing trends, including touchless interactions, created physical experiences virtually and unlocked exciting opportunities and revenue streams.

To respond to these challenges and opportunities, it’s important to understand how to deliver meaningful experiences for your customers in a digital and virtual context. Focus your efforts on gaining insights, evolving your strategic priorities, investing in digital capabilities, and taking a journey-led approach to delivery – and test frequently to continually innovate and respond to changing customer needs.

Currently, the only certainty is uncertainty and how you respond now is critical to your organisation’s success in this new normal continuum.

DAVID FORDE | PRINCIPAL

David leads our customer experience capability. A principal consultant with over 10 years’ experience, David has extensive expertise in both customer and digital transformation, strategy, product management and the use of experience and human-centred design.