Experiential Economy By Mary Louise VanNatta, APR, CAE

In today’s economy, reasonable prices and good customer service aren’t enough. Modern consumers value experiences more. Eventbrite, an event promotion website, reports that 78 percent of millennial “would choose to spend money on a desirable experience or event over buying something desirable.” Businesses need to re-evaluate how they deliver value to consumers.

In a 1998 Harvard Business Journal Article, writers Joseph Pine and James Gilmore introduced the concept of the experiential economy. The authors write that “an experience occurs when a company intentionally uses services as the stage, and goods as props, to engage individual customers in a way that creates a memorable event.” If a business truly offers an experience, customers should want to pay just to enter the business. Customers should also want to buy a souvenir to remember their experience. For example, “window shoppers” will still buy admission to trade shows (i.e., the Consumer Electronics Show) and buy t-shirts to commemorate their visit. For them, the experience is worth paying for and commemorating. Therefore, the experience of buying something is just as important (if not more so) as what you buy.

Theme parks, movie theaters, restaurants, and sports arenas create an experience naturally. Most businesses do not. Businesses must employ more creative imagination to create memorable experiences and hopefully customers will stay longer. If you’re thinking about how your organization can provide customers an experience, consider how these companies have done it:

Themes: Spinnaker Pediatric Dentistry is themed around boats and sailing. The office is decorated with nautical props (i.e., oars and ship wheels), is painted with cool colors, has a tropical fish tank in the lobby, all with an ocean-themed children’s play area. These elements make going to the dentist a memorable experience for children.

Stimulate the five senses: As a car dealership, Capitol Auto Group is naturally good at simulating consumers’ sense of sight, sound, touch and smell (who doesn’t like that “new car smell”). To simulate all the senses, Capitol Auto Group added taste to the experience by offering a free pancake breakfast twice a week to every customer who comes into the dealership. They can swing a golf club and try to hit the floating green or walk their dog around the Capitol Mile. Simulating all five senses turns going to a car dealership into a memorable experience.

Entertained:  Kelly’s Home Center sells appliances and more, yet when visiting the center, you can experience the amazing sound in their theater room or watch a cooking demonstration in their kitchen. With 17 live fully working kitchens, gone are the days where you just look at the display model.

White creating a memorable experience isn’t easy, memorable experiences make businesses successful. Let’s make Salem a memorable place to do business.

Editor’s Note:  Congratulations to VanNatta Public Relations for being listed in Oregon Business Magazine again this year in the PR and Advertising Company list.

Mary Louise VanNatta is CEO of VanNatta Public Relations at PR and Event Planning company in Salem, Oregon www.PRSalem.com, @PRSalem.