Masterclass: The customer experience

When did retailers start worrying about the customer experience? And how will the recession affect it?

Last Updated: 06 Nov 2012

What is it?
We never used to worry about words like 'experience' when it came to buying and selling. Satisfied customers were all we really thought about - there was no need to get inside their heads. How primitive that approach seems now. In the noisy, multi-branded, multimedia world, focusing on mere products and services is not enough. We need to go deeper, and offer a memorable experience to our customers. They have so much to choose between. The companies to win out will understand this, and provide a reliably rich and satisfying experience to their customers all of the time.

Where did it come from?
In 1999, Joseph Pine and James Gilmore published The Experience Economy, which launched 'customer experience' as a fashionable business concept. The phrase picked up a lot of 'new economy' baggage - it fitted in with euphoria and the misguided idea that the bread-and-butter basics of business could be ignored. But the gurus did not give up. In 2005, the advertising whizz Martin Lindstrom wrote Brand Sense, in which he argued that firms were shamefully neglecting the human senses other than sight when offering their goods and services.

Where is it going?
The main sensation a lot of customers are experiencing now is a troubling lightness in the wallet. So the customer experience gurus are going to change their tune a bit. Yes, the experience matters, but it must be in sympathy with the concerns of your target market. The trick now is to make the economical option seem like an enjoyable experience as well. Shabby chic, anyone? The joys of Travelodge? The gourmet delights of Pizza Express? Any premium or truly luxury brand is going to have work extra hard to justify its existence in the months (years?) ahead.

Fad quotient (out of 10):
We feel a 7 coming on.

In today's bulletin:
Bank cuts rates again - and starts getting radical
EU backs forced retirement at 65
Google boss doesn't get Twitter
FDs have fewer beans to count
Masterclass: The customer experience 

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