The rise of…The Experience Economy


To sell your product, you need to give your customers an experience. Here’s why… and how.

What Is The Experience Economy?

First coined in a prescient book The Experience Economy in the late 1990s, authors B. Joseph Pine II and James H. Gilmor suggested that in a market where all goods and services offered are all pretty much the same, the best way to add value is to make the customer experience compelling.

In this hyper-connected modern world of ours, if you can make that experience memorable enough for your customers to keep tweeting, sharing, snapping, and chatting about your product, you are in business.

Today, as a business, you have to understand and act on market shifts to remain useful to your customers – especially millennials, who tend to value experiences over more traditional services and outright ownership of products.

The Netflix Experience

It is this context that led to Nihilent Technologies opening its first user experience (UX) laboratory on the African continent in April, the second of its kind outside India, where the global consulting firm is headquartered.

Located in Bryanston, Johannesburg, the lab will foster innovations using its patented design-thinking frameworks and analytical tools to “humanise” the interaction between users and technology.

The lab is open to all types of projects, including business-to-business or business-to-consumer; and will facilitate design workshops with the aim to bring to market the “next big disruption”.

How Do You Create That Experience? 

By paying attention to what the customer wants, says LC Singh, executive vice-chairman at Nihilent Technologies. High failure rates amongst entrepreneurs will be reduced drastically, and there are subsequent savings on money, effort and talent.

Palesa Sibeko, cofounder of BetterWork – previously known as Inquisition – who specialises in “experience design” says the main reason South African entrepreneurs fail, is because they that are spending time solving problems that are not a priority, or do not exist for potential customers; or they are creating business solutions that not enough people are willing to pay for.

Online Shopping web sites
Online Shopping web sites

“This holistic view gives the business a better sense of where their product fits into their consumers’ lives and creates an opportunity for them to provide real value that is in the flow of work and life. The digital savvy have been primed to expect frictionless experiences such as on social networks, gaming platforms and e-commerce sites; and there is an expectation to meet or exceed these new standards in all of the services they interact with.”

Both Nihilent Technologies and Sibeko follow the design-thinking methodology of providing a structured and solutions-based approach to solve problems. It puts the customer first, and the idea is to reduce the ambiguity in innovation by involving the customers on prototypes to find, test and improve concepts. Learning, therefore, comes from simulated environments and not static data.

The Emotional Connection? 

And how important is a customer’s emotional connection with a product or brand? The short answer: it is important, but it does not have to be. While Nihilent Technologies wants to focus on the emotional connection between users and technology, Sibeko believes it is not always important for customers to have that connection.

“A customer who uses a product, has entered into some kind of relationship with it, and in some cases, the relationship is merely utilitarian – the product solves the customer’s problem and that is sufficient without needing a stronger emotional bond to improve the experience.” In that instance, emotion does not have much bearing on the desired outcome, she says.

The Uber Eats experience
The Uber Eats experience

“With some product types, emotional connection affects the experience greatly such as trendy clothing or a music instrument.

Customers have increasingly shown loyalty to their own needs being met over that to a particular brand, says Sibeko. “Gaining customer loyalty will require organisations to take this broad view of experience and service over simply delivering a product.”

Words by Nafisa Akabor




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