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The experience economy: Trends in consumer engagement

We live in an experience society. No longer striving to meet our basic needs, we have become preoccupied with consumption in the form of experiences over goods or services. Four in five millennials would rather spend money on an experience than buy something.

Even when we consume a good or service, we no longer expect to make a purchase and simply walk away. As consumers, we seek additional utility and want to know that our favourite brands are listening. Whether being delighted by exceptional customer service from a telco provider, AI-driven content on a social media feed, or the convenience of any meal delivered to the door, experiences are king.

The ‘experience economy’ was described over twenty years ago by Harvard Business Review as the way a company “intentionally uses services as a stage, and goods as props, to engage individual customers in a way that creates a memorable event.”

Since then, the importance of creating ‘memorable events’ continues to grow and has further evolved. Among Generation Z, the most social-media shaped generation in history, the sheer aura or appearance of an experience has become even more desirable than the experience itself.

Five types of experiences consumers are seeking

Creating memorable experiences need not be complex. Below are five types of experiences consumers seek from brands, and that supporters seek from the for purpose entities they give to:

1. Social experiences: A peer to peer world

Humans are social beings, and digital connection has created greater ease and accessibility for sharing online and off-line experiences. Consumers want to make decisions, learn and experience life as part of a social group.

Communities are increasingly defined as a person’s peer to peer relationships rather than a formally defined group of people (i.e. a club, educational cohort, or community group). Younger consumers, particularly, view their lives in comparison to other ‘people like them’ and are motivated by what their friends are doing.

2. Participatory experiences: Skin in the game

Consumers are looking for personal ownership in the experiences they participate in. Consider the success of for purpose campaigns such as Movember, YGAP's Polished Man Campaign, or Oxfam’s Trailwalker. These campaigns require participation and strong ownership of the individual. Whether painting a fingernail or walking 100km, individuals participate in a personal way to raise funds for a cause.

3. Life-integrated experiences: Everyday decision-making for good

Growth of social businesses such as Thank You and Who Gives a Crap demonstrate the desire of consumers to create impact through their everyday choices. These businesses provide individuals with the experience of making a practical difference in communities of disadvantage through the purchase of everyday household goods like baby nappies or toilet paper.

4. Values-based experiences: Personal identity alignment

Consumers are increasingly making decisions viscerally (with the heart) rather than cerebrally (with the head). They desire to align their personal passions with a brand and evaluate whether a product or initiative is worthwhile by whether it aligns with their own values. Increasingly, they view their connection with a brand as an extension of their own personal identity.

5. New experiences: Variety as the spice of life

Experiencing memorable events is not a one-off desire for consumers. Brands are being challenged to continually create new experiences. Engaged consumers buy more, and the greater their exposure to a brand and cause (both in frequency and positive interaction), the greater their loyalty will be.

Why not invite Eliane Miles to speak with your teams on the latest generational, supporter, and consumer trends? Find out more in her speaking pack.

Click here for more of Eliane's social trend analysis.

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