Have we Westerners hit a peak when it comes to owning – and buying – more stuff? If you consider the stats about the experience economy, a term first coined in 1998, we have shifted from an economy based on owning things, to one based on the value of experiences. In other words, consumers are more attracted to experiences than things. Much of this shift can be attributed to millennials, of which three out of four would rather spend their money on an experience than buy something.

For businesses owners of all stripes, the experience economy is changing how brands are marketed. Although you may offer great product or service, in the growing experience economy, that’s not enough. We already know from research on customer experience that the key competitive differentiator will soon be (if it isn’t already) experience over cost and quality. In fact, most consumers are willing to pay more for a product or service that offers a quality experience. In short, offering goods or services at a reasonable price is no longer enough; companies now need to also provide an engaging experience.

If this sounds daunting, there’s good news: experiences create stronger emotional ties to your brand, resulting in personal bonds that lead to increased customer loyalty and spend. According to polling company IBOPE/Zogby International, consumers are willing to spend 83 percent more on a product or service if they feel a personal connection to the company. And 60 percent of consumers are willing to switch brands if they have a better customer service experience.

Here are the top 3 things you need to know when considering your customer experience strategy in the experience economy:

It Has to Be Personal
We’ve all heard, “It isn’t personal,” or “Don’t take it personally.” The problem is that, as human beings, we crave personal attention. Most businesses have vast amounts of customer data at their fingertips thanks to CRM programs and access to contact center key performance indicators (KPI’s). The problem is, many don’t USE this data to get personal. For instance, if you know what a customer last purchased, make that information available to the agents who will likely take her phone call. “Hi, Mary. Thanks for calling. How are you enjoying your ultra-fuzzy bunny slippers?”

A major component of creating a personalized experience is omni-channel capabilities. You must have a consolidated customer profile in order to have a holistic, 360-degree view of the customer. Without this, you can’t provide a quality – I would argue complete— customer experience. What’s more, today’s consumers won’t stay long if they have to go from a phone call to a website in order to fix a problem.

Get Engaged
Experiences are a two-way street, which means they require engagement between your brand and the consumer. Like content marketing, this is a change from how businesses talked with customers in the past. Engagement is a form of non-interruption marketing that you can use to not only highlight the ways you are different from your competitors, but also learn more about your customers in the process.

Walk in Their Shoes
The best way to understand your customer experience is to be your own customer. Have you called your customer service line? Have you gone through the steps required to change your address or return a defective product? At CH Consulting Group, we’re advocates of the customer journey map, which can not only provide insight into your customer experience, but also highlight where improvements can be made at touchpoints along the way.

The experience economy is not going away; it will continue to have a greater impact on your business in the coming years. Understanding how to leverage this economic shift to your advantage will be the key to growth and success. To learn more, contact CHCG today.