I recently arrived at a cafe with my partner shortly before they were due to close, but rather than turning us away, we were welcomed in, the food was delicious, and the cafe stayed open longer than usual. The feeling of goodwill struck a chord and I was more than happy to tell friends and family about my positive experience.
According to recent research by professor Gerald Zaltman at Havard University in America, ninety percent of consumer purchasing decisions are made subconsciously. That means that people are not making logical decisions, but rather emotional ones.
Sales are becoming increasingly less dependent on product and services. Instead, consumers are turning their attention to the experience they can expect from a company.
Selling an activity, product or service is often reduced to rattling off features or non-specific amenities. For example, a holiday destination may have luxurious accommodation, private beach access and daily evening entertainment. However, whilst that information is important to know, it’s not overwhelmingly compelling.
A consumers experience, on the other hand, is much more memorable and relatable. Paddleboarding on a private beach can make you feel like an adventurer. It becomes a story. “I had a fantastic holiday, watching the sunset on a beautiful summer evening, from my paddle board on the glistening waves.”
Stories are always more engaging than feature lists. Why? Because they activate more our of brains.
Research has shown that when you hear a list of bullet points only the language part of your brain is working. When you hear a story, other relevant areas kick in. Our story about paddle boarding will appeal to the motion centre of your brain. A story about tasty food light up the sensory cortex.
These stories activate our whole brain, making us feel more, and increase the intrinsic value of the product we purchased.
The value of experiences is driven in part by younger generations, a study by Harris Group found that 72% of millennials prefer to spend money on experiences rather than material things, but it can also transcend age with people aged 18 – 68 now claiming to value your experiences more than your products and services.
The moral of the story is this: your products no longer the most important thing you’re selling. Changes in society are making people value the experiences they have and the way they feel over products and services.
To improve your brand, you need to focus on experience. You need to go that extra unexpected mile to surprise and please consumers. Products are still important, but the promotional angle needs to change. They can no longer stand on their own and must be built around an experience that excited and motivates people to share how they feel in an Instagram story. If your customers are promoting your products, it will convince others to do the same.
Help your activity, product or service adapt to this change by pairing it with an amazing experience and then promote that experience. The sales will follow naturally.