Today’s connected generation of digital natives has shocked advertisers and businesses alike by its desire and willingness to spend on experiences over things. They’re not concerned with owning the most expensive watch or getting the newest car. As they consume less, they do more. They seek new, immersive experiences: traveling the world, building meaningful relationships, and satisfying a nearly insatiable curiosity for art, culture and unique events.
This all contributed to the rise of the Experience Economy. First coined back in 1998, the core concept of the Experience Economy is that businesses must create memorable events for customers, nd that these memories become the product— the “experience.” Today, we’ve reached peak Experience Economy, moving from valuing materialism to doing, and along the way documenting more things.
With so many physical businesses failing due to stiff corporate competition, the writing is on the wall: innovate or die. In order to stay relevant, businesses need to insert themselves in the Experience Economy by leveraging technology to bridge the consumer gap, instilling a meaningful and ongoing relationship between consumers and the brand-both online and IRL (in real life).
It’s the ultimate paradox: the bigger your brand gets, the harder it is to relate to consumers.
The tendency often is that when your brand gets bigger, you become more detached from it. You have more money to spend, but you need it because the task is that much greater. It seems counterintuitive, but big brands are struggling as they want to feel intimately connected to consumers in ways that their size prohibits.
In contrast, by virtue of their size, small businesses are closer to their customers. Owners of SMBs (small and midsize businesses) get to take more risks. They can be more nimble and agile.
In the United States especially, we want small businesses to succeed. SMBs are the backbone of the nation’s economy. In fact, US businesses with fewer than 20 workers make up 89.4 percent of the workforce.
But in an era of Goliaths, like Amazon and Wal-Mart, who are killing department stores and crushing many business verticals, the challenge for small business owners is clear: How can we position our niche when competing against these giant corporations?
After all, when it comes to competing on price, selection, and convenience, big corporations are likely to win.
As a small business owner, your brand and your loyal customers are your most valuable assets against the big boys. They drive your business and keep your doors open.
The Old Ways are Dead
Just adding a few new fans per day to your business isn’t going to rocket you to the top of your SMB’s competitor group. Businesses are striving to earn their customers loyalty, which is paramount to their survival. How do they turn fans into raving brand evangelists?
First: Forget how things have been done traditionally.
Adding a hashtag on social media posts isn’t nearly enough. It’s white noise advertising to consumers.
You’ve got to spend money to make money, right? Advertising must be the answer. But, it turns out that that’s no longer working either. Traditional advertising mainstays are dead: A full 89 percent of ad content is ignored by today’s consumer.
What about social decals like Yelp placed on your business storefront? Nope, nobody cares, because everyone is on social. It’s like saying “we accept credit cards.” I would hope you do by now.
Competing against these 800-pound gorillas, who control so much commerce, can seem like a pretty bleak proposition. But what if you could give people an easy way to share your business by word-of-mouth in an organic, fun and authentic way? That’s right, something customers want to do for you and with you.
SMBs should never forget that word of mouth is the most powerful marketing tool. The numbers don’t lie: word of mouth marketing drives over $6 trillion in annual consumer spend.
You can complain. You can quit. Or, you can do something about it. Successful businesses don’t grow by accident. They grow by design. They utilize new, social-ready technology that helps their customers help them succeed.
Attract Customers with Social-Ready Technology
It’s a cutthroat economy, and success and growth starts with delivering an unforgettable in-store experience and providing real value to your local community.
People love to shop but, with so many online retailers, they need a compelling reason to get off the couch and go to a physical location. Consider modern human nature: People also love to take selfies and share everything they do. Harness this as a motivator, and give customers a compelling piece of content they can share to their social networks.
Enter the photo booth, or selfie station.
One effective way SMBs can deliver such an experience to consumers is with digital photo booths or selfie stations. These photo opportunity areasserve as the marketing and advertising vehicle, and are genuinely fun for shoppers to use in stores. They help businesses engage customers and build their brand.
These selfie stations are dedicated areas of a business’ store designed to be photographed, utilizing digital technology like an iPad. Store owners control the creative experience around the photo and it further reinforces their brand. Best of all, selfie stations are a continuous growth engine. The selfie station never stops working for you as long as your doors are open.
To stay relevant brands and businesses must literally reinvent the end to end consumer experience, including how that experience can be social. Enabling opportunities for sharing images on social channels solves a huge piece of the experience puzzle.
Photo Experiences Work
Pigment, a boutique brick-and-mortar retail store in San Diego, California, has been using a selfie booth for over a year to differentiate themselves from competitors and create a unique, interactive experience with a next-generationn photo kiosk.
According to Pigment’s operation manager, Tiffany Moore: “People will often come here seeking out our HALO photo experience, specifically because they’ve seen their friends on the internet or on Instagram from the photo booth area.”
Averaging over 2,000 photos per month, Pigment customers share and amplify their experience on social media, creating an unbeatable merging of digital and ‘real life.’ Experiences that delights and engages current customers, while reaching a set of entirely new customers with social amplification.
So, entrepreneurs of SMBs: Embrace the Experience Economy.
Evolving your small business won’t happen overnight. But, if you provide value and experiences to your local community, your business will no longer be about delivering and competing solely on product, which is a losing proposition. Instead, your value will lie in the unrivaled, in real-life experiences you deliver to your customers.