This article dives into brand experiences, a main brand trend highlighted in our 2024 outlook.

What do we value in 2024? Historically, consumers have placed a lot of value on the big house with the vaulted ceilings, and all the “things” that can fill it. But times have changed. Perhaps it was the inability to do things for awhile, or see people we care about. Or maybe it stems from a change in priorities driven by younger generations, or a shift toward more purposeful living. All in all, consumers crave connection.

Today, more than ever before, consumers are valuing experiences over material goods. So what can brands learn from the experience economy trends we’re witnessing? To capture the heart of the consumer, and in turn their loyalty, brands must craft customized human experiences that foster deeper emotional connections.

Experiences in, “things” out

Quality products simply are not enough in 2024. Consumers increasingly value experiences over products alone – they would rather hold onto a unique memory than a unique commodity. According to a study conducted by Expedia and the Center for Generational Kinetics, 74% of Americans now prioritize experiences over products or things.

This has been expedited by the COVID-19 pandemic and the new reality we inhabit in its wake. Hybrid and remote work has allowed people the flexibility to reprioritize how they spend their time, where they spend it, and who they spend it with. Today, office attendance is still 30% lower than before the pandemic, according to the McKinsey Global Institute. Workcations are trending up, as is the digital nomad lifestyle. Those with the flexibility to work from anywhere are plugging in from beaches in exotic locales where the cost of living is lower and the summers are endless.

Technology also enables more immersive and personalized engagements, allowing brands to understand customers on a deeper level before team members engage with them. Brands that understand how to connect with consumers emotionally will give them the experiences they crave, and hone in on the experience economy trends.

Building an experience-driven brand

The building blocks of a brand poised to win in the experience economy span from audience insights to company culture. Let’s dive into the non-negotiables for brands that connect on an emotional level.

Know your audience inside and out

In the experience economy, making meaningful connections with customers requires truly understanding who they are and what matters to them. While brands historically grouped consumers based on basic demographics and product usage, modern analytics allow for 360-degree views of individuals through contextual analysis powered by AI.

Advanced customer data platforms aggregate information from multiple sources like purchases, web browsing, loyalty programs, and social media to uncover granular psychographic profiles. Analyzing this data reveals nuances like personal interests, values, motivations, and pain points on an individualized basis. Technologies like machine learning uncover patterns in attributes and behaviors that allow for hyper-personalized segmentation.

Mapping detailed customer journeys then provides further intelligence – tracking key brand touchpoints and moments of emotional significance, delight or frustration at an individual level. Reviewing these contextual insights arms brands with the ability to predict what types of experiences will forge authentic connections for each customer.

Leading companies get to know target consumers as multidimensional individuals. They understand individual backgrounds, passions, beliefs, and goals in order to craft tailored brand interactions that strike an emotional chord. The most successful brands in the modern era move from broadcasting generic mass messages to nurturing one-to-one lifelong relationships.

Crafting unforgettable moments

Making deep customer connections depends first on understanding motivations and values. But data alone does not create engagement – distinctive experiences activate emotional bonds. Consumers are led to experiences by their emotions, first and foremost. To get their attention, move your marketing focus from the functional benefits of your brand to its emotional resonance with your audience.

Monigle and American Banker partnered together for the third volume of the Humanizing Brand Experience: Financial Services study. When ranking 18 intellectual drivers, they found that banking customers ranked individualization fourth among 10 emotional drivers in both 2022 and 2023 – up two spots from the previous year, proving tailored experiences are increasingly important for brands to win market share.

Brands have an opportunity to integrate the latest tech for immersive and interactive encounters to personalize the experiences you’re creating. For example, Cedars-Sinai’s new Xaia app leverages augmented reality and AI to provide immersive therapy sessions, transporting patients to relaxing environments like beaches or meadows for meditation.

This experiential approach aims to reduce patient stress and anxiety by nurturing patients emotionally and empowering them with self-directed holistic healing. Rather than just treating medical issues, Cedars-Sinai taps into the experiential space through technological innovation anchored in compassion.

We are in a moment in time where technology has the capacity to connect brands and consumers through empathy. Utilizing these tools to create unique and meaningful experiences for customers will keep them coming back to your brand.

Rallying teams around experience

Your employees are the guides on your consumer’s journey. If your brand stands for something, your employees should be able to rally behind that shared belief and convey it with confidence to customers.

Employees on the front lines who interact directly with customers play a crucial role as experience-crafters. More than just service providers, they build relationships, turning abstract branding into tangible consumer experiences. But to be empowered to do so, consistent, experience-driven values need to trickle down all the way from the c-suite to the customer teams.

Forward-thinking companies invest in proper training around brand values and tone so team members grasp the types of experiences they are curating. This establishes alignment on the emotional impact the brand strives to impart. With this understanding, employees gain confidence to personalize engagements, rather than stick to rigid scripts.

Empowering staff with tools and autonomy further enables the flexibility to tailor interactions to the individual. Whether through discretion to resolve issues or capabilities to deliver surprises that spark delight, team members can harness their judgment to foster positive experiences. The ability to quickly access information to address specific customer needs or seamlessly fulfill special requests also helps facilitate meaningful connections.

An organization with a culture built on shared beliefs and purpose is one that both team members and customers can engage with at an emotional level. When employees feel genuinely fulfilled in their roles, this shines through in their demeanor and interactions. Training centered on soft skills like empathy, active listening and problem solving helps staff forge authentic connections by focusing on the person, not just transactions.

While experiences may be designed by strategists at headquarters, it is employees on the ground who ultimately sculpt emotional brand impressions through ongoing customer relationships. An empowered team who intimately understands the essence of a brand are the craft experiences that shape perceptions one interaction at a time.

Experiencing your brand

The experience economy shows no signs of slowing down. Consumers increasingly seek fulfillment through memorable and meaningful engagements with the brands they know and love. This has deep implications for how enterprises should approach acquisition, retention, and loyalty.

Transactional interactions must become relational interactions. The most successful brands will excel in customer intimacy – leveraging data and technology to demonstrate genuine empathy, compassion, and emotional intelligence with every personalized interaction.

Maintaining brand integrity across channels and interactions depends first on articulating a “North Star” vision – the guiding values that shape the ideal experience you strive to create for your customers. This acts as a compass for executives and team members alike weighing how innovations align with foundational brand values, so that new initiatives reinforce emotional resonance rather than undermine it through dilution.

The path forward requires embracing vulnerability and transparency. Brands can no longer hide behind opaque corporate structures and anonymous teams. Leaders and team members must engage openly as human beings building relationships with human beings. Showcasing real personalities allows consumers to connect with the lifeblood behind the brand.

The experience economy playbook continues to evolve, but putting people first is the safest bet to stay relevant.

Ready to level up the experiences you deliver? Connect with us and we’ll set up some time to brainstorm how to capture your customers in the experience economy.

March 20, 2024 By Monigle