The world is changing, and as a result, we want different things.
Most of us have already had our fill of staying inside and staring at our computers for hours, days, weeks on end.
There’s been a big increase in demand for actual events out in the real world, as you’ve probably noticed if you’ve hopped onto social media at all in the last few years.
Smart businesses are rising to meet the demand. The phenomenon is being called the experience economy, and for many small/local businesses, it just might be the secret to finding success in the age of e-commerce and convenient free delivery.
Our interview today features an expert in the experience economy: Maxime Leroy. Leroy is a product manager and designer, as well as CEO and co-founder of his own startup.
Read on for a fascinating look at the experience economy and what it means for businesses and buyers alike.
How can local businesses take advantage of the experience economy to boost their traffic?
Leroy: In an economy where local businesses are increasingly struggling to compete with online retailers on price and convenience, hosting great events and workshops in authentic brick-and-mortar stores is a competitive alternative.
Experiences offer stores the opportunity to generate new revenue, lead additional sales, and create local ambassadors in ways traditional passive foot traffic or shop-and-leave fall short.
Do you feel that specific age groups tend to be more invested in seeking out interesting experiences, or is it a universal desire?
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Leroy: Young people are becoming increasingly critical of where and how their “stuff” is made and how long it will last. This desire to live a more sustainable life is a fantastic opportunity for local businesses as they can host workshops allowing interested buyers not only to buy things but to participate in their making. This is a win-win for everyone: customers get to relate even more to what they own and stores get to increase revenue by combining inventory and ticket sales for the workshop.
Experiences are not just attractive to young people. There are specific groups of people, for instance, couples, families, and workplaces, who are looking for new ways to spend their time meaningfully. Couples, or people dating, are looking to share more meaningful memories than your traditional dinner and movie night. Families are looking to expose their kids to a wider range of physical and creative activities that they can enjoy with them throughout the year. For instance, picking up their kids every Saturday morning from an activity in which they don’t partake brings limited joy and bonding moments as a shared experience. Finally, in workplaces, close-knit colleagues or newly created teams are looking to challenge their after-work drink routine as well. Private bookings of experiences offer a more impactful way to get to know colleagues and bond, without alcohol necessarily being at the center of the evening.
Do you feel that many businesses are currently taking advantage of the experience economy or is it largely an untapped market?
Leroy: In recent months, in every city I visited, I have been struck by how many brick-and-mortar shops have been advertising paid workshops on their storefronts. Everyone from furniture stores to bakeries, bike shops, bookstores, flower shops, pottery studios, etc. have created their own unique experiences.
For a long time, stores have been hosting free events to increase foot traffic with the ultimate hope of driving sales. This has proven to be even more difficult and competitive when people can go to the store just to look at inventory, and then order online with same-day delivery a few hours after. What’s new today is that these stores are shifting their focus towards paid events, collecting a fee for every ticket, to not only drive traffic to their shops but also to generate a totally new line of revenue.
In 2020, I see a lot more stores hosting free events, taking a leap of faith, and starting to put a price on the experience they can offer. I also see a lot more stores not currently hosting any experiences, being inspired by success stories from stores doing it on the same block to start hosting their first events too, paid or free.
Based on your own experiences, what is one of the most important lessons you’ve learned about how people engage with compelling experiences?
Leroy: The most beautiful thing about how people engage with experiences is that they often go with friends. What this means for local businesses is that every time someone learns about their workshop online or on their storefront, they are more likely to book two or three tickets instead of just one. The double-edged sword here is that shops really need to provide a wonderful experience that feels authentic and not solely transactional. Otherwise, they will not only end up with one disappointed customer, but they will have also lost three potential future ambassadors, telling other friends about how great this experience was.
How does social media and FOMO feed into the experience economy among younger individuals?
Leroy: If you think of going to a party or going on vacation, both are limited to a specific time and place. This drives the wrong kind of FOMO on social media, where people see posts from their friends and know they weren’t able to be a part of it. With experiences hosted by local businesses in your city, social media posts feed a positive desire to also enjoy this experience and you’re not limited to a particular time frame.