Customer experience is at the heart of digital – and marketing

In a few weeks we will be celebrating marketing at the world’s first Festival of Marketing. In line with our Modern Marketing Manifesto, we believe that now is an exciting time to be in the industry. London is the right place to have this festival given the UK’s globally recognised prowess in marketing, design and creativity.

Ashley Friedlein

The events that make up the Festival (Jump, Crunch, Punch, Funnel) cover different aspects of marketing. But perhaps the unifying theme is customer experience, across digital and physical. 

The ‘experience economy’ was first proposed by Pine and Gillmore in 1998 in the Harvard Business Review. It describes how economies mature over time from ‘commodity’ through ‘goods’ to ‘services’ and, finally, ‘experiences’. In this final stage businesses can charge for the value of the “transformation”, of the “feeling”, that an experience offers.

Customer experience is one of the core constituents of our Modern Marketing Manifesto. We believe that it is becoming the best source of competitive advantage. Indeed, the experiences themselves are marketing.

We can all, no doubt, think of feelings and experiences that relate to the physical world. I would encourage you to watch Richard Seymour’s TED talk on how we ‘feel’ beauty. We can have visceral feelings, ones that hit us in the solar plexus. Perhaps a piece of music, literature, art and so on. 

But what about the digital world? Is it possible, as (digital) marketers, to deliver such experiences? When was the last time you got all choked up about a website or app? Can you recall a transformative digital experience? Have you felt the beauty of digital?

To be honest, I’m not sure I have. There are stories and content online that have captured the imagination: Dove’s Real Beauty Sketches, Caine’s Cardboard Arcade, perhaps even Volkswagen’s “The Force” Star Wars ad? These may cause a tightening in your stomach but they are not inherently a digital, or interactive, experience. They just testify to the power of storytelling and the pathos of the human condition whatever
the medium. 

So the question remains: what inherently digital experience, product or service has struck you momentarily silent? 

The first time I used Google Earth I remember being pretty awestruck. I see that the likes of Hailo and AirBnB are building highly successful businesses based on outstanding customer experiences as opposed to extensive advertising. We know too that the likes of Amazon and Google have become the titans they have from their relentless optimisation of the customer experience. 

It is rare we single out the Government for excellence in anything, let alone digital experiential marketing, but I think GDS (Government Digital Service) is a shining example. Even US digital sage Tim O’Reilly described its digital strategy as “inspiring”, “revolutionary” and as the “new Bible for anyone working in government … around
the world”. 

Not only does GDS have a digital strategy, it has digital and design principles that all make a lot of sense. The evidence so far is that it is practising what it preaches – and it is working. 

Its strapline for the digital transformation it is bringing about is “digital services so good people prefer to use them”. This focus on the customer and on the experiences is not
only at the heart of what it is to be ‘digital’, but it should be at the heart of what it is to be a modern marketer. 

I asked my wife last night whether she’d had any digital experiences that had hit her in the solar plexus, which she physically felt as beauty. She thought for a second and replied, in all seriousness, “renewing my car tax online”.

To hear more about delivering outstanding experiences across online and offline come to Jump on Wednesday 9 October, part of the Festival of Marketing brought to you by Marketing Week, Econsultancy, Design Week and Creative Review. Download a preview of the show here.

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