In this article, we are exploring the holistic approach to the consumer experience. It’s not just metrics and cold rationality but also experience and emotions that companies must consider when crafting their marketing strategies. We will be discussing the difference between traditional and experiential marketing, how value is measured in experiential marketing and how to sustain these experiences so that we can ensure company equity. So, let’s dive in.
Traditional vs experiential marketing. What’s the difference?
Familiarity with traditional marketing may not necessarily translate to a solid understanding of experiential marketing. Below we will discuss the difference in focus, scope, consumer mental model and marketer’s approach between the two.
Table 2 Traditional versus experiential marketing (Kirezli, 2011, p. 180)
If in the past your marketing may have focused simply on the features and benefits of your product or service at the point of sale with experiential marketing will require a much broader approach. You will need to consider all your promotion and distribution channels and those of the stakeholders you choose to do business with even if you believe that they won’t impact on your customers. There will be a greater focus on personal relationships, developing, enhancing and maintaining these will be critical. (Ailawadi and Farris, 2017; Lemon and Verhoef, 2016; Verhoef et al., 2015 in Bèzes, 2019, p. 94). It’s no longer enough to just sell. The consumer wants more.
Traditionally there was a limited way in which consumers could search for and consume products. With experiential marketing, however, consumers have far more control over their consumption experiences. You might see this in the difference between traditional printed catalogues, manned fitting rooms, and standard check-outs versus “touchscreen displays, virtual fitting rooms and self-scanning checkouts (Bèzes, 2019, p. 96). Experiential marketing means “it is consumers who trigger the experience and acquire information themselves, rather than going through the sales staff” (Collin-Lachaud and Vanheems, 2016 in Bèzes, 2019, p.97). Activities like locating a store, checking opening hours, comparing prices, checking for product availability or promotional offers, searching for additional product information or securing a product for later purchase and delivery can all be done by the customer (Bèzes, 2019, p.96).
Customer’s mental model
Whereas previously we may have only considered the cognitive aspect of a consumers experience (the function of educating and presenting information about the product or service we sell) we must now also consider the sensorial, social and relational aspects of their experience. After all our consumers are thinking and feeling beings, not just machines. What they see, smell, hear, touch and taste when they experience our products and services in-store or otherwise must be considered. The scent of a cream, the weight of a tool, the visuals that accompany website creation service all convey different things to the consumer and evoke different emotions within the consumer.
Instead of only looking at metrics such as sales revenue, net profit margin, sales growth per year, qualified leads per month, etc. Companys need to also consider the fact that “sensory, emotional, cognitive, behavioral, and relational values (may indeed) replace functional values for consumers” (Schmitt, 1999a in Tümer Kabadayi & Koçak Alan, 2014, p. 216). The aim of the company must be to create a holistic experience which takes into consideration the five senses so as to “induce positive feelings, thereby forming a memorable and emotional connection between the consumer and the company” (Hulte, 2011 in Wiedmann, Labenz, Haase & Hennigs, 2018, p. p. 102).
How is value measured in experiential marketing?
Now that we’ve compared the traditional a
nd new method of marketing, we will have to delve deeper into how value is measured in this new kind of marketing. For value, isn’t simply a question of extrinsic value but also intrinsic value. So, what are the extrinsic and intrinsic values we must take into account? These are playfulness, aesthetics, CROI and service excellence.
Figure 3 Typology of experiential value (Mathwick, Malhotra, & Rigdon, 2001, p. 42)
Intrinsic value comes from the visual appeal or entertainment value of the consumer experience. The consumer experience is transformed then from a mere commercial transaction into an opportunity to savour and appreciate every aspect of interacting with the company. Value is measured in terms of “the use of color, graphic layout and photographic quality” (Mathwick, Malhotra, & Rigdon, 2001, p. 44) for example to provide an opportunity for pure enjoyment, escapism or joy for the consumer.
Extrinsic value comes from the efficiency of the consumer experience or the quality of the product or service being offered. This might relate to the perception of the price of consumption being “ﬁnancially, temporal, behavioral and psychological” (Mathwick et al., 2001, p. 41) worth it. Additionally, consumers will consider if the company has “demonstrated expertise and task-related performance (Zeithaml, 1988 in Mathwick et al., 2001, p. 42).
What type of experiences do you need to create?
Let’s delve deeper into value and explore the different components of a consumers experience with a company. These components are sensorial, emotional, cognitive, pragmatic, lifestyle and relational. All of which will determine the value proposition and realisation of the company and the value perception and expectation of the consumer.
Figure 4 Consumer experience model (Gentile, Spinner & Noci, 2007, p. 400)
Components of consumer experience
Sensorial: these are the experiences that “address sight, hearing, touch, taste, and smell to arouse aesthetical pleasure, excitement, satisfaction, sense of beauty” (Gentile et al., 2007, p. 398). This might be video, music, or fragrance, for example, that is either contained within a product or accompanies a product. This might be intended to explore what inspired a specific product.
Emotional: these are experiences designed to evoke “moods, feelings, emotions” (Gentile et al., 2007, p. 398) thereby resulting in an emotional experience for the consumer. As a company, y may want to evoke a sense of playfulness, excitement, curiosity or wonder in your consumer.
Cognitive: these are the experiences that “engage consumers in using their creativity or in situations of problem-solving; furthermore, a company can lead the consumer to revise the usual idea of a product or some common mental assumptions” (Gentile et al., 2007, p. 398). An example might be gamification using elements related to the company or business.
Pragmatic: these are experiences related to the usability of the product not only “in the postpurchase stage, but it extends to all the product life-cycle stages” (Gentile et al., 2007, p. 398). Here we might refer to buyer guides, guides on how to make the product last, guides on how to store and handle the product or guides on additional accessories related to the purchased product.
Lifestyle: these are the experiences related to “adhesion to certain values the company and the company embody, and the consumers share” (Gentile et al., 2007, p. 398). An example of this might be experiences related to sustainability with recyclable or reusable product packaging or containers.
Relational: these are the experiences that “encourages the use/consumption together with other people or which is the core of a common passion… (leading to the) creation of a (company tribe) or… a means of formation of social identity, inducing a sense of belonging or of distinction from a social group” (Gentile et al., 2007, p. 398).
Company versus consumer
Value proposition versus value perception: A company may attempt to entice a consumer by choosing one or more of these consumers to develop or maintain a connection. Whether the consumer perceives the experience in the way it was intended however is what makes all the difference.
Value expectation vs value realisation: A consumer may have certain expectations of the consumer experience based on how well a company delivers the intended consumer experience. It is the consumer who will decide if this attempt has been successful and if so, only then will be able to realise the value of their attempts.
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In this article, we have explored a holistic approach to the consumer experience. We’ve seen it’s not just metrics and cold rationality but also experience and emotions that companies must consider when crafting their marketing strategies. We’ve discussed the difference between traditional and experiential marketing, how value is measured in experiential marketing and how to sustain these experiences so that we can ensure company equity. Experiential marketing is about providing memories that evoke cognitive and emotional reactions which perhaps are harder to measure but are certainly just as important for a company.
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