Delivering the Customer Experience

Win the Online Shopping Battle

4 Ways to Compete against Internet Appliance Sellers (and others)

The Experience EconomyA 1999 book The Experience Economy by Joseph Pine and James Gilmore has become a handbook for winning customers for life by marketing experiences. Their premise that businesses can differentiate themselves by transforming products and services from commodities into experiences spawned a movement based on finding new ways to engage and delight customers. Starbucks was used as one example of how a pure commodity, coffee, worth only a few cents in its raw state, can be transformed into a memorable experience for which consumers will stand in line to spend several dollars for a single cup.

When Pine and Gilmore wrote The Experience Economy in 1999, the online bookseller had yet to turn a profit. Today, online selling has expanded to electronics, cameras, and yes even major appliances. Yet the groundbreaking thinking in The Experience Economy is as valid today as it was nearly 15 years ago. In fact, with the challenges posed to brick and mortar retailers by internet sellers, Experience Marketing may be more important than ever.

Here are some methods that appliance retailers and others, utilizing the concept of Experience Marketing, can compete and win in today's connected market.

1. Use all the Senses. Internet customers cannot touch, smell, or taste when shopping online. Make sure that shoppers at your business are able to interact with the product. After thirty years in the appliance industry it still amazes me that buyers have an appliance at home that isn't working and they enter an appliance store to find it full of appliances that also aren't working. Appliance dealers should invest in live appliances for their showroom. When customers can touch, smell, and taste the food coming out of a new convection oven, they can imagine the pleasure of having this product in their home. An internet retailer can't compete with that. A real live salesperson is there to remind the customer how easy it is to order and schedule the delivery and installation without leaving the store.

2. Personalize the experience. Yes, it's important to address the customer by name, but personalizing the experience is much more than this. A buyer purchasing a complete kitchen package needs a lot of assistance to get it right. There are many questions that she needs answered, and just as many questions that you need answered regarding availability of gas and electric lines, dimensions, brand preferences, etc. It's almost impossible to do this all efficiently online. You can give the buyer a memorable experience, and a great outcome that perfectly fits her unique needs.

3. Put on a show – stage an experience. When walking into a showroom for a Southern California luxury appliance and plumbing fixtures business, customers find themselves in front of a large espresso bar where they are greeted by a barista offering them a hand crafted espresso drink. You know right away that you're in for a unique experience. Remember, you're calling this a showroom. Make each visit to your business memorable.

4. Leverage the internet to enhance the experience and leverage your showroom to promote your web presence. Don't think of your website and social media as something apart from your store. Use the internet to draw customers into your building with promotions and events. An active blog will build your credibility and add to the customer experience. When you crosslink your media and tie your online capabilities to the brick and mortar buying experience you're offering a buying experience which your “internet only” competitor cannot match.

American Express 2012 Customer Service Barometer shows that “three out of four consumers say they have spent more with a company because of a history of positive customer service experiences.” Make sure that your customers get not just a product, but a great experience by using these 4 methods to win the online shopping battle.

What ideas do you have for winning the online battle?


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