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As we are living in an experience-led economy, Andrew Au, the regional managing director at Eight Inc says it is experiences that differentiate, and this is the economic and business case for experiences to be at the heart of how companies should think about their business.

It seems fitting to start a piece about the importance of design by citing one of Dieter Rams’ principles of good design*. Number 10 states that good design involves as little design as possible. I love that. When a good design is present it shouldn’t draw attention to itself. It fades into the background and allows for things to simply work.

At Eight Inc we often open our presentations with this quote from Steve Jobs:
“Design is not what it looks like and feels like. Design is how it works.”

Let’s think about that for a second. If we consider the role of design to not be about aesthetics and more about functionality then design becomes much broader, more interesting, and ultimately more purposeful.

One thing that regularly irritates me is when customer experience is mentioned it is often exclusively cited through the lens of screens. While I understand why and how we have gotten here – digital as the new kid on the block initially required different skill sets, investment and basically had to be nurtured and developed in isolation. That time has passed, and it would be outdated and ineffective to continue this model.

It’s obvious but worth restating that we don’t experience the world in silos. You don’t say “What a wonderful mobile app experience I had with Brand X, but the in-store experience was terrible.” We experience things simultaneously offline and online. We move seamlessly between the two and as such the offline experience is just as vital as the online experience and vice versa. They should be one and the same and interchangeable. They should definitely be conceived, considered and designed as an interconnected framework of experience realms and touchpoints.

There is a logical sequence to defining and articulating the human outcome we aim to achieve (what do we want people to think, feel and do as a result of our actions) and from there we can develop a strategy and subsequently a set of tactics to ladder back up to the human outcomes we seek to achieve. This requires a holistic and non-siloed approach to how companies operate and there is much work to be done in this area as most companies still operate in a siloed manner whereby marketing is responsible for marketing, sales are responsible for sales, finance is responsible for finance and rarely do these departments truly collaborate and work in tandem in a manner that allows for truly holistic and integrated customer experiences to manifest.

In the seminal book, The Experience Economy, co-authors Joe Pine and James Gilmore made the case that we started off with an agricultural model of the economy which then became an industrial economy and then subsequently a products and services economy. Now we are living in an experience-led economy. And it is experiences that differentiate, and this is the economic and business case for experiences to be at the heart of how companies should think about their business.

There are now mountains of evidence that show that companies that invest in experiences reap rewards. Here are a few key ones from Temkin:

Companies that invest in experiences:

  • Six times more likely to buy with a positive emotional experience

  • 12 times more likely to recommend a company

  • Five times more likely to forgive a mistake

McKinsey research also shows that 50% of purchases are based on word of mouth. Probably no surprise there. But what is less known is that 80% of word of mouth is generated by direct experience.

On the face of it, you could say Covid-19 has stopped the experience economy in its tracks. But think about what we are all yearning for. It’s a holiday overseas, it’s attending your sister’s wedding in Greece, it’s going to a packed cinema, going to a concert, going to a live sports event. We have been deprived of human interaction and connectivity and while digital seems omnipresent at the moment believe me this is temporary, and we will connect with each other in more meaningful and emotional ways soon.

Andrew Au is the regional managing director at Eight Inc. and the vice chair of The Marketing Society Asia.