From token service to built-in ‘immediate’ service

The experience economy was the big headline in most 2017 trend reports. This refers to consumers’ growing appetite for experiences at the expense of material possessions, and businesses’ drive to add value by offering services alongside their products.

Zenith’s 2017 trends report on Artificial Intelligence showed how data is used to create sophisticated personalised services and improve customer experience. Other reports highlighted the fact that the experience economy is now reaching critical mass.

What happened in 2017?

More businesses offered tailor-made recommendations according to their customers’ behaviour and to the preferences of people with similar interests. For example, the voice-controlled personal assistant ‘Alexa’ can recommend music that you might like based on previous listening habits.

Airbnb super hosts are out to delight, offering not only their place to stay in, but also a concierge service that surpasses anything a hotel concierge could offer. IKEA’s purchase of the digital labour market TaskRabbit has allowed it to add home assembly to the furniture-buying experience.

What’s next?

We believe experience-on-demand will be the new normal in 2018. People will expect services once considered ‘nice to have’ to be built-in to the basic product offering. Services that offer delight and surprise will become standard – delivered at the right time, for the right amount of time, and in the right place.

People expect brands to put their data to work, to improve in-the-moment experiences and uncover previously hidden insights into their behaviour. In their social lives, when traveling or eating, connected consumers don’t expect to plan ahead. Now, they’re bringing this mind-set to their product and service choices: ‘don’t make me plan ahead: adapt as I change!’ People will come to expect exceptional built-in service. The challenge is as clear as it is intimidating: serve customers’ ever changing, in-the-moment needs and offer exceptional service beyond their expectations.

The on-demand dimension focuses on immediacy and the need to deliver a personalised service to suit changing demands. When we talk about experiences, it is also important to recognise that we are moving away from functional product benefits to emotional values. Specifically for the travel and hospitality industry, it will be less about what products I have that is different and more about how an attraction, a destination or a brand can create and replicate an emotion. For marketers, the key question becomes how do I want my audience to feel?

The writer is Jason Tan, head of strategy, Zenith.