The Experience Economy: Why I Can’t Sell My China

My husband and I are on a quest to downsize and get rid of “stuff” that serves no purpose in our lives. This includes our two sets of beautiful Wedgwood china that we lovingly chose many years ago. But, to our dismay, no one wants it. Not even our sons. And it’s not just me. My friends who share a few gray hairs are experiencing the same.

It turns out the world has changed dramatically since our young days of hedonistic consumerism. And it’s probably changed forever. What’s going on? Consider the following:

According to Business Insider, millennial home ownership is at an all-time low. In fact, according to Trulia, 71% of millennials surveyed regret the purchase in the first place. They simply don’t like the debt, and they regret investing money into a permanent home. Furthermore, they are moving to smaller urban spaces that do not allow for the “collection of stuff.” In other words, “things” don’t matter.
The obsession with Tiny Houses. I can count at least four television shows that promote this streamlined type of living. Personally, I’m obsessed with the idea. According to a ValueInsured survey, millennials are not investing in large homes. And even more surprising, it’s the baby boomers who are more likely to purchase lower-priced homes.

What’s going on? People (not just millennials) are moving toward collecting experiences over things. The “Experience Economy” values more time with family and more money to travel, as well as more time and money to experience all that life might offer. Something other than things. In fact, one could argue that we are a society looking to simplify, even moving toward a minimalist lifestyle. What’s even more telling is the fact that our digital world takes the place of stuff we needed in the past (storage for CDs, for example).

Recently, I was sitting around a C-level roundtable discussing this very topic, and one gentleman even claimed that the move toward “experiences” is for social bragging rights. You’ve seen it – pictures of food, concerts, vacations, etc. – all over social media. Whatever the reason, the Experience Economy is here.

So, if you are a brand like Road Scholar, you are in pretty good shape. But what about the rest of you? Brands that listen to consumers and find opportunities among their evolving wants and needs, rather than in spite of them, are the ones winning today. Consider Nordstrom and their “tiny store” model that offers experiences over shopping. Or Bonobos, who has created a unique retail experience in which you cannot walk out the door with merchandise. Or even ThirstyNest who offers personalized wine gifts to newlyweds who are interested in creating memories over filling up a china cabinet.

So, with smaller living spaces and fewer dollars being spent on things, what’s a brand to do? Ask yourself the following three questions:

How do my products create an experience or enrich the lives of my customers? If you sell puzzles, shouldn’t you really be selling family time, allowing loved ones to gather together and enjoy each other? If it’s a pair of shoes, are they comfortable enough for someone to enjoy the concert they’re attending, or are they lightweight and easy to pack for their next adventure? It’s critical you change the selling benefits of products to reflect how the world has changed.

Are you evolving your product line to reflect the down-sizing of America or the Experience Economy? Are you moving toward products that provide simplicity, efficiency or multi-use? Or, are you developing products that provide unique experiences and allow for social bragging? A word of caution: Just because you have a best-seller today doesn’t mean it will fit into the lifestyle of your customer tomorrow. Evolve!

Have you considered out-of-the-box ideas or shopping experiences with a unique twist that your customer will appreciate? I’m sure there was a time we might have laughed at brands like Bonobos, but who’s laughing now? And didn’t we think continuity programs were dead? Nope. Consider brands like Blue Apron, Birchbox or Stitch Fix that have turned consumerism into a streamlined experience.

Unfortunately, marketing has become more difficult! But, only if you are thinking about selling “things.” People don’t need or want your things anymore. The sharp marketers of tomorrow will be the ones who understand this strange new world we live in and wrap their products into experiences. As for my china? I’m going to change my Letgo description to: the perfect set of breakable dishes for your next Greek gathering.

The Truth About Menu Boards

Digital Menu Boards are utilized in less than 20% of restaurants in overall nation. The other 80% are needlessly missing out on some incredibly easy and effective ways to increase the bottom line.

What’s today’s special?

Over half of restaurant customers look to menu boards specifically to find out what’s on special. But incredibly, almost half the time the very information that these eager customers were looking for, literally with their money in their hands, was nowhere to be found! For the 80%, it’s easy to see why. Imagine how difficult it would be to change static chalkboard signage every time you change your special. For owners of digital display systems, what’s on your display can be changed at the touch of a button, with the changes automatically reflected in your POS system, too.

This disadvantage is especially crushing if your major target consumers are younger. The Millennials, perhaps the most important demographic for QSR establishments, are less set in their ways about everything, including the food that they eat. They are looking for new food experiences and your meal specials are prime candidates. Why would you want to miss this opportunity?

One picture is worth 1000 words:

QSR customers are in a hurry. They won’t take a time to read lengthy explanations. That’s why pictures are essential, especially if you’re promoting a new menu item. A tantalizing vision of your latest promotional special, in all its mouthwatering glory in living color, will have your customers reaching for their wallets far faster than any verbal description. While posting great pictures is as easy as a few taps on a keyboard for operators boasting digital display systems, it will present much more of a challenge for those still stuck with chalkboard or painted signage.

Greater control with digital signage:

For franchises or other types of multi-site operators, what customers see on menu boards can be centrally controlled. A new limited time offer and new pricing can be made to appear at all your locations, whether they are on the other side of town, or on the other side of the continent. And, if you’re spending millions on advertising that great new blockbuster offer on the web and on TV, you want to make sure that what your hungry, eager customers see on your menu signs is in sync with the expectations that you spent so much time, effort and money in creating.

How To Know When You Need A New Advertising Agency

Even though many of us don’t own or run our own businesses, we know that times can be pretty rough in the business world. In order to stand out and compete, businesses will take on the services of an advertising agency so that while the business focuses on having a solid product or service to offer, the advertising agency can focus on making the business a consumer juggernaut.

In practice, this sounds great. In fact, the argument can be made that this is the way to go for businesses looking to stay ahead of the game versus their competition. Far more often than you’d think, businesses will try to take on advertising internally, figuring that no one knows their business better than they do. The problem with this is that at some point, you’re too close and drawing conclusions on advertising strategy is being done based on emotion rather than analysis & assessment. In the same way you can’t really tickle yourself, it’s hard to handle your own advertising.

But, sometimes the job isn’t getting the job done. What was once an exciting partnership isn’t quite as productive, and you wonder what the future holds. Moreover, you hope you see the signs of decline before it starts affecting your bottom line.

How can you tell it’s time for a new advertising agency? Well, that be harder than you think. Here are a few tell-tale signs it’s time to part ways:

You Encounter Nothing But “Yes” Men – A business owner may find the idea of uniform agreement pretty nice simply because it makes you feel as though you’ve got all of the answers. The problem is that an advertising agency needs to be able to challenge their client to think differently.

You Lose Track of the Numbers – How advertising dollars are spent weekly, monthly, quarterly, or yearly helps a business know where they stand financially, where they need to re-group, and how best to move forward. Transparency is key, but if an advertising agency isn’t keeping communication about these numbers open, the business who hired them is flying blind.

Your Advertising Agency is Missing in Action – When things are new & exciting, the advertising agency you hired for your business is maintaining regularly scheduled communication, providing a breakdown of all that is happening with your account. Over time, though, the communication becomes less frequent, and the business starts feeling left out and less important. Tension can fester, making subsequent meetings with the agency feel forced and uncomfortable. Both sides may dread appointments. It’s time for a change.

The one thing businesses need to keep in mind when working with an advertising agency is that in order for plans and strategies to play out, it takes time. Each side plays their part in achieving goals & milestones along the way. However, keep in mind that an advertising agency works for your business, and if they aren’t cutting it anymore, you have to find an agency that will.