When it comes to fitting into the time models presented by Pine and Gilmore in The Experience Economy, technology is now allowing companies to have their cake and eat it too.
In case you need a quick rundown on these time models:
Time well-spent: slows down time. It provides customers with an experience; something that creates emotional memories that customers will carry with them forever.
Time well-saved: speeds up time. It would focus on reducing the time and effort it takes for customers to perform a task. Thus, giving time back to customers so it can be used doing the things they love, like hanging out with friends and family, or doing something that brings joy.
The original concept is that companies should fit into one model or the other in order to succeed in the Experience Economy. But back in 1998, Pine and Gilmore had no way of predicting the birth of the game-changing smart phone.
How Apps changed the Experience landscape
While some doomsday prophets predicted that apps and more specifically Amazon would bring the end of an age, business to consumer (B2C) companies found a way to resurrect retail through what we like to call the “hybrid time model”.
By providing customers with fast, low-effort experiences through apps on their smart-phones, companies were then free to transform their brick-and-mortars into brand experience centers. Thus, in a true stroke of corporate genius, provide customers with both a time well-saved and a time well- spent model under the same brand. Here are a couple examples of companies who are using technology to offer both models to their customers.
As only Disney can, they’ve provided us with a brilliant case of an app adding time well-saved features to a time well-spent experience. So, how do you think the pinnacle of time-well spent models is crossing over into my so-called “hybrid time model”? Have you seen the Disney World app recently? First of all, it’s amazing. Secondly, Disney World partnered with Google Maps to offer an amazingly detailed map of Magic Kingdom.
You can choose to view the map by wait times, attractions, photo-passes, and many other options. This way, you save the time you’d otherwise spend finding out which rides are full or available. And want to hear the best news? You now schedule limitless fast-passes (one at a time) directly through the app!
Starbucks is undoubtedly queen of the coffee experience. In recent years, however, it seemed to have lost its homey feel, and especially in highly urbanized areas, it wasn’t uncommon to find the place crammed with people — which means saying goodbye to the prospect of enjoying a cup of joe in peace and quiet. But thanks to its mobile phone app (plus its intuitive rewards program), more and more customers are opting to grab and go. All the customer needs to do after choosing and paying directly through the app is to show up and pick up his or her order, which is usually ready when the customer arrives.
As a result, many Starbucks branches have once again found themselves a haven for people looking for a place to experience their coffee. In fact, Starbucks is investing even further in immersive experiences for customers, like the sprawling 23,000 sq. ft. Reserve Roastery which opened in New York’s Meatpacking District late last year, with similar locations slated to be built in Chicago and Tokyo this year.
Financial services companies like banks have seen a significant decrease in foot traffic in recent years thanks to their efficient mobile apps and transfer options, such as Zelle. But while mobile experiences have become faster and more efficient, the trip to the bank agency has become synonymous with trouble-shooting, red-tape, and headaches. One company, however, has decided to change that negative association.
Capital One is now showcasing its new approach to bank branches: the Capital One Cafe. The brand figured that since most customers would do their more basic bank transactions through the mobile app, most of the customers who would take the time to visit a physical location probably had more complicated concerns. That meant staying longer, and Capital One wanted to make that time as comfortable as possible.
In a recent interview, Capital One Senior Vice President Lia Dean, explains the strategy behind the image change, saying that “customers are over the corporate thing,” and hopes that “people stumble in and discover us.”
It’s bold, but it might be the push the finance industry needs to rebuild customer relations, especially with a customer base that recalls the financial crisis and the various public scandals in the years that followed.
Amazon has long been blamed/heralded as the instigator of the retail apocalypse. But they are not immune to the speed of change and they know it. They’ve also got on-board with the hybrid-time model by doing the opposite of other players, and moving from the internet into the real world.
Amazon currently has two types of physical stores, the ‘Amazon Go’ convenience store and ‘Amazon 4-star’, a store that only sells top-rated products from the web-based marketplace. While the convenience store seems to fall under ‘time well-saved’ it is in truth a way for customers to have a physical experience with everything Amazon stands for as a brand; quick, intuitive, practical, easy. Shopping there is a way to live the Amazon experience.
‘Amazon 4-star’ caters to a different crowd. The crowd who isn’t shopping out of necessity, but for pleasure. Customers don’t go there to buy anything specifically, they go there to browse the selection of top-rated products that Amazon has curated for a particular demographic; most specifically, folks making their way through SoHo, one of NYC’s trendiest neighborhoods.
Don’t fear the reaper
Many saw mobile apps as the grim reaper of physical retail stores, especially early on. Many also saw this as an opportunity to make their operations more efficient and enhance their core message. Especially if brands are, as this Procedia study posits, a “means for consumers to better express themselves and their own desired personal lifestyle”, being boring and generic just won’t do anymore.
Apps didn’t kill retail…but they did force it to evolve.
Customers seem increasingly comfortable with relegating production-line efficiency to their mobile experiences, while preferring real-life, intimate and personalized interactions with the brands they support. While mobile apps continue to help everyone get on with life faster, companies have the opportunity to provide a more immersive customer experience at the same time. If that isn’t a win-win, I don’t know what is.
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