From a pessimistic point of view, the internet has been a serious threat to the future of small brick-and-mortar businesses. But this perspective is already becoming outdated thanks to the emergence of a new economic factor, created by the internet, that stands to benefit small businesses everywhere.
The internet allows for a level of sharing, social interaction, and promotion that simply wasn’t possible three decades ago.
The experience economy is a term used to describe wide-scale desire for experiences, in place of tangible products.
If you’ve ever seen a friend’s photo that features them doing something exciting and novel, then you’ve already gotten a taste of what the experience economy is and how it operates.
While the ramifications of the experience economy are complex and far-reaching, the basis is simple: the general public has gotten tired of having the same old social experiences over and over and they’re ready for new hobbies, activities, and memories.
New businesses are opening all the time, each offering its own unique experiences, and this is exactly where small local businesses have an opportunity to shine.
As long as you’re a customer-facing business, you’re capable of hosting events and classes. It will take some planning and it won’t hurt to have a social media presence, but for the sake of getting you started off on the right foot, we conducted a short interview with Maxime Leroy, an experience economy expert and product manager who previously worked with Meetup.
Leroy shed some light on how small businesses can engineer events that will delight guests and, more importantly, drive future foot traffic and sales. Try to take these points into consideration when crafting your own in-store experiences.
What qualities are guests generally looking for in events at brick-and-mortar stores? What makes those events memorable?
When booking an experience hosted in a brick-and-mortar store, guests are often looking as much to learn something as they are to discover a new, authentic space. This is why local stores are far more attractive to people booking experiences than larger chains.
Guests are also ultimately looking to engage with store owners, or their staff, in a meaningful way. They are hoping to create a personal connection for the next time they swing by the shop, be it for another event or to buy something new. This is especially true in large urban areas where people miss a neighborhood life.
How can events encourage guests to bring their friends, therefore increasing exposure and potential for social media marketing?
One great thing about hosting experiences in your store, as opposed to selling goods, is that you are less likely to be limited by fixed margins and proportional profits. Instead, you will probably generate exponentially more profits hosting the same event for three attendees than you would hosting three separate events with only one guest showing up each time.. That is because your two most valuable, and costly, resources are your staff’s time and the use of your space. With that in mind, the unit economics behind hosting events in your store lend themselves perfectly to offer a discounted price when people buy a second, third, or fourth ticket when booking experiences.
In a nutshell: if you can bring groups of friends or couples to your experiences, they are more likely to share pictures on social media as well and increase your organic presence. It’s easier to have a friend take a picture of you when learning something new and tag you afterward!
Do you feel that businesses hosting events should directly encourage social media mentions, using hashtags, etc., or are consumers put off by these kinds of requests?
Reviews and organic social media posts are an essential part of driving more people to book your experiences. But asking guests outright for those during the event will bring back a transactional feeling that they are looking to escape for the duration of the class or workshop. Instead, try to rely as much as possible on physical reminders mentioning your social media handles to organically drive posts during the experience.
In a broad sense, what benefits might businesses expect to see after they start to host successful events/experiences? To put it another way, why should businesses take the effort to create memorable events?
Memorable, paid experiences can help stores generate additional revenue at a time where competing on price and convenience with online retailers becomes even more difficult. By hosting guests for a couple hours in their shop, business owners create relationships with future loyal buyers.
What are some common mistakes made when a business decides to tap into the experience economy? Are these mistakes easily avoided?
The first thing that business owners think about when entering the experience economy is to host free events in their stores to drive foot traffic. This is a risky bet as the experience they will be able to offer on a limited marketing budget will attract a crowd looking for freebies rather than actually purchasing something in the store. If shops are serious about tapping into the experience economy they need to go beyond the free glass-of-wine-and-tour-of-the-store events. Instead, they should take the time to craft an experience that will enable guests to learn or make something new that pairs perfectly with the original purpose of their store and the goods sold there.
Do you feel that it’s possible for these types of events to appeal to a wide age range or is the experience economy biased in favor of younger age groups?
With a focus on owning less and minimalist living, millennials in urban areas increasingly care about where and how their goods are made: sustainably, ethically, durably. This trend translates into a fantastic opportunity for local businesses as they can craft experiences to empower customers not only to buy the things they love but to participate in their making. This is a win-win for both customers and business owners, increasing revenue by combining sold goods and experience ticket sales.
Additionally, there are other specific groups that are particularly interested in booking experiences: couples, families, and colleagues. Couples and all people dating in general are looking to connect and spend time together beyond your traditional dinner and movie night. Parents are also looking to spend time more meaningfully with their kids, exposing them to a wider range of physical and creative activities that they can enjoy all together. In the workplace, colleagues are also challenging regular after-work drinks as the only way to bond and make new connections. Instead, private bookings of experiences are on the rise and offer the perfect alternative: a great way to get to know your team and share memories without the need for alcohol to be a central part of the evening.
Do you have any additional advice for businesses that are new to the experience economy as a whole?
If you’re a business owner thinking about hosting experiences in your store, you will most likely spend time thinking about which events you should craft. Don’t overthink it! Instead, research stores similar to yours in your city or even elsewhere. You will quickly end up with a few examples of great classes, workshops, or experiences that you, too, could pull off in your shop.