The mindless cycle of See-Buy-Discard –Repeat that dominated consumer behaviour over several decades and gave rise to the term “throw away society” is being reassessed by New Consumers as they evaluate what makes them really happy. Impulse shopping is giving way to a form of consumption that emphasizes relationships with producers, delayed gratification and reciprocity.
Most importantly, the quest for stuff is being replaced by the quest for experiences and almost as quickly the desire to learn, grow and be transformed. It’s as if we are jumping up the pyramid of Abraham Maslow’s Hierarchy of Values at record speed.
Yet despite Pine and Gilmore’s brilliant text on the subject of The Experience Economy, that was published twelve years ago, the vast majority of suppliers have turned their products into experiences in name only. Hotels may wax eloquently about their amenities and services but continue to sell room nights for the most ADR; airlines might compete on leg room and punctuality but really are renting out a seat in the sky from Point A to Point B. Activity and Event providers may inform, entertain, amuse or stimulate, but their primary focus is on ticket sales. None of these suppliers sees the whole customer moving through their experience and taking care of it in its entirety.
There is vast room for improvement in the staging, management and delivery of authentic experiences that enable the visitor to explore the essence of a place and enrich their own experiences.
Each place is a setting with a unique geography and unique community of individuals with fascinating stories to tell. Today’s consumer takes for granted that you will supply information about the rooms, restaurants and other services in a hotel but, as many look so similar, what they’re becoming really interested in is the character, passions and knowledge of the host.
It’s the stories we tell that foster relationships and create meaning and that’s what today’s new consumer also seeks.
Maslow’s hierarchy of needs is the best road map available to understand these shifts. Pre-recession consumers consumed or “did” places and, in some cases, their choices were made on a need to make a statement about their own personality. A growing number are now looking to give something back, to volunteer and to grow personally in some way. The authors of The Experience Economy argue cogently at the close of their book for the emergence of a Transformative Economy in which the guest directs their own personal transformation. The place becomes a setting and catalyst for self-discovery and under these circumstances can never be commoditized.
BLOG POSTS ON THE SEARCH FOR MEANINGFUL EXPERIENCES IN TRAVEL