The Lifestyle Experience
Thirty years ago, the brand was advertising. TV and radio commercials, billboards, print ads – these, along with word-of-mouth, were just about the only interactions customers had with a brand before they bought its products, services, or even walked into a store. The goal was always the same: to persuade.
Associate Director at C Space
Christina Stahlkopf, Ph.D. is an Associate Director in C Space’s Boston office and a core member of our Global Research Team. Christina turns stats to story and is the lead architect of our Customer, Experienced. study, which connects key brand relationship behaviors to stronger business performance. A sociologist, ethnographer, and author, she’s our in-house pathfinder, constantly mapping out ways for brands to innovate and push boundaries. You’ll often find Christina on the ski slopes or being towed behind a ski boat on New Hampshire’s Lake Winnipesaukee (pronounced winna-pah-SAW-key) alongside her husband and two children.
Today, the customer experience is the brand. It includes advertising along with every single other touch point customers have with a brand – online, on phones, in stores, with employees, on the packaging, even interacting with the brand itself. But, as we look into the future, what will be the next evolution of “brand”?
Tomorrow’s focus will be still be on customers. But the customer experience will be reimagined into a lifestyle experience that’s built around and for individual customer’s lives.
For example, if you’re a vegan, chances are that a lot of brands don’t entirely “get” you. The ones that do are fragmented; therefore, your vegan lifestyle exists in separate siloes. Sure, your average Costco will have vegan cheese, but you need to travel to your nearest Whole Foods to pick up your preferred brand of vitamin B12 tablets. And what about beauty products? Well, now that’s a separate trip to LUSH or Sephora. And don’t get me started on trying to find vegan clothing…
But imagine if you could have all your specific vegan needs met from a single brand. I’m not talking about micro-targeted marketing here. What I’m talking about is something more, something different that really encapsulates the essence of customer closeness. The signs are all there. All we have to do is look to Amazon.
Yes, I can hear your disgruntled sigh (“Ugh … another Amazon story?”), but hear me out. Perhaps what is most interesting about Amazon is how it’s stealthily creating an entirely new category where it is the only entrant and only competitor – that of the lifestyle experience.
Amazon’s magic is that it’s much more than an online store. It’s an ecosystem. Enter and you can get almost anything. With an unparalleled tentacular reach, Amazon has thrown itself into industry after industry, bringing with it the ease and excellence of its customer experience. This puts Amazon in a unique position to weave together different industries into cohesive lifestyle experiences in a way that no other brand can.
Just imagine what that could look like with this hypothetical example: You order a bike and a fitness tracker from an Amazon health and wellness platform. It links all your activity data to your Amazon profile, which connects with your smart fridge to help you better manage your daily nutritional intake in relation to your daily fitness level. When you run low on healthy foods, the fridge reorders them for you. The platform also suggests health and wellness books and videos to keep you motivated, moving, and inspired.
Other than Amazon, no other company exists today that can accomplish this alone.
As we look to the future, the possibilities are for Amazon go far beyond a health and wellness platform. And customers seem to be ready for that. Nearly 90% of consumers who rated Amazon in our 2018 Customer, Experienced. report say that they would like to buy additional products and services from Amazon that they don’t currently purchase. Most interestingly, many are hoping to see Amazon expand into new and disparate industries, like car sales, real estate, healthcare, travel, financial services, cable/Internet/wireless, home care (cleaning and landscaping services), even “anything and everything.”
The expectation is that Amazon will eventually cater to all aspects of people’s individual lives. In many ways, the company has already built itself into a lifestyle experience. What consumers are not so subtly hinting at is an Amazon that services their every need within its ecosystem.
Again, only Amazon can do this alone. For now. As consumer expectations shift from experience to lifestyle, brands will have to respond. They’ll have to forge new partnerships in service to delivering more holistic lifestyle experiences. A great marketplace shake up is likely to take place, and only those who truly understand the customer will survive.
Jeff Bezos has said, “People have a voracious appetite for a better way, and yesterday’s ‘wow’ quickly becomes today’s ‘ordinary.’ ”
As consumer expectations shift toward the lifestyle experience, I’ll be waiting to see what tomorrow’s wow will be.