by Training & Development Manager Tiffany Tinsley
Interactive customer experiences are important in driving today’s retail success. This mantra holds true in the realm of trade shows, as well. People (translation: attendees) are demanding more: more interaction, more stimulation, more personalization, more value.
In this world that values experiences over products, L’Occitane en Provence is designing boutique-style stores to focus on the experience – not the product. Paul Blackburn, vice president of concept and design, construction and merchandising for L’Occitane en Provence recently shared at the ICX Summit last month that customers increasingly want to interact with the products and participate in demonstrations by “product ambassadors” while visiting with their friends.
When designing the New York flagship store, L’Occitane en Provence prioritized establishing a community where clients felt comfortable enjoying themselves and could relax with their friends. Standing firmly behind the belief that an increased customer experience generates higher profits, L’Occitane designed their flagship store with interactivity as their main goal. Blackburn pointed to a Bain and Co. Survey that states “80% of companies believe they deliver a superior customer experience. Yet, only 8% of customers believe these companies deliver a superior customer experience.” This alarming discrepency exemplifies the importance of tailoring the interactive experience to the customers.
Following L’Occitane’s example, smart event and meeting planners are focusing on the customer’s experience, striving to inspire, engage and transform.
The strategy was reinforced at ICX Summit by Marriott’s David Kepron, the vice president of global design strategies – lifestyles brand. Kepron spoke about several factors that drive the customer experience.
- Developing “places not spaces” – A space can be anywhere, but a “place” is something special. Designing places that focus on the customer experience is key. Spaces that encourage people to interact with each other, or the products being demonstrated, awaken our emotions and senses. They create lasting memories and become special “places” in our minds.
- Ritual Participation – When we go through the process of participating in a familiar ritual, the very act of doing the ritual gives us a sense of meaning. The ritual elevates the event in our minds, and makes us feel like we are part of something larger than ourselves
- Playtime – Play is at the foundation of who we are. It allows us to learn about empathy and understand emotions. Playtime makes the experience true and authentic.
- Storytelling – Humans are innately creative. We make stories that, in turn, make other things. If you make a story while experiencing an event, the art of telling the story makes the experience more important and personal. Create places that allow your audience to participate in writing the story – not just observing it.
A selfie station is an example that incorporates all the above. Attendees gather together to take selfies at fun locations throughout the event which establishes the event as a place – not a space. Next, the ritual of going through the selfie process (posing, taking the picture, uploading the picture to social media) elevates the event in their mind and serves as “playtime.” It is fun! By participating in the selfie ritual, the attendee is now participating in, developing, and sharing the story. The event has now become an interactive customer experience that the attendee will not forget.
The Expo Group’s Think-Feel-Do-Keep-Share methodology for strategic event design aligns with both these ICX Summit presentations. In following L’Occitane and Marriott’s lead, placing the customer experience at the forefront should be the driving force in designing your next event.
Images provided by Paul Blackburn’s keynote address and ICX Summit.