Innovation is a “machine” to push the boundaries. The enormous dynamic it deploys shifts borders. The culture of innovation is largely based on a positive interpretation of the notions of imbalance and disruption.
These two terms (“imbalance” and “rupture”) which could designate weaknesses in the previous system of thought, that of the third industrial revolution, have today become strengths. With the fourth industrial revolution, ours, that of digital, we have entered a system where much of what was strong yesterday is precisely what weakens us today.
At the same time as it moves the border which establishes the place of things, innovation also modifies that of the meaning of words. And this is very well concentrated in the evolution of the meaning of a single term, which has become one of the key words of the digital revolution: “experience”.
“Experience” referred to the world of production (a good worker had to to have experience), while the term now predominantly designates the heart of what determines and calibrates the act of consumption (the consumer must make experience in discovering and frequenting a brand or product).
Experience: a matter of meaning
It was an old word. He said the long time, the meticulous learning, the certainty of the right gesture or the relevant decision, based on a considerable time spent perfecting a practice: to work was to acquire experience. And “having experience” was a sign of having spent time doing and redoing actions. Experience served as a guarantee: one who had spent a certain time in a certain field of knowledge or practice knew more than one who knew nothing about it. Experience is even what differentiates the apprentice from the confirmed worker: the apprentice is there to gain experience. What is a CV (literally: a “life path”) if not the claim of a path of acquired experience? The experience was seen as a positive stratification of time: the time it took to acquire, integrate and refine the perfection of a practice or gesture.
So we have long considered experience from a simple equation that more and more experience means more and more efficiency. Well, that is no longer totally true! This experience of mastering a long-term practice, which was what someone had value in a given job market, is no longer the only proof of performance today. In reality, experience is an asset which, like everything else, is likely today in certain sectors to serve those who guarantee it. Indeed, in a society of permanent innovation which has made change an imperative, it can be seen as synonymous with traditional, immobile, in short: possibly outdated. Of course, certain experiences remain irreplaceable for a long time: in the medical field, that of surgery or management, for example. But many strongholds of human experience are being overtaken by the increasingly astonishing performance of machines and robots. This will suppose in the future an unprecedented collaboration – and possibly fruitful if it is well conducted – between experience and invention, that is to say between tradition and creation.
Yet experience is at the heart of the innovation system. It is even one of the key words. Yes, but it’s not the same experience we’re talking about anymore. Today, far from the old meaning, the preponderant meaning of the word “experience” refers to the ideas of astonishment and discovery. The evolution of the word is even a striking shorthand for the philosophy of innovation: the term which signified the pinnacle of habit and know-how has become one of the main markers of innovation in the sense that it signifies the freshness of a new apprehension and the encounter with something new. The word is now to be understood in the sense of the way we feel things: experience in the empiricist sense of sensation. Where, for example, through experience, we got down to polishing and smoothing out the angles in order to obtain the fluidity of a perfect gesture through the multiple repetitions, we now endeavor to produce as much as possible of roughness. In the experience that a consumer has today through his journey through the various manifestations of a brand or a service (digital content, shops, events, technical support, etc.), it is on the contrary to enhance everything that catches the eye: the fluidity of the journey is made against a background of maximum impact so that the satisfaction index, continuously measured, is optimal.
The two senses of experience bear witness to a journey, but it is not the same: one is a journey of life where it was a question of losing one’s innocence in favor of a know-how, the other is a journey of consumption where you have to be as innocent as possible to be astonished.
Before we had experience, today we made experience. It was knowledge (or know-how), it became an emotion.
The consumer experience: a journey of discovery and amazement
The experience in question today is therefore not the repetition of a know-how that is replayed identically, but its exact opposite: it is the surprise offered by the novelty. It is the sensualist encounter of a consumer with a product or a service through the uses and the different points of contact deployed by a brand. By definition, this experience cannot be repeated indefinitely, and must constantly be improved and “rejuvenated”, otherwise the product or service will be considered outdated. Indeed, any user experience must be renewed each time to rearm the magic of the product or service. And this, even when the innovation presented is not breakthrough or disruptive, but the result of continuous improvement progressing by successive keys.
Thus, the user experience produced is the possibility offered to a customer to make an increasingly omni-sensory journey in the benefits offered by a brand through its products or services. The consumer experience is literally conceived as a journey (Customer Experience Journey) with strong added emotion, all of the stages of which must be memorable. This “customer journey” is both physical (in a brand’s stores) and digital (through the content posted on its various contact and influence interfaces: website, Facebook pages, Instagram, Twitter, blogs, etc. .).
It is a user always “virgin”, in a way, which is supposed here, since the surprise can only be done on new ground. Being able to renew the user experience thus amounts to constantly bringing the customer into a renewed freshness, that is to say to experience a positive emotion in the contact he will have with the content, products or services offered by the Mark.
This new meaning of the word “experience” in fact covers the central place taken by the notion of use. And this movement is, to a large extent, to be welcomed because it consists in placing human beings at the heart of the innovation mechanism.
Seduce by emotion: the most rational of choices
We have finally understood that an economic actor is not only a rational subject acting coldly and in a detached manner, but also, and above all, a person endowed with affect. Putting the consumer experience at the heart of the economic system changes the whole panorama irreversibly. The central place taken by experience indeed shows that the most reliable economic mechanism that can be relied on is emotion. To be realistic today is therefore to have confidence in this material, which once seemed the most unstable form of support for founding a commercial relationship.
The emotion experienced by a consumer is a way for a brand to make itself unforgettable. The challenge for manufacturers is to know how to generate and then channel this emotion through a strategy focused on the customer. This is the concept of the 4 “Es”: Experience (the whole journey must be memorable), Emotion (the WOW effect of surprise, admiration or appreciation generated by the multiple manifestations of the brand), Commitment (by which the consumer feels listened to and loved), Exclusivity (which makes the consumer feel his importance through the consideration of which he is the object). Spoiled, over-informed, over-solicited – and for these reasons very easily jaded – consumers who have become kings flit from brand to brand. They are therefore increasingly difficult to retain. It is therefore necessary to seduce them in order to convince them; and this is all the more difficult as the intensity required to create astonishment is constantly stronger because of the multiplicity of offers and requests of all kinds. It is even more necessary than before for a manufacturer to establish a very strong relationship with each of its customers as well as with those who are likely to become. Only a remarkable experience can then make a decisive difference. All other things being equal, it significantly increases the level of activity with customers. The challenge is even greater in an era where time has become non-linear, in a framework where personal and professional life are increasingly intertwined, and where all established benchmarks have become fluctuating.
Maximizing the consumer journey experience is crucial to building customer loyalty. Generating experiences and brand promises that go well beyond market standards is the key to consumer satisfaction. This must be reiterated at each point in the chain of conviction in several stages which goes from discovery to loyalty. We know that a consumer who is emotionally engaged in a relationship with a brand is more loyal and likely to become an enthusiastic spokesperson with his peers. To achieve this objective, the tools exist, the talent too, the will does the rest.
Emotion is one of the most powerful engines of human beings, and relying on this springboard through the consumer experience is a perfectly rational attitude from an economic point of view. So let’s be serious: let’s trust the emotion.