The static gift card has been losing steam and effectiveness over the last few years. Customers no longer want to be locked into a single retailer. Behavioral researchers are confirming what many marketers know, people don’t want “stuff”, they want experiences. In today’s culture of anti-conspicuous consumption, it’s not very cool to buy a new BMW and post that onto your facebook or twitter. What is cool now is “social capital”. What that means, it is much better to post pictures of your skydiving experiences than to show the newest “stuff” you bought.
By creating experiences for your customers, they are more likely to share that with their social media friends and their friends are more likely to respond more favorably than if you just announce you bought a new blouse or car. Help your customers build social capital and they will not only share that experience with the world, but tell them how they can get it too. There is a new category that is developing to help marketers do just that. “Experiential cards” are becoming more popular among retailers and consumers. You can buy these cards at various retailers such as Barnes & Nobles, Duane Reade, and Sam’s Club. You can purchase them for varying amounts from $49 to $369. You get a card (of course) and a book that lets you know the things you can purchase such as a dinner for two in New York City, white water rafting in California, or an upscale, great lake experience in Minnesota. Many retailers who have instituted this program has seen a significant uptick in sales (one company cleared over $560 million in experiential cards alone).
So, what does this all mean? It shows how important it is to sell experiences, not just the stuff you make or the service you provide. Customers can get that from anyone. What they can’t get just anywhere is a memorable experience. It doesn’t have to be a card for adventure travel (though that may be fun), but you need to be in the business of selling and delivering experiences. This is what keeps customers coming back and give you social capital at the same time. Customers will share their experiences with their social media friends and followers. This gives them, and you, social capital. You many not remember the actual item after time passes, but you will remember the experience you had, both good and bad.
Brands need to concentrate on delivering experiences and memories, not just selling stuff. That’s commodity.