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Seven Experience Principles For A Changing World



Originally Published on Forbes

Maybe it’s time we retired the word “normal,” because there are really two worlds we need to consider: what was and what is. As Seth Godin pointed out, there’s danger in regarding “normal” as a static, definitive state. “Normal” is always changing, it’s a changing world, and that’s an advantage for innovators.

Brands and attractions that see the opportunities inherent in a changing world can thrive. Our goal as experience designers and strategists is to help these attractions and brands prepare for the new world and own it. Here are seven experience principles that can illuminate the path toward that goal.

1. Go From Mass To Niche

The old normal was to get as many people as possible into your brand home or attraction. Suddenly, in an era of social distancing and hygienic hyperawareness, that strategy is problematic at best and impossible at worst.

The answer, then, is to flip the funnel. Define the audience in a new way and target the most loyal and engaged hardcore brand fans, who are willing to spend the most time with you. Guests often enjoy unique access to something that’s deeply personalized — something that’s special and seemingly made just for them. The scarcity of the offer can make it even more appealing.

2. Adjust Your Pricing To Focus On Quality Over Quantity

You can make just as much money charging 3,000 guests $300 per head as you can charging 30,000 guests $30 per head. This allows you to provide premium experiences that are more ambitious, and ultimately more emotional and memorable.

When you charge more for your experience, you must also increase the value you provide by tenfold. Make sure you’re providing a level of “extreme hospitality” designed to thrill and delight every guest. Rather than herding hordes of guests through mass attractions, focus on each guest and provide customized experiences with one-on-one human interactions. Deeper connections, more meaning, better gifts and rewards — these are the kinds of experiences guests will want to enjoy over and over again. 

To me, providing a higher-quality experience also includes an all-important commitment to the community and the obligation to be better, more considerate neighbors. 

3. Be Everywhere

You likely know the five E’s: entice, enter, engage, exit, and extend. Now there’s a sixth E: everywhere. The pandemic has proven that there’s a need to develop a robust ecosystem that enables you to be everywhere your customers are.

This means developing a digital “backbone” for completing tasks like pre-booking visits and delivering easy and intuitive e-commerce opportunities and experiences. This backbone includes the ability to go live from the brand home with an engaging events program that includes the kind of digital experiences people pay for. Everywhere is physical. Everywhere is digital. Everywhere is the sixth E that supports the first five.

4. Be Entrepreneurial

The “everywhere” strategy is the launchpad for a new kind of entrepreneurial thinking: What new products and services can you offer when you merge your physical and digital assets? How can you use your rich brand home platform of storytelling and experiences to create new ways to engage your fans? How do you provide an active omnichannel experience? When you’re everywhere, you can do just about anything.

5. Be Purpose-Driven

The pandemic is causing the world to pause and reflect on the most vital questions mankind faces. Who are we? Why are we here? What do we owe our communities? Almost overnight, the people we have long taken for granted — doctors and nurses, grocery store clerks, delivery people — are our heroes. We have a new sense of what matters and a greater appreciation for how dependent we are on one another.

The new normal will likely begin with a celebration of community. I believe that successful attractions will put the community at the center of the bulls-eye, with the broader domestic and international markets coming second and third respectively. Friends and neighbors will become your best ambassadors as they share their love for a brand that’s actively making the world a better place for everyone.

6. Always Be Prepared

Post-pandemic, I think we’ll need to acknowledge what has always been true: The world can change in an instant, so we must always be prepared. This black swan, once-in-a-century event has caused everyone everywhere to reconsider every aspect of life. This extends to what they do, where they go, how they travel, and what they buy.

What’s ahead? Another pandemic? Environmental catastrophe? Social upheaval? If you don’t take the time to develop your creative, flexible “backbone” of guidelines, protocols, systems, and offerings now, you may be vulnerable to collapse. If the world goes into isolation again, you should be able to continue to provide the products and services that customers love. 

7. Help People Feel Alive

The experience of being alive — that’s what your guests are looking for when they engage with your brand. They want positive stories that affirm their humanity and cause them to feel good about themselves and their future. They want to feel connected to life, to a positive future, and to other people. This, thankfully, will always be true. Your job is to offer them as many joyous ways to connect with one another, with as much artistry, purpose, and humanity, as you can.

The best news is that people are resilient. We have survived world wars, plagues, famines, depressions and catastrophes of every kind. And every time we’ve been tested, we’ve come together to rebuild a better world. It’s the building of a better world that goes right to the heart of what we in the experiences business do: provide places for people to come together in harmony and in celebration of our common goals and values.

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