The Invisible Gift

I have a question for you. It’s a question that will require some deep thinking on your behalf. What is the “Invisible Gift” you give each customer with each interaction or transaction? It’s not a thank you gift, or a discount for shopping or even a promotional item, its something that you can’t touch, but can impact your business more than you realize.

The “Invisible Gift” is given with every interaction your business has with a customer. Many times we overlook it or don’t even realize we give it, but it happens. And when that Invisible Gift is given, it will determine if the memory of the experience lasts. The gift is part of the experience a customer has with you and it is the one thing most businesses don’t even acknowledge they give it, especially if you stage an experience.

Designing and then staging an effective and memorable experience requires changes on many levels of design and performance. It will also require a shift in the value proposition because the product changes.

In the Experience Economy, the shift from buying things to doing things is the fundamental shift in the value offering. This shift also provides a change in the product. No longer is the product the thing you buy, rather the customer themselves. The thing that is acquired becomes a token of memorabilia in one form or another. It is the trigger to the memory of the experience.

The trigger is merely a tool to revisit the experience through our memories. We recall images, sounds, scents, textures and even various tastes. Yet there is one element of our memories that is so pronounced that it determines if the experience is even worthy of remembering.

So, if the shift of the product in the Experience Economy is the customer and the item acquire is the memorabilia, then should there not be a shift in the design mechanism for designing and staging of an experience? The answer is simply, yes. Designing an experience requires a different approach beyond the thing to sell or the environment where the selling happens.

We hear and read so much about Experiences and designing experiences. Different methods, processes and even so called standards of design. It can get quite confusing and convoluted at times that some designers might tend to skip over key elements or forget to incorporate a holistic approach.

Is there a better way? My answer is again, yes. The method that changes how designers develop an experience is sourced directly to the “invisible Gift”.

The Invisible gift is an emotion.

Each customer leaves with it even if the business is unaware its been given. The invisible gift of an emotion is forever tied to the experience and how the customer perceives the value of the interaction. Because customers are human and humans are emotional beings, it only makes sense, as designers and stager of experiences, that emotion is the key design element and target customer outcome. As stated, the customer is the product and customers are emotional beings.

So, what emotion do you want to sell? This is the question that can help define the outcome intent of the experience. It will shape the interaction, the roles of the staff and dictate how the environment will be staged. By knowing what emotion you want to be tied to the experience, every aspect of the experience will be shaped by that emotion.

As an example of emotion as a overreaching design theme, Disney World leveraged this idea from the very beginning when they promoted the park as being “the happiest place on Earth.” They are selling happiness. Their selling an emotion. With that emotion, everything they do, everything the design and every interaction is framed by that one emotion of happiness.

Using emotion as a design principle can help determine what elements need to be added, removed or enhanced to achieve the emotional outcome. Are you staging an experience to make customers happy, sad, loved, envied or even tranquil. Any emotion can be used, but focus on only one. Trying to have multiple emotional outcomes can become tricky if not confusing for designers, performers and customers. Be like Disney and go for one even if others ride along.

Now that you know the “Invisible Gift” every business gives its customers is emotion, what emotion are you giving your customers today and what emotion do you want them to have after the next interaction? Design your business around a single emotion, because the things they buy are not as important as the memory of how they acquired it.

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