When I go to a café, order a coffee and I’m served it, then I’ve got what I came for - a simple transaction. When I go to a café and am greeted by name, or asked if I prefer my coffee in a glass or cup (and am served it), then I’ve got what I came for, plus a little bit extra. That extra makes the visit to the café an experience rather than a transaction. There are about a million cafés where I can get a good coffee, but the one I choose to get my coffee at is the one that gives me an experience.
It was marketing and brand storytelling expert Bernadette Jiwa’s The Story of Telling that highlighted the difference to me. She describes experience as ‘a spirit of generosity… soul… magic’. When we deliver only a transaction we are ‘selling ourselves short in all kinds of ways that can’t be measured on a balance sheet at the end of the quarter’.
This struck a very resonant chord with me, as I instinctively feel that if something is worth doing then it’s worth doing with all your heart and soul. This is something that’s relatively straightforward to build in to small, founder-run businesses - the founders often can’t help it; it’s part of the energy of the business.
It must be more difficult in a huge organisation, and that’s where I take my hat off to the genius of Lidl and Aldi. They’d be delivering something highly successful by simply supplying reliably cheap, good-quality food. And their logistics are next-level efficient. But the thing they are absolutely nailing is experience. They’ve managed to introduce an element of surprise and excitement into the budget shop. The latest development is Aldi’s Sunday special, as featured on a GBBO ad break, successfully distracting me from biscuits. It promises a surprise bargain that’s available that day only. You may not actually need a snorkel, but you’ll be in the store before you make that decision. And the transactional shop has transformed itself into a trip out - something fun on a Sunday. I’m no business analyst but I suspect that the shift from shopping being a transaction to an experience is a large part of the success of the discounters. And it’s something we can all learn from.
And if you do find yourself the proud owner of a bargain snorkel, then may I recommend the bog snorkelling championships in Wales.