As science and human ingenuity combine to help us come out the other side of this pandemic, we’re all hungry for meaningful experiences that are worth our time.

The truth is, people crave a break away from the lockdown-induced hamster wheel around which we’ve been ceaselessly spinning for the past year or more. The pandemic has introduced new needs to the human experience, shifting many of our day-to-day experiences online as our digital usage has increased.

And so, an experience renaissance is afoot. Many brands simply must reimagine the experiences they enable, with a sensitivity for audiences’ new behaviors and rising expectations. Consider all the ways in which our culture and expectations have changed in the past year or so. Online shopping is now second nature to every citizen. Ditto e-learning for children and students.

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According to our company's recent research, 95% of consumers have decided to make a permanent change to their lives over the course of the pandemic. 

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People are now prioritizing health and well-being — their own and their family’s — more than ever. Many new digital habits are becoming permanent rituals, such as grocery shopping online or taking part in virtual classes, removing the barrier of location for many. People are also more focused on local produce and purchases — from a safety, convenience and community aspect. So, finding a place for your brand within the new human experience is essential. While the implications of this are so wide-ranging they could stand to affect every brand on the planet, there exists a range of domains and industries ripe for experience reimagination — from retail to insurance, healthcare to automotive.

While a few pace-setter brands in each category are showing the way, there’s a massive opportunity for organizations to move more quickly and rethink what they’re bringing to customers and how they make their lives better. The best way to deliver experiences that set your brand apart is to weave experience innovation through the fabric of every function within your business.

Restructuring a business around experience and creating offerings customers will love will take some effort in both thinking and doing. As a starting point, however, there are three key questions businesses should be asking of their products or services to ensure they are unlocking value in the customer’s life:

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Is this solution helping my customers attain goals, and is it collaborative rather than merely transactional?

The implications of the answer mean that the relationship with the customer may become less about transactions as the only meaningful outcome. Instead, the focus should be on collaboration in the context of a commercial relationship. We have witnessed retail change astronomically in the last year as the industry has adapted and reinvented on the fly. For instance, launching a new business can get overwhelming fast, so Shopify created a single platform that is particularly helpful for small businesses and individuals that want to get a retail business up and running quickly. Its neat, user-centric solution reduces the barriers to getting started.

Transformational experiences like these provide a sense of accomplishment and help people with important objectives or goals. They also save people time and hassle by helping them do things easier and faster.

Does this solution fit elegantly into people’s lives, making things simpler and easier?

If it’s demanding too much (time or cognitive bandwidth), or if it’s adding more noise, it requires a rethink.

There is value in making parts of the brand experience invisible, especially if that means time-consuming or undesirable experiences disappear. We’ve seen this in the banking industry, for example. Qualifying for credit used to be a clunky, anxiety-provoking, and lengthy process, but experience leaders like Rocket Mortgage have made it near-instantaneous and simple. This could be a template to follow not just for the banking industry, but insurance brands as well.

Success stories such as these show us that through the lens of experience, brands should consider convenience as one of the most reliable pathways to relevance. 

Does the solution consider how you use human and natural resources transparently?

Today, people’s expectations for a brand’s purpose are borne out of the consequences of a massive reversal of the flow of life. For example, we used to go get things, and they now come to us. This change gives us more visibility on the waste we produce, prompting us to rethink what we need and to become more critical of brands that don’t seem to be doing their part.

As businesses start to reimagine the experiences on offer, they will need to be demonstrably mindful of the way they source, treat and replenish resources — and bake it into plans from the outset. It won’t be easy (or cheap) to retrofit such concerns into a fully formed experience offering, but that’s beside the point.

The drive for environmental sustainability is only going to accelerate in the coming years, so businesses would be wise to get ahead of this trend, which will impact their decision-making — eventually for everything they buy. 

Improving the quality of people’s lives is not as easy as giving them what they want, when they want it. It’s also showing them better ways to live their lives and encouraging more sustainable, empathetic behaviors — even while technology makes consumption easier. For example, U.K. subscription service Potage delivers its frozen meals in recyclable packaging and natural wool insulation that can be easily returned (free of charge) for reuse, composted or repurposed as nesting material for birds. They’ve made it easy for people to make sustainable choices — a brand value that’s baked into everything they do.

To help customers shift behavior in a positive direction, business leaders must relearn what human nature is, help people be better at it and not be an obstacle. Experience reimagination is focused on the customer’s emotional infrastructure as an anchor, so understanding human emotions and drivers that influence behavior is critical.

In summary, becoming an experience-led business is an operational shift that affects all parts of the organization, meaning that business leaders can weave a mindset change throughout to make the customer experience into an obsession for everyone. With everyone swimming in the same direction toward the same goal, businesses will find they can change direction with more speed and agility if the world throws another curveball like a pandemic.

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This article was originally published by Forbes on June 24, 2021.

Olof Schybergson

Global Design Lead – Accenture Song

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