Experience is an Output, Not an Input

I realize my last few posts here have been more ponderous and philosphical than anything else.  I plan to return with some more “news you can use” in future posts.  But there have just been some things that have been eating at me recently.  So, I needed to get them out.  And hopfully, learn some perspective from you.

The latest is about the notion of the customer experience.

Two nuggest came across my desk recently.  One story on NPR was analyzing the changing grocery store industry in the U.S.A.  The other was a blog post proclaiming the death of the customer experience.  Two completely opposite opinions.

The NPR analyst was reporting on the shift of grocery store customers towards the desire for a greater in-store experience.  As opposed to what?  Better product? Better price?

In claiming the death of the customer experience, the blog author claimed consumers don’t really care about the experience.  Their preference is what?  Better product?  Better price?

Do you get where I’m going with this?

Experience is a result of product, price, billing, shipping, manufacturing, customer service and every other element of your business model.  Maybe its the fact that we talk about creating experiences that messes with our minds to the point where we think they are some tangible item that can be produced.

Customer experience is the output.  The result of all of those things above.  Experience design requires the examination and design of all of the business model inputs which result in a desired experience outcome.  

With everything we do, with everything we interact as consumers, we have experiences.  The experience itself is not designed.  Nor can it be created or taken away.

So, can grocery stores do things that will enhance the experience?  Absolutely.  Is it exchanged for some other element of the business model?  By definition, its impossible.  Do customers not care about the experience?  We can’t avoid it.  Experiences are everywhere.  In everything we do.


  1. Can we get a link to the blog claiming customers don't care about experience?

  2. Customer experience refers to "ambiance" or aesthetic accouterments in high grade grocery stores such as Whole Foods, Central Market,et.al.

    Customer experience can include everything, overall- right after you walk in the door until you leave.

    The product/value means a little more to me. I can shop at a crappy Marshall's and put up with crying kids and rude patrons to find gems, I'll do it.

  3. I had intended to link it in my post. Cant for the life of me remember where I saved it. i'm still hunting and will post in comments if I'm successful. thanks

  4. So that's a good point Carrie. To what you refer is the retail design. And yes that is a huge part of how the customer experiences grocery stores, and what differentiates them. I shop at Trader Joes on the other hand because they have products I just cant find anyplace else. Whole Foods is the same thing. They stock products I just cant get anyplace else. So, the product is in fact an important variable in my experience equation with that store.

  5. For groceries, price is king, which is inversely proportional to customer experience. If I feel like paying more, I go to Target where it is more tranquil to shop and there's usually a small wait if any at all at the registers. At Walmart the lines are usually long, and 3 cashiers work out of 20. It just tells you they don't care about you.

  6. I find it interesting that grocery stores provide an essential product to sustain us yet the products can easily be found just about anywhere. My personal opinion regarding your blog inquiry is simple and ageless. A combination of socioeconomics and generational development. The customer experience changes as you mature and as your financial condition changes. When you are young and just starting a family, you shop the best price(regardless of the razzledazzle factor)to save/spend money for higher priority budget items. A personal customer service relationship benefit may be recognized yet expendable at that time based upon finances. Hence, very little loyalty can be expected from younger generation. Of course, when money is no problem, the gold stamp of approval is and always will be "word of mouth" advertising. There is NOTHING that compares to product approval from the mouth of a person you respect and admire, regardless of their age. I believe that consumers come to their true age of reasoning in their 40s when they have experienced enough pitfalls to recognize the value of true quality in product performance, the benefit of sustained customer service, and the importance of corporate support in their community. Your early gray consumers are then beginning to have enough income, experience and knowledge to make informed decisions and make significant impact on your corporate bottomline. Cater to that consumer market while it's open to consideration because their minds will settle down into pattern shopping styles that cannot be broken easily. As for the consumer shopping experience you referred to, I'll have to do more research at church and sewing group but I will get back to you. You see, I'm one of those women who gave up a rewarding business career to stay home and raise a family. Now that the kids are grown, I yearn for the days of marketing analysis and hope you'll find my feedback interesting. So glad I found your blog!

  7. with the razor thin margins in grocery industry, the industry is actually ripe for innovation. In any industry where there is a race to the bottom, there typically is someone that emerges that changes the game. I think we're seeing this, like in other industries, where grocery retailers are looking less at the big box approach to serving the middle. And instead focusing on serving fringe consumers…and making a boat load of money doing it.

  8. thanks for your insightful comments. I would agree that, like in most industries that cater to the masses, price is important. The thing I think brands need to remember is that unique shopping experience doesn't have to mean higher cost and higher price. Think about it. Thanks again. And I hope you keep stopping by

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