Have you ever been to a car repair or car wash where you didn’t want to touch a single thing in sight? After that, you may have tried another place where they greeted you warmly then invited you inside to wait for your car, where you had cozy modern furniture to sit on, a coffee machine with snacks, a play area for your kids and an option to be dropped off somewhere for the long waits. What a completely different experience, right? After all, both places are giving the same service of washing or repairing your car, but which one would you go back to next time?
There is not a specific set of standards to make something “experiential.” Creating an experience for your customer varies based on what your brand, product or service is and how your customer interacts with it. An experiential interaction for an online brand will be hugely different than an experiential interaction for a hospitality or retail brand.
One way to consider how to create an experience for your customer rather than just an interaction or transaction is to define your customer touchpoints and create an enhanced experience at each one. A little “cheat sheet” for creating an experience is stimulating as many of the five senses as you can with each interaction – smell, sight, sound, touch and taste. A touchpoint is the different ways your customer interacts with you or the brand through their purchase journey. A purchase journey is not just the actual purchase of a product or service but rather what led the customer to the product or service, the actual purchase or experience with it, and the interaction after the sale or transaction was made.
One way to illustrate customer touchpoints and experiential interactions is to show an example of someone who absolutely killed it with experiential with their brand.
I would like to introduce you to one of my favorite restaurants in Cabo called Acre. It also provides lodging in tree houses and a spa, but for most people, it is known as a must-try farm-to-table restaurant. Below I will illustrate the different touchpoints in the dining experience followed by how they created experiential components in each one. Remember – a touchpoint is your customer’s interaction with your brand through different parts of the purchase (in this case dining) journey.
TOUCHPOINT: THE RESTAURANT ENTRANCE & GREETING (first touchpoint with the brand)
After a long drive and a few winding dirt roads up through a desert hill, we finally pulled up to this highly recommended restaurant. If you have ever watched “Breaking Bad,” it somewhat reminded me of a random house in the desert that cannot possibly have anything good inside of it. We certainly wondered what the hype was about and whether we were overdressed or not. We parked the car and found our way around a cemented wall into a narrow walkway. That is when the experience really started. The long desert drive was part of the shock and delight experience we were about to have.
The narrow walkway was covered with lush trees and greenery everywhere. The air smelled fresh and tropical from the plants, and beautiful lighting lead us down the right pathway. There were smaller dirt walkways off the main one that led into a little “jungle,” but we figured we should keep following the main one or else we would be totally lost. We learned that the smaller dirt walkways take you to the tree-house bungalows for overnight guests – how cool!
The walk to the main entrance was long but very mesmerizing, building excitement for what else was in store for us. Although the restaurant/hotel is very popular, there was certainly a sense of serenity and peace. You could not see the tree-house bungalows or really any people while walking in, so it made for a cool solo experience. Once we approached the main entrance with a grandiose wall and a well-lit stairway, we were greeted by a friendly smile from the hotel hostesses who showed us the way to the restaurant. The restaurant was much more brightly lit than the hotel and walkway. It was also buzzing with energy from a packed house of guests. The smell inside was also very pleasant – not like food but rather an inviting, fresh perfumed aroma.
The hostess walked us to our table where we saw the different sitting areas of the restaurant, each with its own décor and energy, from the bar to the dining room to the brick oven area. There was live music from a musician on stage closer to the bar, and we had a view of the bright big fire in the brick oven and a peak into the open kitchen just across the room from us. To the right of our table was more lush greenery that we went to explore later.
Senses explored and stimulated: smell, sight and sound.
TOUCHPOINT: THE TABLE
Once we took in all our surroundings, we were hooked and loved this place already, but the experience at the table seriously knocked my marketing geek socks off! For starters, the farm-to-table restaurant had fresh picked wildflowers at each table centerpiece – adorable. It certainly makes you think your food will be freshly picked too. Each table also had a bottle of filtered fresh water set, which is a hot commodity in Mexico considering that tap water is not drinkable (and the bottled water is never free!).
My favorite part, however, was the menus. As a restaurant marketer by experience, I appreciated the detail that went into their menus. Still illustrating the whole organic and farm-to-table thing, the menu boards were made of wood with their logo burned into the back. The menu itself was printed daily on paper to feature the changing menu, and the cocktail menu was straight on wood with each word and detail burned into the wood.
The drink coaster was also the same wood with cork on top, and the napkins were a beautiful gray linen. Everything in the table décor looked organic, just like their menu presents itself to be. It was a beautiful presentation.
Senses explored and stimulated: sight and touch
(the sound of the musician is still heard at the table too though!)
TOUCHPOINT: THE FOOD & DRINKS
Sometimes even the most common things can have small touches and details that set it apart from the norm – THAT is what building an experience is all about. For example, the bread basket was served to us in a cute basket with a napkin and aromatic fresh herbs surrounding the bread.
The cocktail I ordered was served with a burning lime half that was theatrically lit as the drink was presented – a feast for the eyes! The lime was then removed before the drink was handed over…safety first!
The entrée was served artistically on a wooden cutting board and arranged perfectly. The pita bread was on the side, the fresh, garden-grown veggies were in the middle, and the juicy protein on the other side. It not only looked gorgeous, but it SMELLED and TASTED delicious. The presentation also made it perfect for sharing (rather than having it on traditional plates).
Senses explored and stimulated: sight, smell and taste.
TOUCHPOINT: THE AFTER-DINNER STROLL THROUGH THE GROUNDS
Post dinner, we decided to check out the grounds. Everywhere you walk you see lush greenery coupled with romantically lit walkways. The first stop was to the bathroom, which did NOT disappoint. It felt like a jungle outhouse that was better than your best powder room at home. You entered through a cement wall/walkway to a ceiling made of wooden sticks and hanging vines.
The agave plants planted around the grounds are the largest I have ever seen – almost as tall as me! They fit in perfectly with the tequila I drank all night and the Mexican surroundings we came to see! Of course, I had to touch them and get plenty of pictures with them.
As we made our way around, we ran into a gorgeous open space filled with mango trees – yes, fresh mangos! All I could think about is the awesome events I could throw for someone there. In case you are wondering, I am indeed keeping a list of awesome venues for incredible, out of the ordinary, events in the future!
Senses explored and stimulated: sight and touch (and the fresh air and lush plants smell!).
IN CONCLUSION: CREATE AN EXPERIENCE JOURNEY FOR YOUR CUSTOMER
The key to creating an experience, or making your marketing experiential rather than traditional, is to build as many of the five senses into every customer touchpoint as they take a journey with your brand or product.
As a refresh, an experience stimulates as many of the five senses as possible with each interaction – smell, sight, sound, touch and taste – to create an association or memory to the consumer.
A touchpoint is the different ways your customer interacts with you or the brand through their purchase journey.
A purchase journey is what led the customer to the product or service, the actual purchase or experience with it, and the interaction after the sale or transaction was made. Touching on every part of that journey from the beginning (whether it started with a social media ad or by stumbling upon it physically) to the end with experiential elements will differentiate your brand from the rest, much like Acre stood out to us from many other nice restaurants in Cabo!
If you are interested in learning more about creating a memorable trip or event, please reach out on our contact form. Thank you to Acre for the amazing dining experience!