In 2019, billions of consumers live inside a supercharged merry-go-round of human experience.
You know how it goes. Yet another immersive, compelling, unique, in-person experience is launched. Cue yet more pictures, videos, stories, status updates. And each one a token that feeds the machine. Around we go again.
It used to be that going to a new restaurant or trying a new business class cabin was exciting. Now people are going skiing in the middle of Copenhagen on top of the world’s most advanced urban clean energy plant (more on that later).
And it isn’t just traditional experience providers that are fueling these new expectations. Today, it can feel like every pet shop, dentist and local accountant are competing to win in the Experience Economy.
WTF happened? And in this environment, where do you start when it comes to delighting your guests, diners, shoppers, passengers, visitors (need we go on)?
The highly evolved Experience Economy of 2019 might feel dizzying. But press pause for a moment and it’s possible to get a handle on it. That starts with seeing how it’s founded on a few core, eternal truths about human nature.
Driving the endless search for new in-person experiences are a set of basic human needs that are as old as human beings themselves. The human needs for play, community, personalization, authenticity and more.
And, of course, the need for status. You can see that status quest – for a special story to tell oneself, and the crowd – in the frenetic search for yet another experience that is fresh, unique, cultured, anything to make people take notice. You can see it in the half a billion daily active users that Instagram Stories racked up in January 2019.
But once you understand that this avalanche of experiences all revolves, in the end, around basic human needs, you have the not-so-secret code. Then the question becomes: how can you create experiences that will tap into and serve those needs?
In this report we’re not going to run through the well-worn trends. You already know about ethical travel, immersive dining, and peer-led urban tours.
Instead, here are three powerful, actionable trends that give you a handle on where in-person customer experiences are heading next. Each one is a practical innovation opportunity. And each one could see you delight customers in the months ahead.
1. AUTOMATION THEATER
In 2019, automation and magical in-person customer experiences collide!
2. VILLAGE SQUARED
In-person experiences that repair and reimagine the social fabric.
3. END OF EXCESS
Amazing experiences, minus the guilt.
Ready for an experience of your own? Let’s do this 🚀💪
Ministry of Supply —
In-store robot heat-shrinks clothes for perfect fit
How about experiences that combine auto-personalization and a spectacle that's magical in its own right?
December 2018 saw US apparel brand Ministry of Supply partner with the Self-Assembly Lab at MIT to create an experience that combines an in-store robotic arm and sweaters made out of a special fabric that shrinks when exposed to heat. Once a customer's measurements are taken, the robot will heat-shrink the sweater for a precise fit, right in front of the customer’s eyes.
Swipe to see more innovations >>
Tech giant opens futuristic hotel
This example deploys multiple examples of automation-fueled magic to give guests the feeling of staying in 'the hotel of the future'.
In December 2018, Alibaba opened the FlyZoo hotel in Hangzhou. Guests check-in via podiums that employ facial recognition. Lifts and room doors are also operated via facial recognition. Robotic butlers can carry food and laundry to guest rooms. The hotel bar is equipped with a robotic arm can mix more than 20 different cocktails.
DAWN ver.β —
Tokyo cafe staffed by robots controlled by disabled people
What about a dose of AUTOMATION THEATER that also allows consumers to support values they deeply believe in?
A café in Tokyo opened its doors in November 2018 for a trial run with its new recruits – robots wirelessly controlled by paralyzed people, using tablets or computers. Located in the headquarters of nonprofit Nippon Foundation, the DAWN ver.β café's robot waiters could take orders, bring customers food and drink and respond to any questions. A second trial was held in December 2018.
Engineered Arts —
Robot is world's first AI portrait artist
This robot is an installation art piece. But where art goes, commerce will soon follow ;)
In February 2019, the UK-based Engineered Arts launched Ai-Da, Da: a robot artist. Cameras located behind Ai-Da’s eyes allow her to recognize human faces and a robotic arm that is capable of using a pencil allows her to draw the portrait of a person sitting in front of her. Ai-Da is also capable of eye contact, can mimic the facial expressions of a person interacting with her, and can speak using natural language. Her creators hope Ai-Da will be the world’s first 'AI ultra-realistic robot artist'.
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Athleisure brand opens library in NYC flagship
This brand took inspiration from one a well-loved community space: the library.
In December 2018, Lululemon partnered with publishing giant Penguin Random House to create a mini-library in the brand's HUB Seventeen flagship store and community space in NYC. The library features over 1,000 fiction and non-fiction titles. The library will be open throughout Spring 2019, and will host special events such as celebrity book readings food events.
Swipe to see more innovations >>
Global hotel chain repositions around local community and social interaction
Want to go all out on this trend? See how this hotel chain is reimagining itself around the need for community.
In February 2019, global hotel chain Ibis announced plans to reinvent the guest experience at their properties around increased contact with the local community and greater opportunities for social interaction. The shift will reposition Ibis hotels around flexible ‘life hub’ spaces that encourage interaction between guests and with members of the local community.
Banco Itaú —
Installation celebrates country’s musical heritage
How about bringing people together by celebrating local heritage and culture?
January 2019 saw Brazil-based Banco Itaú present el Paseo del Recuerdo, a large-scale installation celebrating the 70th anniversary of Paraguay’s most iconic song, Recuerdos de Ypacaraí ('Memories of Ypacaraí'). Located in the town of San Bernardino in Paraguay, passersby were encouraged to manipulate a set of large metal tubes to produce the song’s main chords and then share their experience on social media.
Sports giant reopens first ever store as a community space
How about opening a community space for people who people who share a passion?
In January 2019, Nike reopened its first store, in Santa Monica, California, as a community space for runners. The store at 3107 Pico Boulevard was originally opened in 1967, when Nike was known as Blue Ribbon Sports, and quickly became a space for local runners and fitness devotees – seen at the time as oddball enthusiasts – to gather and share experiences.
Walmart and eSports Arena —
Esports space opens inside Walmart stores
When you think shared passions, think broadly! Walmart tapped into rising participation in esports.
Gaming competitions and events were brought to Walmart shoppers via a collaboration with dedicated esports facility provider Esports Arena in November 2018. Five Walmart stores in California, Washington, and Colorado played host to gaming league nights and tournaments. The stores also hosted open play hours so customers could train or practice together, and test new products.
Supermarket chain plans new community in west London
This retail brand is pushing at the boundaries of this trend by helping shape a new London community.
Lidl has unveiled plans to develop a community in London's Richmond neighborhood. Announced in July 2018, the plans include the development of over 3,000 homes, a primary school and a playground with space for hockey and soccer pitches. Meanwhile, August 2018 saw Lidl Ireland open The Bakery: a pop-up store providing a safe space for young people to talk about mental health.
Consumer-focused professionals from adidas, Nissan, Virgin, Samsung, Sephora, ING, Orange, Fujitsu, Spotify and many more have gained 2019 access to our Premium Service.
In the coming weeks and months, they'll be using the platform to ensure their plans remain deeply aligned with what their customers want next.
Amager Resource Center —
Copenhagen waste-to-energy plant features artificial ski slope
'Alexa, show me a magical urban experience that supports a positive impact on its surroundings'
Copenhagen's Amager Resource Center burns municipal waste to generate electricity. In Q3 2018, the plant opened an artificial ski slope and a climbing wall, labelled the Copenhill urbain mountain, to the public. The Copenhill also features a restaurant, and an après-ski bar surrounded by tree-lined hiking trails. The Amager Resource Center is one of the world’s most advanced waste-to-energy centers, and forms part of Copenhagen’s commitment to become the world’s first carbon-neutral city by 2025.
Swipe for more innovations >>
Hi Fly —
Airline makes world’s first single use plastic-free flight
Flying is a guilt-ridden experience for many. But here’s one step in the right direction...
In December 2018, Portuguese airline Hi Fly operated the first single-use plastic-free flight. The airline replaced plastic cutlery and containers with bamboo and compostable alternatives. The flight took passengers from the carrier’s HQ in Lisbon to Brazil on an Airbus A340. In March 2018, the airline pledged to eliminate single-use plastics before the end of 2019. The International Air Transport Association (IATA) says airline passengers generated over 5.7 million tonnes of cabin waste in 2017, a figure set to double within 15 years if no action is taken.
London hotel opens vegan room
What new frontiers are opening up when it comes to the values of your customers? How can you serve those values?
Hilton opened its first fully vegan suite in its London Bankside location in January 2019. Made entirely from plant-based materials and filled with cruelty-free products, the room answers a growing demand from vegan customers. The mini-bar, as well as room service, offer vegan options. Designed in partnership with The Vegan Society and multi-sensory experience design firm Bompas & Parr, the suite is available from GBP 550 a night.
Zero-waste restaurant opens in Bali
Zero-waste approaches are not new; but they’re still a powerful play when it comes to this trend.
Ijen, Indonesia’s first zero-waste restaurant, opened in September 2018 at the Potato Head Beach Club in Bali. Offering local seafood caught by hand, the restaurant features furniture made from foam offcuts and recycled wood, and a floor created from cement, broken plates and smashed glass. Candles made from wine bottles burn used kitchen oil, while organic waste is recycled as local pig food or animal fertilizer.
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Phew, that was intense. Hope you enjoyed the ride 🚀
But in truth this moment should be the beginning of a journey, not the end of one. Now is the time to act.
And that starts with remembering that each of these trends is an innovation opportunity. That is, an opportunity to create your next magical, compelling, shareable, must-do (and do again!) in-person experience.
So take these trends and featured innovation examples back to your team, and challenge them. What can we do with this? How can we adapt this trend around our brand, our market, our customers, our values? What can we do to meet and exceed these emerging customer expectations?
For those of you who want to take this even further – we’ll see you at one of our upcoming events on the Future of Experiences.
Now, go – get started today! We can’t promise that creating the next generation of compelling in-person experiences will be easy. But it will be deeply worthwhile.
This Trend Briefing has many hands on it. A huge thanks to the team that pulled this together with such positivity and enthusiasm, especially: Vicky Kim and Nikki Ritmeijer (for design!), and also Maxwell Luthy, Vicki Loomes, Henry Mason, Alida Urban, Harry Metzger, Harvey Gomez, Jareth Ashbrook, Jonathan Herbst and Lisa Feierstein. THANK YOU!