Many companies have now interconnected virtual experience to their services to extract more experience
The term “experience economy” was coined in 1999 by B Joseph Pine II and James H Gilmore, the co-founders of the US-based thinking studio Strategic Horizons. They talk about a system in which experience is of optimum value for the customer. According to a 2021 survey by CRM platform SuperOffice, 46% believed customer experience will be a priority for the next five years. And, 86% of buyers said they are ready to pay more if their experience with a service is better.
The most significant enabler of experience is the technology promoting innovation, engagement, and insight. Technology has become a key component of the experience phenomenon since 2020 – after the pandemic changed global dynamics. It has redefined consumer consumption.
A virtual experience economy could be defined as a blend of digital and live events that aspires to change consumer preferences. It is not simply about utilizing the technology but ensuring that the digital domain adds value to the services. The virtual experience economy is about elevating the product by leveraging the interactive factor.
IBTM World’s Trends Watch Report 2021 calls the virtual experience economy a mega trend and explores its impact on consumer services. As of today, the virtual experience economy has embraced the new normal. The virtual tour of a product or event has shown how employees need not be flown across large distances for isolated occasions.
A great example of the virtual experience economy is Peloton Interactive, which offers internet-connected stationary bicycles and treadmills that allow consumers to remotely participate in classes through streaming media on a monthly subscription basis. The company’s backbone is its virtual interface. Its equipment is made to suit the core idea. Another instance is the experience offered by the Zwit sports app that enables health-conscious people to bike or run through virtual worlds.
What needs does the virtual experience economy cater to?
The virtual experience economy, first and foremost, caters to convenience. Every attendee is at the same level at an event – whether at home or work. This phenomenon has given rise to the trend of staycations. Many consumers who have been vying for breaks have taken to virtual tours of nature or their favorite destinations through virtual reality.
Virtual tourism saw exponential growth for the virtual experience economy in 2020 and 2021, with many companies integrating it as a forever feature into their services. For instance, the branch of the US-based Holiday Inn, Holiday Inn Express, has been giving guests virtual tours of the rooms. The Holiday Inn app has also integrated novelty experiences. When guests point their phones at local attractions, they get more information. Another feature allows them to see virtual and realistic images of famous athletes.
Leading companies are increasingly offering an interconnected set of services. They opt for the ecosystem business model given its value-generation potential: Growing the core business, expanding the network and portfolio, and generating revenues from new products and services.
For example, Apple’s Apple Card, which has been exclusively issued by Goldman Sachs since 2019, has been termed a “disruption” in the most positive sense. Created with customers’ financial health in mind, Apple Card is called a no-fee credit card. It gives customers a secure way to manage their finances right from Apple Wallet on iPhone.
Meanwhile, the bar for videoconferencing experiences has been rising, with several meeting organizers turning Zoom calls into an entertaining virtual experience. Some have been making participants don a headset to recreate a virtual boardroom or other room.
Apart from virtual corporatization, the education sector makes the most of the virtual experience economy. According to a Technavio report, AI-driven tools were estimated to have a 48% compound annual growth rate based on revenue.
Educationists in the US are bubbling with ideas for wrapping content with the virtual sector. Inspirit VR is a great example of education taking to virtual design. The founders of this exclusive learning – from Stanford and Georgia Tech – raised a fund of more than $3 million to pump virtual experience into education.
The inspirit app takes students through a range of 3D environments, models, and other learning tools, fostering true interactive learning. They can study hearts by looking at them from every possible direction – as if they are holding a live model or can experience plant processes as they take place.
How to bring in the human touch?
However, optimum technology and solid investment do not promise a winning experience. The human touch – more often than not – can turn out to be a deciding factor. Services with empathy and engagement add to the immersive aspect of the virtual experience economy. So, it all depends on how well your service cares for your consumer, as they may leave an indelible impression.
For instance, the XRHealth virtual clinics have created programs to calm down patients undergoing medical procedures. A licensed therapist from the company’s catalogs directs you to the solution to the problems that you may be facing.
PWC’s report Experience is everything: Here’s how to get it right stated that 82% of the top-performing companies said they were mindful of the human experience in digital and technology.
This is just the beginning of the virtual experience economy. While waiting for the pre-pandemic economy is not unrealistic, consumers have been looking forward to new experiences from the comfort of their homes. This gives companies an enormous opportunity to adapt, with many already integrating virtual experience as a part of their DNA.