Transformational Experience

Sunset in Santorini

Sunset in Santorini,
originally uploaded by Larry Cornett.

So many of us love a cup of coffee in our favorite cafe, but I don’t think many would call that a “transformational experience”. However, having a cup of coffee in a small cafe on the edge of the caldera at sunset in Santorini? Yes, a transformational experience that created a memory that I will never forget. What price do you put on such a cup of coffee?

The book “The Experience Economy” briefly mentions a key example that helps explain how a simple good can be economically transformed into an experience for which a customer is willing to pay one thousand times more. The following table outlines this transformation for the simple coffee bean.

Economic Offering Example for Coffee Perceived Value
Guided transformation Greek coffee in Santorini cafe at sunset $$$$$
Staged experience Coffee drink in your favorite cozy cafe $$$$
Provided service Cup of coffee on the road $$$
Created good Roasted and packaged coffee
Extracted commodity Harvested coffee beans $

We all know that a cup of coffee prepared at home is much, much cheaper than buying a coffee drink at your favorite cafe. Yet, every day so many of us are willing to stand in long lines and pay much more to have that drink prepared for us. Why? In some cases, it is for the service. Replicating the perfect cappuccino at home is no easy task. However, often people are seeking the experience provided by having that cappuccino in the cafe atmosphere. Enjoying the music, watching people, and meeting new friends are all part of the experience you quite willingly pay for.

Starbucks certainly understands this and that has been a key component of their amazing success. In the book “The Starbucks Experience” Joseph Michelli describes 5 key principles for creating a business that delivers an extraordinary experience for its customers:

  1. Make it your own
  2. Everything matters
  3. Surprise and delight
  4. Embrace resistance
  5. Leave your mark

On page 11 there is a section that captures how important they realized a holistic experience was in converting a loyal customer:

“…the ambience of the store must be inviting; the store must be a place where a person will feel comfortable hanging out alone or with friends. This setting, often reffered to by Starbucks partners as the ‘third place,’ must capture a unique warmth that sets it apart from the first two places in most people’s lives: work and home.”

Consistently offering customers positive (and sometimes even transformational) experiences has been a big part of what makes Starbucks work. Even if you aren’t a fan of the chain, you have to admit they have had phenomenal global success. They get it.

1 Comment

  1. […] have talked about the commoditization of the coffee business before. You can certainly get a good cup of coffee (or name your favorite coffee drink) at many of the […]

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