Shivaji Dasgupta
Guest Article

Will Experience Alliances be the future of consumption?

Our guest author makes a case for brands to use behaviour insights to offer experience alliances.

For the longest time, people like us were wired to a category-based buying behaviour, products and services usually viewed in isolation. In recent times, spurred largely by digital commerce, we are shifting to an experiential consumption pattern, products and services being evaluated as collaborative inputs towards a desirable outcome. 

To make this thinking simple, let me share an identifiable daily illustration. In a typical scenario, the fellows selling rice, fruits, meats, edible oils and spices were usually specialists who occasionally converged under the auspices of the kirana. We compared price-value equations on a solo category basis, basmati brands vying with each other just as branded atta competed with the local varieties. While there was surely a monthly list, the shopping basket was truthfully a summation of individual entities, with no attempt at gestalt. 

In 2022, buoyed initially by the hypermarkets and now catapulted by e-commerce, we are increasingly being attracted to an alliance of inputs. For example, an attractive experience pricing offer may include a 5-litre jar of white oil, a 5-kilo pack of daily basmati, salt and flour. While a TV binge driven combination of Coke, munchies and sundry delights is rather commonplace, as is the household hygiene partnership including floor and dish cleaners, with a Harpic equivalent to boot. There are many equivalents across experience cohorts, including FMCG and durables, with the technology-driven innovations like free data with Lay’s chips.

Truthfully, this is just the beginning of change, as behaviour insights can well lead to a number of other such experience alliances. Imagine a Shopper’s Stop association with Cox and Kings, where depending on the chosen location, a sartorial package is bunged in, as most folks do shop before a holiday. Categories like health insurance, struggling to penetrate optimally, can build bridges with athleisure and fitness brands to provoke compelling meaning. While an early adoption of the metaverse can well be propelled by the intelligent assimilation of audio headgear in multiple immersive expectations, ranging from SUVs to laptops to even adventure holidays. 

The basis of experience alliances is a deep customer insight of outcome driven consumption, which also has the potential to command a premium pricing or stimulate trials and patronage. Both are truly valuable in the post covid scenario, as research by EY, Nielsen and Kantar confirm that conventional brand loyalties have diminished considerably as e-commerce has grown five-fold during the pandemic strictures. As a use case, although with a captive audience advantage, we all know the pattern of F&B consumption in a multiplex, an undeniable engagement enhancer that always gets away with illogical price points. A case replicated in the budget airline business where the corporate/premium fare is a fine case of combining travel, F&B, priority luggage and sometimes lounge access. 

As AI (Artificial Intelligence) gets more entrenched and e-commerce platforms ( including the high potential ONDC) become our default conduit ( D2C notwithstanding),the opportunities for experience alliances may well multiply. From regular shopping patterns, Amazon can well surmise what the customer does on weekends just as travel and healthcare providers are aware of the respective domain histories. There must be no barriers to the imagination in terms of curating such ideas and even a wild card like a bypass surgery being clubbed with seaside holiday package or an annual subscription to an organic foods provider can be possibly potent. It is not difficult to imagine an advertising film depicting the thrills of a SUV ride to the hills - combining an automaker, an energy drink, sports shoes, snacks and Airbnb.

An experience alliance is thus a combination of products and services, from differing categories, that combine intuitively to create a desirable customer outcome. It caters effortlessly to both indulgence and thrift, as money can be saved while joys can be enhanced and this heady merger is the secret to its sustenance. What is needed now is a serious rebooting of traditional isolationist go-to-customer thinking, to build an appetite for inspirational consortiums that drive business.

(Shivaji Dasgupta is an autonomous writer on brands and customer centricity.)

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