From the outside, it looked like a square metal tunnel in the middle of a busy mall on a Saturday afternoon in Hudson Yards. Inside the tunnel, were the sounds of doors slamming. The activity was an in-person matching game, where participants matched the words behind the doors. You won a prize if you matched the doors in five seconds, ten if you were a child. The prizes included black-and-white cookies and toys, and for every prize won, a donation is made in conjunction with Nickelodeon to Change for Kids. All participants, regardless of outcome, gets a free digital picture that is emailed or texted to them. The theme of this game, conceived and executed by SAP, is to remind customers of their commitment to experience. Because SAP is not a brand, the challenge was to demonstrate the value it gives to brands, and by extension, customers.
“We acquired Qualtrics at the beginning of the year, and they help people really understand the needs of their buyers. What type of experience do they want? What do they want a product to do? What do they expect of employees of brands they interact with?” said Alicia Tillman, Global CMO of SAP
SAP is keen on showing that they understand what customers want: good experiences.
“Business today is won or lost based on the quality of your experience,” said Tillman during an interview I conducted with her at Hudson Yards. “This is our first year in Hudson Yards, and this is the first year all the retail stores are open. Two million people are going to be traveling through Hudson Yards—so much so Hudson Yards is going to be one of the most visited shopping centers in the world.” Because of all this foot traffic, the idea was to erect a miniature store-like structure to get the attention of all these shoppers, and to provide them with a fun experience. “Every consumer wants to be with a company that is doing something more than just that product or that service that you’re offering to them.”
To add to the fun, a life-sized SpongeBob and Patrick came out and waved to families in periodic intervals. Some toddlers were delighted, others confused, still others indifferent.
In 2020, Tillman hinted that SAP would be developing the experience management category with technology as a principal driver behind it. Vendors are on the same page that technology are going to take a bigger role
“It about identifying those net-new things or new opportunities that haven’t been done before,” Ryan Deustch said to me in an interview. Extending sales isn’t going to cut it. “It falls flat…you have to identify some of the net-new, possibly technology-driven initiatives like AI in content creation that help you identify the next opportunity.” But by using that technology to drive experiences (that don’t include sales) retailers and brands may be able to cut through the noise to land your message.
If you’re a vendor, it’s not necessarily easy to demonstrate your capability in a way that resonates with consumer. A lot of people are not accustomed to technology, and beyond the big retail brands, they may not even know who you are. But experiences are not about who or what you are, it’s more about how the consumer felt. If you can create a lasting positive impression, then customers will be more interested in who you are and what services you provide.