From a Customer Experience to a 'Wow' Experience

To inspire customers, unique shopping experiences are required. But how can such wow experiences be created? A conversation with the psychologist Jens Lönneker.

Wow effect on the shopping experience

Mr. Lönneker, what exactly is a 'wow' experience?

The expression actually speaks for itself. 'Wow!' conveys a sense of positive surprise. It shows that the person is overwhelmed, in a moment of pure emotion in which everything fits and the sum of the positive impressions is too much to be immediately processed. 'Wow' experiences are personal highlights – which in business life, in the best cases, the customer connects with the vendor, generating customer loyalty to the vendor and recommendations to others.

What do companies have to do to create this 'wow' experience for the customer?

People who describe a ‘wow’ experience focus on the moment of amazement. In the first step, the consumer approaches the product or the service provider with a certain expectation. For it to really become a ‘wow’ experience, however, something unexpected has to happen that exceeds the expectations of the customer – a feeling of elation is triggered. In psychological analysis, we’ve learned that this positive astonishment is closely tied to overcoming an apprehension or a concern with which the customer approaches the product or service. Buyers of luxury products, for example, are often worried that, like in the tale ‘The Emperor’s New Clothes’, they’ll be short-changed with overpriced products and services. So, paradoxically, buyers in the high-price segment, especially, often experience a ‘wow’ feeling when they’re unexpectedly offered free services or upgrades around a purchase.

So that means that companies should know not just the needs, but also the concerns of their target group?

Exactly! That’s the only way to truly win over the target group long-term and set yourself apart from the competition. Everybody is always dealing with the wishes of the customer, which of course have to be served. But at the same time, to be truly successful, it’s essential to also recognise and ‘treat’ their concerns. For example, customers who appear reserved and well-behaved often want to be rewarded for exactly this proper, polite behaviour when it comes to the purchase. Even if they don’t make that impression, such customers want favourable treatment and positive attention for their individuality – and because they’re always so reserved and modest, they’re worried that this won’t be recognised. But when you emphasise that a particular article looks especially good on the customer and that you’ve set the article aside for them, you’re well on the way to creating a ‘wow’ experience. The challenge for a merchant is therefore to recognise, not just the wishes, but also the various ‘concern profiles’ of customers. Such profiles can be systematised for the respective sectors and contexts and used towards a better sales approach.

Why do companies profit from 'wow' experiences?

'Wow' experiences are extremely image-enhancing and have a direct influence on the rate of recommendation: buyers who get a surprising 'high' due a 'wow' experience during their customer journey usually want to share this moment. So there’s a very high probability that they will recommend such products or services to others.

Jens Lönneker, Rheingold Salon

About ... Jens Lönneker

The psychologist Jens Lönneker lives in Cologne and is founder and managing director of the Rheingold Salon for qualitative market research and strategy consulting. Jens Lönneker's main focus is on national and international in-depth psychological analyses - from basic research and product development to the review of advertising measures and strategic recommendations for almost all industries.

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