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The 4 Levels of Experience: A Short Primer

Plus: 2023 CX Trends, Resolving Grief with ChatGPT, & Generative Search Insights


Experience is one of those words that loses meaning from overuse—kinda like “respect” or “responsibility”. But like those words, experience is still just as relevant as ever—particularly for your business. Aren’t you trying to create the ultimate, repeatable brand experience? Aren’t we all?

But the thing about experience is that it’s very personal. A person’s inner world has as much, if not more, influence over what they experience.

Two people can experience the same thing externally, but have radically different experiences internally.

More on experience in a bit.

The Latest

Threads: The fastest app ever to 100 million downloads, but are people sticking around?

On July 6, 2023 Meta launched Threads to the public. The result? 100 million downloads in 5 days, crushing the former record held by OpenAI’s ChatGPT (they got to 100 million in 2 months).

Threads Logo

That’s a lot of people coming to the party. But is anyone sticking around? We’ll see if it’s able to keep people engaged going forward.

Retention is the game, after all. And people are more likely to stick around if they’re getting value, or in this case, some much needed attention from peers and influencers (and other benefits people get from social channels).

Grief and ChatGPT

When loved ones pass away unexpectedly, people experience grief. Grief is like living in the world without the people (or things) you love in it. How do you process losing a part of you when you’re so used to having someone there?

When Sunshine Henle’s mother passed away, she went to a local therapist and said of the experience, “It felt very cold and there was no empathy”.

Grief & ChatGPT

Since Henle works in artificial intelligence, she tried an experiment: feed ChatGPT conversations with her mother from text messages and Facebook. An unusual approach, but something seemed to click for her.

I felt like it was taking the best parts of my mom and the best parts of psychology and fusing those things together.”

Sunshine Henle

I often joke about how AI will bring the end of civilization, and even though you may be a bit cynical with stories like this, there’s no denying the experience and impact of using technology in this way. Yes, even an AI assistant could help one manage the grieving process better.

This is a very different story from what people get from social media. Consider this: the American Psychological Association put out a health advisory warning on social media use in adolescents.

Keep in mind: technology has both the power to uplift and/or harm, depending on how it’s used.

Again, experience is what matters in the end. Let’s dig into that word a bit more.

Brand Experience

The 4 Levels of Experience

Mathew Duerden, co-author of Designing Experiences, once defined four types of experiences:

4 Levels of Experience

The 4 Levels of Experience

  1. Ordinary (neutral feelings)

  2. Memorable (evoking emotion creates a strong anchor)

  3. Meaningful (some insight is gained)

  4. Transformational (a change occurs)

Your goal, as a brand, is to facilitate the experience of levels 2, 3, and 4 for your market and customers.

Notice how one builds on the other. For example, from Ordinary to Memorable, you go from no emotion to evoking emotion.

Then that emotion carries into level 3. How can you have meaningful insight without feeling something?

And how can you have transformation without the insight gained from level 3?

The standard for business has been to get to level 2—evoking some kind of emotion from either a marketing (pre-purchase), product (purchase), or customer experience (post-purchase).

Wendy's & Level 2 Experience

Getting roasted by Wendy’s is great for a laugh, but is that all you’ve got?

Levels 3 and 4 have become the realm of the legendary, achieved by unicorns and well-known brands—consistently.

The challenge? It doesn’t take long for the “memorable” of today to become the “ordinary” for tomorrow. Customer expectations evolve when fringe brands break the old standard and establish a new baseline for interaction and experience.

Designing experiences

Providing extraordinary experiences doesn’t necessarily require a massive budget. What it does require is an understanding of your customers, a little bit of imagination, and a focus on how you can make their interaction with your brand extraordinary.

Here's how to leverage each type of experience:

From Ordinary to Memorable:

Level 1 X to Level 2

1. Personalized Interactions: Could you use customer data to personalize communications? This could be as simple as personalized product recommendations based on browsing and purchasing history.

2. Excellent Customer Service: Could you offer quicker response times, and offer more friendly, helpful service so every transaction stands out a bit more?

3. Unique Packaging: Could you design your packaging to surprise and delight? Maybe add a personalized note, or even a free sample can make receiving an order feel special.

4. User-Friendly Website: Could you make sure your site easier to navigate, more visually appealing, or faster? How could you make the shopping experience more memorable?

From Memorable to Meaningful:

Level 2 X to Level 3

Share Your Story: Could you share the story behind your brand, your mission, and the people behind your products? Have you told the story of your business to someone else? What was their reaction?

Impactful Buying: Could you show customers how their purchase makes a difference, whether it's supporting small businesses, fair-trade, or a donation to a good cause?

Educational Content: Could you offer valuable content that helps customers make better choices or use your products more effectively?

Create Community: Could you create a sense of community among through social media, forums, or customer clubs? What would they rally around?

Customer Appreciation: How could you show some more appreciation for customers? What would make for a memorable loyalty program? What special offers could you give to repeat customers?

From Meaningful to Transformational:

Level 3 X to Level 4

Goal-Oriented Programs: Could you offer a program that helps customers achieve their goals? Could be a fitness program for a sports apparel store, or skincare routines for a beauty store, or maybe DIY project guides for a craft store.

Personal Coaching or Support: Does your market need more personalized advice? Then offer 1:1 consultations to help customers make meaningful progress towards their goals.

Help People Transforms

Comprehensive Learning Opportunities: What skills could you teach through an online course or live webinar?

Challenges or Contests: Could you create a challenge or contest related to your product?

Community Support: Could you facilitate an ongoing community where customers can share their challenges, progress, and successes?

Could you do some of these things without a huge budget? Yes. But here’s the key: how well do you understand your customers?

In next week’s issue, we’ll dive into this a bit more.

Sameness kills brands. Copycatting and fast-following isn’t a sustainable strategy. Designing unique experiences for your market and customers creates separation—and more loyalty.

The questions are simple:

  • How are you designing emotional experiences?

  • How will you help others gain more insight?

  • How are you helping people to change, not just buy more stuff?

Creating unique experiences around your product and brand is more than just looks. It’s comes from your identity, your unique purpose, and what you value.

When you come from a place of authentic identity, good things happen.

Marketing Experience

How will Google’s AI Generative Search play out for eCommerce?

A good piece on generative search. Some highlights:

Google SGE
  • Snippets replaced by AI generated Snapshots

  • Sites shown in the AI Snapshot carousel are not the same links as shown in the classic search results

  • How do you rank within the Snapshot carousel?

  • High intent searches for products produce the most aggressive results, showing rows of products — but what’s the criteria?

  • It will take time to fine-tune the results. How do you “SEO” AI generated search results?

Get ready for a wild ride.

User Experience

Shoppers want a better eCommerce search experience

Speaking of search, Constructor asked 462 people what they thought of shopping for products on their favorite eCommerce sites—excluding Amazon.

Six out of 10 (60%) said the search function is due for an upgrade.

Consumers want better search

Nearly half (46%) say they want results that better reflect what they’re looking for. On top of that:

  • 41% want better filtering

  • Personalized results — 1 in 5 shoppers (20%) say their experiences with that retailer are not personalized at all

  • And, surprisingly, the ability to “type full sentences into a search bar and have it actually understand” (hello conversational search)

For 1 out of 3 shoppers, it takes 3 minutes to find what they’re looking for. That seems pretty good for me. What do you think?

People really want personalization, even if it’s driven by AI

Shoppers want more personalization (65%), ChatGPT (29%) or some other AI that can tailor results based on shopper preferences (25%).

Consumers are open to AI

Personalized & contextual experiences

Let’s talk about AI and CX more in the next section.

Customer Experience

Immersive Experiences

According to Zendesk’s CX Trends 2023, people crave more immersive experiences. What does that mean? According to them:

Immersive CX boils down to one simple idea: people want to be seen and heard, to be treated not as a transaction or a ticket but as the highly valued customers they are. Customers demand natural, fluid interactions with companies. From chatbots that closely mimic real human beings to conversational experiences where customers can start an interaction on one channel and then seamlessly switch to another.

Is this a mind-blowing insight for you? Maybe. Maybe not. But these trends are shaping the future of CX:

Consumers want immersive experiences

It’s clear that AI is resetting customer expectations. The tech to make these experiences possible is not just feasible for your average brand, but affordable.

People expect more AI interactions

What your average shopper expects

Despite AI trending up, people still have their reservations. Concerns about privacy, human displacement, “hallucinations”, etc. will still lurk until they don’t. But that’s to be expected with any new technology. As AI improves, some of these concerns will dwindle, and perhaps others will exacerbate. We’ll see.

The top 5 ways orgs use AI in the US right now

Top 5 ways orgs use AI

The top 5 ways organizations use AI in the US

The 24/7 always on service, the instant answers to FAQs, and to take some of the burden from live humans is a big win for most businesses.

Conversational experiences will become the new normal in customer service.

Employee Experience

Yelp embraces WFH because of record net revenue for 6 quarters straight

Carmen Whitney Orr, Yelp’s chief people officer, cited Yelp’s most recent earnings as evidence that a remote-first approach is working for the company.

The company reported record net revenue of $312 million for the sixth quarter in a row this March, beating analysts’ estimates by 2.19%, though it also recorded a loss of almost $1.2 million in the first quarter.

Guess WFH isn’t all bad 🤔

Read the story here.

Data Experience

The Brand Reputation Rankings, visualized

It probably won’t surprise you to see who’s at the top of the heap of meaningful brands—and who’s holding on for dear life on the tail end.

Brand Reputation Rankings

The plummet is real for Netflix and Tesla

Final thoughts

The new normal

Back in May, I had a conversation with PI, another AI assistant from inflection.ai, and there’s a couple of things that stood out:

  • Pi always asks questions, so it keeps the conversation flowing

  • It doesn’t just accept what you say, it challenges you to think about alternatives (in a very polite way, of course)

  • I took a day or two away from it, and Pi texted me—it brought up our recent conversation and asked me another question about our conversation

Here’s the screenshot:

My interaction with PI

A level 2-3 experience

Do you now see what’s possible? Can you see what’s coming next?

Thanks for hanging out today. Have a great weekend.


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