Experience is everything: Insights from Phillip Mills visit to London and the Food and Retail Conference

EXF Third Space

Experience is everything: Insights from Phillip Mills visit to London and the Food and Retail Conference

There is nothing more valuable than learning from experts. Successful businesses have always respected what the wise can teach us. Recently, I have been lucky enough to attend two events that gave me a chance to listen to leaders in the health, food and drink industry. The first was an event with Phillip Mills, Founder and Managing Director of Les Mills International. The second was the Food and Retail Conference 2018. Despite the different focus of each event, the key message across both was the importance of creating an experience for consumers. When done well, it can have an amazing impact on sales, retention and customer loyalty.

Here are my key takeaways from both events…

Winning in the Fitness Industry

I have long considered Phillip Mills to be the Godfather of group exercise and I was honoured to be a part of his exclusive visit to London in September. Over the course of the afternoon, I listened to key learnings from Phillip’s 50 years in the industry with great interest.  He shared developments of the brand throughout its history and highlighted Les Mills’ focus on placing consumer needs at the forefront of the business agenda. It was extremely interesting to see the work and volume of research that goes on behind the scenes. He also discussed new research launching in 2019 called The Group Effect, related to motivation and group exercise.

The discussion highlighted to me exactly why Les Mills has been so successful. They have built a trustworthy core product which people buy into, whilst understanding the nuances of updating it sufficiently to remain relevant and exciting. Every new release uses the latest music, clever variations of well-known exercises and opportunities for an instructor to put their personal stamp on a track. The quality remains constant, but individuals know that each experience will be slightly different, giving them something to look forward to. That anticipation is what keeps people engaged with a brand and coming back for more.

Les Mills

Food and Retail Conference 2018

At the Food and Retail Conference, I listened to several engaging talks from the likes of Colin Waggett, CEO at the Third Space, Eamon Lloyd, Director and Head of Partnerships at Gympass and Charles Rolls, Co-Founder & Executive Deputy Chairman of Fever-Tree. I listened with great curiosity as they discussed their brands and how they have captured the market by storm. It was clear how well they truly knew their values, their competitors, consumer needs and trends. They understood who they were targeting with their product and how to speak to them.

Food and Retail Conference 2018

Eamon Lloyd, Director and Head of Partnerships at Gympass speaking at the Food and Retail Conference 2018

A key learning I took from these talks was how each brand has established their success from creating an emotional connection with their audience. They talk to their consumers in a language they will resonate with, answering their needs not just on a physical, but also an emotional level. That is the key to creating a long-standing brand with true customer loyalty.

The overarching message

No matter the topic, brand or industry, there was an over-arching theme coming through every session I attended: the importance of creating an ‘experience’ association with a brand.

Colin gave a great analogy: when people ask why a restaurant might be your favourite, it is often hard to pinpoint the ‘why’ down to a specific USP. It is more likely you would focus on the whole experience: the ambience, the music, the service, the food, the sense of warmth you get from just sitting at the table. You don’t even actively think about some of these aspects, but your overall experience of the restaurant is shaped by all of them and more. All the elements come together to form an experience which offers an emotional response.

All the brands I heard from echoed this insight. Les Mills aims to create the most engaging class experiences through their choice of music, combination of moves and rock star instructors backed by in-depth training. The Third Space thinks about everything related to experience, even the first piece of décor you see when you walk into their door. Gympass positions themselves on the ground of its corporate customers to deliver a bespoke and tailored service which puts the customer at the heart of the offering. Fever Tree travels across the globe to source the most amazing and high-quality ingredients to create a drink close to perfection. Every part of the experience is thought through and delivered.

We live in a world sometimes dubbed “the experience economy.” There is a rising demand for experiential consumption, and brands, regardless of industry, are responding to this trend. The services that will win today are the ones that consider all aspects of the experience, pushing a consumer to believe that the brand really understands who they are. Successfully tapping into this trend allows companies to build consumer loyalty. In an age of endless choice, this is no mean feat.