There’s no doubt that consumers are demanding better experiences, and retailers are giving them just that. Are other industries reacting fast enough?
While living in Atlanta, an old building in Ponce de Leon Avenue that used to house Sears, Roebuck & Co. transformed into a vibrant chef-quality food hall, where some retailers established their stores. Read that again… a vibrant chef-quality FOOD HALL where some retailers established their stores.
The place is called Ponce City Market, but they are not the only ones doing this… it’s a global trend. I’ve recently discovered some versions of this food halls around Miami, such as The Citadel, others in New York such as Gotham West Market, and the classic Mercado de San Miguel in Madrid. Although the last two examples are located in the middle of an already walkable city, in an area that feels like an exterior shopping mall. I have also seen malls in Miami and New York trying to create their own market experiences, such as The Brickell City Center in downtown Miami with La Centrale, which is very similar to Mario Batali’s Eataly Food Hall chain, and I recently visited the Mercado Little Spain owned by Chefs José Andrés, Albert and Ferran Adrià in the Hudson Yards development in New York.
The idea before used to be building a shopping mall with a food hall in the middle, and some of us can agree that food court food was not precisely known for its quality. It was just a quick option to fill your stomach and continue shopping. But now, we do the shopping online, and when we go out we want an experience. So how about, flipping the script and build amazing food halls, with chef quality food, and then… after we are done eating and drinking, we might find some time to peruse the stores that are located around the area. We go out because of the experience, and shopping at a retail store has become a collateral activity to that experience.
How about bringing that Experience to Content Consumption?
It’s happening, but not everyone is clear on the importance of this. I might be a marketer, and a media professional with some years of experience, but first of all, I’m also a consumer, and what I am about to say comes from that perspective.
It’s Friday or Monday, close to 12:30am, and most likely you will find me in my computer with the Spotify app open, curating songs that match my listening habits. Spotify curates a list based on the artists I like. Every Friday they publish a playlist called “Your Release Radar”, and a shorter one on Mondays called “Discovery Weekly” based on suggestion I might appreciate. But it’s not just the music that makes a difference, although in my opinion, they have the best algorithm to match my listening habits and suggest artists I always enjoy.
What I like about using the Spotify app in my laptop, is that I feel in control and in a special place every time I launch it in my computer.
To the left, I have the typical menus, I control the content in the middle, and to the right I have a column with my friend’s activity, where I can see what they are listening to, and can interact with them. Opening that Spotify app feels like I’m in a central operations console that allows me to control my style, organize my experience, share and learn from the habits of my community. I have other apps to listen to music, such as YouTube and Amazon, but none start to compare to the experience I get when I’m listening and discovering new music in Spotify.
Taking this a little bit further, I am one to believe that OTTs such as Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime Video, HBO Now, and any other new ones coming up such as ESPN or Disney plus, should not stay still and enjoy their success and depend only in their exclusive and variety of content. All the platforms should start exploring more with the community experience in their offerings, giving the options to interact in different capabilities, including but not limited to real time interaction.
YouTube is a great example of a platform that could get better at this. They might need a little bit more of original content, but hey… that’s just a matter of time. Also, the YouTube Premium platform in my opinion is too similar to their Google search experience, and it lacks the social aspect. Anyone with a video game console can tell you more about this.
There is more to video gaming consoles than awesome content and graphics, I have seen the importance of community, and how experiences can be transformative when you design platforms where you are allowed to share and interact in real time with your content regardless of the device you are using. Take Xbox and Playstation as an example.
Consumers enjoy community, and that’s why they go out and eat. Retailers are adjusting to this, and reconsidering customers’ priorities. Some people binge content by themselves, it’s true, but there’s nothing like events or great content to see how people appreciate getting together in real time or in water cooler conversations to exchange ideas and take the experience to another level. Game of Thrones is a recent example, but I’ve also seen watch parties for The Sopranos or The Walking Dead in Atlanta, and let’s not go too far… The Superbowl or The Oscars every year.
So why did I have to wait for the weekend to see Cobra Kai’s season 2 when my daughter came to visit? Why doesn’t YouTube offer the possibility to create a long distance watch party where loved ones and friends can enjoy a program together through their platform from wherever they are in the world? I’ve had to use WhatsApp to comment live on The Oscar’s with friends in Spain and Chile.. Why do I have to get out of their platform to look for a community experience? Why not have it built-in?
Consumers might be enjoying watching shows by themselves, but let’s not get distracted and focus on building better platforms that allow us to enjoy contents as community. Quality and Experience is a winning combination and we need to be paying attention to the brick and mortar trends to understand what’s going to happen to the streaming and OTT platforms in the near future.
Technology is forcing retailers to become more customer centric, and acting more like buying agents for consumers instead of selling agents for producers. Media brands (traditional and new, including OTTs) are constantly adopting the changes that technology, data, and user’s hyper-connectivity is forcing on them, but even Netflix, and others that have shaped their content offerings based on what the audience is demanding of them, could do a better job when communicating through their platforms, that they are content consumption agents representing their consumers’ interests, and not content producer agents representing the content creators interest… How do you do this? By establishing audience experiences through their platforms and putting their users in control, while allowing them to build community, and more important… these media brands should be part of that community conversation in their own platforms not others.
STATUS: Don’t rely just in your great content, give your audience the platforms to build communities and get involved.