Ashish took a pause, and this time around turned to ask me if I have ever felt recognized by a brand as an individual? He continued “In my experience, absolutely not. Many brands talk about cutting-edge technologies, artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) and how they have fantastic customer engagement strategies. But as a consumer, I don’t see much personalization for myself. One reason for this disconnect is that there has been too much hype. There is a big delta between theory and practice. It is important now to see how we make all the promises come true. That’s going to be the focus for the next few months. We have to take out the hype, realistically look at what is possible, and then slowly but surely, focus on the personalization game. It is eventually about execution, which is getting the right technology, the right people with the right pragmatism and a good plan to get things going.”

If this is the reality of the emergent technologies, then what is this ruckus about the “experience economy” I asked, to which he smiled and replied “consumer prefers experiences over stuff. Experience economy is the latest mode of the economy, following the agrarian economy, the industrial economy, and the most recent service economy. The idea is that modern marketers need to create memorable events for consumers, where from the memory itself becomes the product: the “experience.” Brands need to think differently about how they market their products and services to create an experience. Even if overall consumer spending is down, people still need stuff. And they’re more likely to buy stuff if their customer experience is as positive and memorable as a concert or an event they experienced. So, in my opinion, the future of the experience economy looks like a return to its roots: the customer experience. Today more than ever, brands need to step up their game.”