Christmas is giving us the gift of retail relationships

By Aarthi Rayapura December 19, 2018

This article was originally published on CityA.M.

By John Phillips, GM EMEA at Zuora.

This year’s flagship Christmas advert from John Lewis shows how the gift of a piano to Elton John as a child gave him a talent that he nurtured into an incredible career as a musician.

The ad also raised an important question – what can marketers learn from the idea behind the slogan “a gift for life”?

The answer is that they must look beyond the product they’re selling, and instead look at the experience which they’re creating.

A great example of this in action is the guitar manufacturer Fender, which has been doing exactly this for many years.

Since its inception more than 70 years ago, Fender has become a household name, and is perhaps the most iconic guitar maker available on the market.

But despite its reputation, sales of electric guitars have struggled in recent times, and have even dropped by a third over the last decade.

While Fender’s claim to fame was originally tied to the world’s biggest names, today’s revenues have largely been the result of brand new artists – and those who, for example, receive the latest Jazzmaster for Christmas every year.

Unfortunately, 90 percent of beginner guitarists quit within the first 12 months or so, and according to the chief product officer for digital for Fender, Ethan Kaplan, the reason for this drop is simple: the guitar is a hard instrument to master.

Aware of the ongoing trend, and understanding the importance of a creating life-long connections with customers, the Fender team has started to focus on ways to keep beginners engaged and committed for the long term.

As a result, the brand launched Fender Play in 2017, a subscription-based online video teaching service, which provides step-by-step lessons, as well as exclusive, expert, and experienced instructors for new learners.

With two price plans to choose from, students have unfettered access to all lessons, a 10 percent discount on products from Fender, and even the flexibility to opt out of a yearly contract – for those who want to take it slow.

Completely focused on consumer preferences, the service allows users to choose lessons for a range of instruments, including bass guitar, acoustic, and ukulele.

It even provides the option to play along to popular hits – something that is surprisingly uncommon in the marketplace.

Fender knows that it makes great guitars. But in today’s marketplace, where choice is infinite, the product itself isn’t always enough. It’s now all about creating a flexible digital offering that provides open access to experiences that engage consumers in the long run.

Shoppers are increasingly putting value on access over ownership, and care more about experiences than the products themselves.

It’s only a matter of time before we see the end of traditional ownership. The next wave of retailers are far more likely to move towards a subscription business model, thus forever changing the way that brands interact with consumers.

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