There is a growing recognition of the opportunities of innovation through experience staging. The literature, however, tends to focus on high-profile examples of firms from largely hedonic sectors, such as entertainment and hospitality. These cases provide vivid and persuasive examples, but they fail to address how firms outside these sectors can join the experience economy—a term coined in 1998 by Pine and Gilmore—by developing new products and services with experiences at their core. The paper reports on two studies undertaken to examine why firms that do not belong to sectors that are largely hedonic innovate through experience staging and how they benefit from doing so. The first study is an in-depth case study of 15 diverse firms, which examines these firms' motives for pursuing innovation through experience staging. The second study is a two-year longitudinal quantitative survey of 131 small- and medium-sized firms (SMEs) to address the question of the benefits that firms that do not have strong brands can gain by from innovation through staging experiences.
The first study provides the basis for classifying firms along two dimensions depending on the nature of the new products or services (referred to collectively as offerings) they create. The first dimension has to do with whether new offerings have a functional or experiential core. The second dimension has to do with the degree of experiential augmentation applied to offerings.
The first study suggests that firms adopt an experience-staging strategy to innovation based on both outward-facing and inward-facing motives. The outward-facing motives include improving a firm's image in its market, entering new markets, and attracting new customers. The inward-facing motives include improving a firm's attractiveness to employees and increasing profitability. The results of the second study suggest that creating offerings with an experiential core can contribute to success by enhancing a firm's image, its attractiveness to employees, and its ability to enter new markets. Moreover, experiential augmentation contributes to profitability, new customer attraction, and employee attractiveness.
This research has important implications for theory and practice. In the first place, this research extends existing theory about experience staging to firms outside sectors that are largely hedonic. In the second place, the managerial implications are that innovation through experience staging can be an effective way for SMEs, even those outside industries, such as entertainment or hospitality, to create competitive advantage.