When people buy a coffee at Starbucks, they get more than just coffee. When people shop at Target, they get a different experience than when they shop at Wal-Mart. Individuals describe different experiences when using the Apple’s iPhone or Samsung’s Galaxy phone, even though the functionalities are almost the same.
Both of these examples can be attributed to customer experience, which has always been a core interest for corporations—a good customer experience leads to customer satisfaction, which then leads to customer loyalty and growth (Garg, Rahman, & Kumar, 2010).
Customer experience is a very broad and abstract concept, hence many of the definitions researchers construct lack specificity. When looking at packaged goods, for example, the customer experience often takes place out of the reach of the company, removed from the purchase location. Marketers of packaged goods create messages to convey a branded customer experience via advertising, packaging and other forms of marketing communication (Wyner, 2003).
The customer experience can be separated into a concrete component and a perceptual component; the concrete component is the physical experience created; for example, “Melanie received her package from Amazon after four days.” The perceptual components consist of elements that are harder to measure: the thoughts, feelings and attitudes created in the transaction – for example, “Melanie was pleased when the Amazon package arrived faster than she expected.” The conceptual part of the customer experience depends on countless abstract variables; among them are the customer’s expectations, the customer’s mood while engaging in the transaction, prior attitudes towards the brand, and in-store interaction. Even terms that we perceive to be quite concrete, such as “quality,” are in fact very subjective and ephemeral: “Quality” is often a measure by the extent to which the service or product delivered meets the customer’s expectations (Ghose, 2009), thus even the concept of quality is subjective and relative.