How the experience economy and mass customization are the driving force behind Briq Bookings’ success

Briq HQ November 16, 2021
How the experience economy and mass customization are the driving force behind Briq Bookings’ success - interview with Eugene Lubbers

If you’ve ever met Briq Booking’s CEO and co-founder Eugene Lubbers, there’s a 95% chance that he’s spoken to you about the experience economy and how much he values quality experiences

In this interview Eugene shares his insights and dreams for the leisure industry based on Joe Pine’s books about The Experience Economy (1999) and mass customization (1992).

Where does your love for the experience economy come from?  

I started working in hospitality when I was 14 or 15 years old as a dishwasher, went onto helping the chef prepare meals, and then shifted from behind the scenes to the service side for several restaurants and event venues. Ultimately resulting in me working at 1-, 2-, and 3-Michelin star restaurants. 

Michelin restaurants are all about delivering value and for that value they charge 3, 4 or 5 times more than a regular restaurant. That value is about experience – delivering the best experience they can for their guests. 

Delivering this experience and its value really caught my interest from the start and kept me (still) really focused on how you can create and deliver great experiences.

The first time I heard about the experience economy as a theory was when I was studying at the hospitality management school in Maastricht from 2002 until 2006. Although this book was not a part of my curriculum, it caught my attention when it was mentioned in a few lectures. So I bought it, read it, and reread it a number of times.

It explained and emphasized to me how important experiences are and are going to be in the future in a time where everything is being commoditized.

Everything that’s special today will be a commodity tomorrow.

For instance, when you invest in something. The experience you get is the only thing that truly adds value and that’s worth paying for. Take a cup of coffee for example. Starbucks proves that you can ask 5 times as much for a cup of coffee by changing the scenery, misspelling your name, and making it a personal experience. 

Experiences are what sets organizations apart from the ordinary. Joe Pine explains this clearly stating that experiences equal time well spent, while commodities, products, and services are about time well saved.

In my opinion, the experience economy is all about how to add value in a world where there’s a battle for your attention and time, and how can you add value in a place where everything gets commoditized. I believe that’s why Joe Pine’s book caught my attention and why it’s so interesting. 

How does the experience economy relate to Briq Bookings? 

The clients we work with are masters at staging experiences and it’s key to deliver those experiences in a way that’s unique, different from simply ordering new shoes online.

What we do is help leisure businesses target the right audience at the right moment with a personalized experience to increase their number of bookings and revenue.

That’s why we created a mass customization platform helping businesses that sell experiences customize their offerings.

Why? Because the way people look for and buy experiences has shifted, which means that the way we present experiences and market them also needs to change. 

Could you explain the concept of your mass customization platform? 

The funny thing is that when we started with Briq, I kept on talking about this concept of mass customization. Every single presentation I explained this notion. I talked about it during every call and with every entrepreneur I met and I was obviously extremely enthusiastic about it. 

Then one day, Nicolien, Head of Customer Success, said to me: “Eugene, you have to stop talking about mass customization. Nobody understands it and they’re not interested in it.” What clients were looking for could not be tackled with my story about mass customization.

That’s when we changed our pitch and started talking about more online bookings and how to get more revenue and improve your e-commerce strategy. After all, this was what our clients were looking for and what Briq has to offer them.

Our first customers? Well, I think they simply bought into my story because we were so enthusiastic and so convinced that we’re revolutionizing the industry with our multi-activity booking system, that they decided to give us a chance to prove it. 

As you can guess, we built Briq’s software keeping Joe Pine’s theory about mass customization in mind. It’s really the theory behind what we’ve created. 

A great example of mass customization is Nike. They’ve changed the way they sell shoes. They used to sell the same shoe through shoe shops all over the world. But now they mass customize shoes in small batches, making them unique for one person. Doing so, they made their shoes more personal, which has helped them grow their business tremendously. 

Customizing shoes allowed them to be more relevant to their customers and raise their pricing. Where Nike could first charge up to $70 dollars for a normal shoe, they can now charge $170 for a customized shoe, because it’s unique. It might be created by your favorite artist or designer, or have an autograph of one of your heros on it. This makes it way more niche orientated and thus, again, unique.

That’s how Nike changed their mass production line into a mass customization line. And I believe the same should and can happen for experiences in the leisure industry.

We therefore customize our clients’ offerings, make them bookable online and make sure their customers can schedule their future experiences whenever they want to visit a venue. This means customers can book a guaranteed experience at any moment in time.

How the experience economy and mass customization are the driving force behind Briq Bookings’ success - interview with Eugene Lubbers

What do you believe is key to staging experiences in the future? 

Firstly, what’s key to understand is that if everything is becoming an experience, selling experiences might not be so interesting anymore. What’s key to an experience is covered in Joe Pine’s next book about authenticity, stating that experiences need to be real, have soul, be authentic. 

What we take away from that at Briq Bookings has to do with curation. If you have 100 experiences next to each other, how do you know which one to choose?

According to me, the best way to help you with that choice is when real people, like your friends or experts in a specific field, select the right choices for you.

That has everything to do with curation and filtering, bringing authenticity to experiences that you can select.

At Briq Bookings, we enable guests to create their own personalized itineraries at their favorite venues. And because we believe that you need to help your customers choose, we also pre-package things for them. We help them by sharing the best options, especially tailored to their preferences, giving them a customized range of choices.

Consider Spotify. When I open my Spotify nowadays, I’ve got so many choices. Back in the days, when I was a little boy, I only had one CD and I listened to it 24/7.

Now, I have access to all the music in the world and it’s difficult to know what to listen to. So how do I get good advice and who can give me this advice? How do I make sure that my Spotify algorithm doesn’t get polluted with music I don’t like that much?

That’s a difficult question and that’s a question we like to solve with our software for our clients. By enabling them to curate the right experiences for the right audiences, guests will find it easier to choose amazing experiences, suitable for them.

Time is limited and precious and it’s important to consider how you want to spend your time. 

As a father of two kids, I know extremely well that time’s limited. And when I opt for an experience, I want to know that I’m choosing well. Therefore, I feel that we need to make sure that we advise people about the right things to do that help you spend quality time with your friends and family.

Spending time well is definitely at the core of everything we do at Briq Bookings. 

What about your relationship with Joe Pine?

I actually met Joe Pine completely by accident at a digital event by Bob Cooney, where we were put together in a forum. During this forum he started talking about customization and at that moment someone mentioned: “Joe, what you’re discussing right now, that’s what the guys at Briq Bookings are realizing.”

I could see him write our name down on a piece of paper as I was in the audience and afterwards, I immediately sent him a message. This kickstarted a series of conversations that still continue today. 

The first time we spoke he confirmed to me: “What you’re doing with Briq is really interesting. Have a look at this case from Carnival Cruises and have a look at what they’re creating.
I believe that if you move in the right direction, focused on experiences and mass customization, you’ve really got something that you can scale up.”  

In the beginning of September 2021 he even mentioned Briq Bookings as an example of how to put his theory into practice.

So it wasn’t just us believing that we were using his theory to drive our success. Joe Pine recognized his theory as the building blocks for Briq and our contributions to enabling customized experiences too.

We’ll continue our conversations this winter and I’m looking forward to working together on our future strategy.

Is this the era of the experience economy and mass customization? 

The experience economy theory is already 20 years old. At first, it was for pioneers and early adopters but now you see it’s becoming or already is an economic principle. 

It’s woven into new theories and seen as a standard. In a way, it has become the baseline in this world where online marketing and commerce are dominant and where customer behavior is shifting – from the way customers buy to the way they allocate their scarce time.

So yes, the experience economy is happening right now. It’s an economic principle you need to adapt to the world as it is.

And I believe mass customization is essential to help businesses succeed in staging their experiences and offering them through e-commerce.

In sum, the experience economy is simply not the new kid on the block. It’s key to bear these principles in mind in our e-commerce focused world, where creating and curating experiences is essential for your online reputation and how your guests choose and experience your activities.  

How the experience economy and mass customization are the driving force behind Briq Bookings’ success - interview with Eugene Lubbers

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