Connecting With The Need To Connect: Watching People Eat Online

In his 1943 paper, “A Theory of Human Motivation”, Abraham Maslow foreshadowed a key ingredient to modern customer experience design. In essence, once you are able to meet a customer’s basic or functional need…there are higher needs you can address to drive their loyalty with your brand.

Assume for example, that you and a competitor both have fabulous widgets and that those widgets are provided at similar prices. Now let’s assume that a customer feels safer doing business with you because your widgets are delivered to them more consistently. Your competitor sometimes has difficulty keeping their product in stock, for example.

You have met your customer’s basic need for the product and addressed a higher level safety need through consistency. Now let’s assume you have leveraged an effective social media campaign that encourages customers to share their experience of purchasing and/or using your widget with their friends. Viola, you have addressed yet a higher level human need for acceptance and belonging. If you help customers link their purchase or use of your widget to a higher social good, you have in essence helped them maximize their human potential or impact (in the words of Maslow – helped them with self-actualization needs).

Ok, let’s drop the “widget” example and go to the real world. Let’s assume you go out to a meal by yourself. The menu offers a rich variety of items to meet your hunger need. When the meal is presented it is beautiful so you snap a picture to send it to friends.

That used to be good enough but why stop there? In fact, with the pervasivenes of streaming and live video, a new trend of social eating is expected. According to Ad Age, “Twitch Interactive, the video-game streaming service Amazon acquired for almost $1 billion two years ago, hinted at what could be the next sensation in internet broadcasting “watching people eat.” This burgeoning phenomena, referred to as “social eating” gained popularity in South Korea and is showing increased popularity in the United States as well. As an example of social eating, Bloomberg News notes, “A Twitch streamer with the user name Hacklyn was eating a bowl of soup Wednesday morning, with about 20 people watching live. She was listening to music and chatting with people about relationships while they watched her dig in.”

I am not a futurist, so I won’t predict the likelihood that the internet will be overrun with a steady diet of videos of people savoring food, but I can guarantee that brands that see products as the beginning of customer need fulfillment (not the end of it) will dominate those who believe products are enough. What are the additional needs (beyond products) you can fulfill to deepen your connection with your customers?

For example, if you are in the restaurant business you might work on ways to encourage the sharing of social eating videos.

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Joseph A. Michelli, Ph.D. is a professional speaker and chief experience officer at The Michelli Experience. A New York Times #1 bestselling author, Dr. Michelli and his team consult with some of the world’s best customer experience companies.

Follow on Twitter: @josephmichelli

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