Madrid, Spain - December 22, 2013: Sephora Store on Gran Via, Madrid. People walking on the street

From Sephora to Chobani, experience management (XM) is quickly becoming the key differentiator of the world’s most successful brands.

It was the secret to Apple’s 1996 revival and the success of Sephora and Chobani today.

Experience management (XM) – or the idea of giving everyone who engages with your brand – from employees to consumers – a memorable and seamless experience – is the lynchpin of a brand’s success, the audience at Qualtrics’ X4 event on Sydney were last week told.

Bill McMurray, managing director of Qualtrics Asia Pacific and Japan told the audience that XM is “rapidly becoming one of the most important things for businesses to embark upon.”

Getting a foothold on the experience economy is absolutely essential to thrive in the current retail landscape, he said, with the XM market set to grow rapidly in the next 10-12 years.

Ryan Smith, CEO of Qualtrics told the event that the experience economy is on an upward trajectory, telling delegates “if you’re not competing on an experience it’s a race to the bottom. You’re in a disruption funnel.”

Ryan Smith speaking at X4

“The old way of winning doesn’t work. It has become nothing more than a race to the bottom. Experiences and experience is changing everything.”

Despite the importance of XM, succeeding in the experience economy has never been more of a challenge, he said.

“Winning in the experience economy has gotten harder.”

With the rise of the internet and social media it’s never been easier for customers to evaluate which companies are providing great experiences … and we’re rewarding companies who provide a great experience in a disproportionate fashion.”

The state of the market is exacerbated by the “experience gap” – or the gap between what companies’ think of their customer’s experience and what customer’s actually say.

It’s XM that aims to address this divide by bridging the gap between brands and consumers, he says.

“When you get experience right you can defy gravity. Companies winning in experience become leaders in their category,” he said.

“If you’re not competing on an experience it’s a race to the bottom. You’re in a disruption funnel.”


Multinational yogurt manufacturer Chobani is one brand to scale globally with a focus on experience management.

The company has risen from the ranks as a new entrant to the market to the number one leader in the field in the span of six years.

Maria Voronina, senior brand manager at Chobani told Retailbiz that XM is at the heart of everything Chobani does – from developing products to managing consumer’s experiences with the company.

The brand engages Qualtrics to collect data around consumer experiences and to enable the company to listen to consumers and identify both opportunities and issues – and respond quickly.

Maria Voronina from Chobani

The brand also gathers this experience data through their 24/7 consumer loyalty team as well as through a field marketing team.

It’s these insights which go into informing product strategies, Ms Voronina says.

“We always listen and before we launch something we listen to consumers. And after we launch we constantly make sure the product product is on par with what we promise,” she said.

It’s this focus on XM which Ms Voronina says underpins the success of Chobani.

“We are the number one brand in the category. In six years we went from being the new kid on  the block to a leading brand.”

“I think it’s fair to say the growth we’ve seen is directly linked to what we’re doing [with XM].”


One of the world’s biggest beauty companies, Sephora, is another brand that has skyrocketed to success with a focus on managing its people’s experiences.

The multi-national company, which has 39,000 employees and more than 2,500 stores worldwide, has for years been focusing on hosting events that employees and consumers will remember.

Karalyn Smith, Chief People Officer at Sephora told the audience at the event that the retailer is bent on creating moments that matter to both the brand’s consumers and employees.

“Meeting needs thorough experiences we can create for employees and clients creates a virtuous cycle of love and loyalty,” she told the event.

Karalyn Smith speaking at X4

At Sephora, it’s the small moments that matter the most in terms of employee engagement, Ms Smith said, with days like Summer Fridays – a program which allows staff to take a day in lieu in summer and festival outings key to employee engagement.

Beyond this, Sephora’s approach to people engagement is five-fold, Ms Smith said, with a particular focus on crafting personalised experiences.

  1. Know me
  2. Make it easy
  3. Appreciate me
  4. Make it fun and special
  5. Give me purpose behind profit

At the end of the day, it’s the humans that are at the centre of a brand’s success and it’s “starting from the inside out” by nurturing the people in your brand that really sets you apart, she says.

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