HOLABAEK, DENMARK. The temperature was comfortable, the aisles spacious in this supermarket near the city center. Fresh fruit, chocolates, chicken cutlets, skim, low-fat, and whole mælk. All you could possibly need to fix a nice dinner or stock your refrigerator. Aside from the language and the local brand names, it wasn’t too different from any American grocery store, except for one aisle.
The aisle of experiences.
Experiences for Sale
In this small town of 30,000, off a fjord on the Danish island of Zealand, I came across a wondrous sight: a dozen feet of shelf space and several point-of-sale displays filled with well-designed boxes. Boxes filled with, of all things, experiences.
We’re talking about helicopter tours and Ferrari rentals and fine dining and pedicures. This was the grownup’s version of looking in a toy store window. You could buy a mini vacation to Berlin or a champagne brunch for two. Surprise your kid with camping. Ride a river raft or a hot air balloon.
What Bellevue Box and Smart Box are up to in this supermarket I hadn’t seen elsewhere in my travels as a globetrotting service designer. The idea of experiences packaged under one brand, in a nicely designed out-of-box experience, sold in aisles of a suburban grocery store, is unique and brilliant. It’s a new business model selling tangible manifestations of an experience for gifting.
Is the Tangible Timeless?
These boxes remind us that, while we live in an increasingly digital world, there are things that we still desire to touch and hold. There is gravitas to a box well-designed.
Think about how clever this is. Need inspiration for a friend’s birthday? Want to give more than some last-minute flowers to the wife on your anniversary? Looking to jazz up what would otherwise be a trite Hallmark card with a gift certificate tucked in?
Then aisle 7’s where it’s at.
These two brands have thoughtfully designed experiences you can touch and gift. And it makes me wonder two things:
How do we bring this to the U.S.?
And what other intangibles can be made real?
These great Danish boxes remind me of Met Life’s partnership with Wal-Mart a couple of years ago. The intangible that is life insurance boxed up and sold on a shelf. While it appears that it wasn’t successful, the idea of bringing something ephemeral to market for people to interact with while developing a new distribution model must be of value. In this day of service innovation, surely companies can use an aisle in a Danish supermarket as inspiration.