How Clubs Can Cash in on the Experience Economy

September 06, 2019

Earlier this year, as a part of the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting; the organization issued an article that boldly stated “ The shift to an experience economy has the power not only to change how we spend our time and money, but also to promote inclusion and democratize happiness.” As the club industry works to combat member attrition and gain a share of the fiercely loyal Millennial population, here are a few ways clubs can cash in on the four pillars of the Experience Economy, as defined by the World Economic Forum.

The Commoditization of Things

Simply put, it is much easier to acquire “stuff” these days- and many times even shipped to your house for free! (thanks, Amazon), and that means that items which used to be rare are now common and much more accessible. Rather than place value in tangible items; which everyone can get their hands on, value is placed on the experience the consumer receives from owning said tangible item. What does that mean for the club industry? Members are no longer seeking to acquire more things for the sole purpose of having them. They are seeking to acquire more experiences, which can be easily shared with others on social media (Instagram, Facebook) and the experience, unlike ‘stuff’, never go away, go out of style or wear out. Memories are easily accessed as a memory. Consumers, and thereby private club members, are seeking the connections and experiences they make as a result of the things they have acquired.


In very elementary terms, they are looking for your pro shop to not only stock the latest and greatest driver on the market, but also offer a longest drive competition to celebrate the launch of said latest and greatest driver. To use this experience as a member attraction tool, share the story of it on Instagram and Facebook so potential members can view themselves having the same fun.


Human Psychology

According to researchers, experiences create more lasting happiness because they are more open to positive reinterpretation. Experiences tend to become more meaningful parts of one’s identity, and they do more to foster social relationships. Experiences help us learn, grow and connect with each other, so it’s no surprise we choose to spend our money and time on them.

In our very popular Motivate Me course, we discuss how it’s more than just money that motivates an employee, and the same can be said for human motivation in general. Time spent “in the moment” is a big motivator to action, and clubs can capitalize on helping their members be “in the moment” by offering out of the box experiences that members can share with their friends.

Clubs can boost participation by having these experiences match up with the members’ values. Experiences such as ‘voluntourism’ is gaining popularity in other hospitality industries like cruise lines. We recently saw a sold-out tour that was paired up with volunteering, such as a hike and picking up trash for the community. Clubs can match up gardening lectures with healthy cooking classes paired with the latest and greatest flavored sparkling waters – or better yet, a club made sparkler! An event or experience series like this takes advantage of members’ motivations, matches them with their values, and uses current club and food and beverage trends to do it. A win/win/win.

The Death of Retail

Everywhere you turn, it seems major retailers are shutting their doors; offering business school case studies about the impact of digital disruption. Why spend hours in a store searching for something you maybe want when you can spend minutes on Amazon and get exactly what you want with an easy, convenient return policy if you don’t like it or it doesn’t fit?

It’s safe to say in 10 years, the only companies that will exist are ones that create and nurture human experiences from brand awareness to advocacy – otherwise known as the Customer Experience (CX). A perfect example of a company that has shifted their focus to human experiences is REI who offers trips, hikes and classes as a core part of their business— these experiences all launch from the local REI store. In a genius move, the retailer becomes more than simply a retailer. REI becomes a gathering place that is building brand loyalty by offering customers more than simply a place to buy a hiking backpack, they are offering an opportunity to put the newly-purchased backpack to good use on a hike.

At its core, the club industry is one that capitalizes on creating and nurturing human experiences, and creating memorable moments is what attracts members to your club and keeps them coming back—and telling their friends!


According to the World Economic Forum, our current society is in the midst of the Fourth Industrial Revolution; in which the lines between physical, digital, and biological spheres are becoming blurred. In a nutshell, thanks to technology the world is becoming smaller, more accessible and more automated. This industrial revolution is allowing consumers to enjoy the benefits of rapid innovation, but also presenting a challenge to maintain connections as much of our lives are spent staring at some sort of device. With that in mind, its not surprising that the most sought-after experiences are ones that inspire and bring people together.

As clubs seek to expand membership to the next generation, they should keep in mind that while the up and coming generations are the most connected and technologically-dependent generation that the world has seen, they are also a generation starved for experiences that force them to be inspired and spend time together. In a recent YouGov poll, 30% of Millennials say they feel lonely and is the highest percentage of the generations surveyed. The same poll, which looked at 1,254 adults 18 and older, reported 22% of Millennials in the pool said they had zero friends. By comparison, only 16% of Gen Xers and 9% of baby boomers say they have no friends. Offering space for members to unwind, network, make friends and generally engage in meaningful experiences as a part of a group will be key to attracting Millennials and the generations to come.

 Creating memorable experiences is a strategic decision because there is a financial and management commitment to be made for the experiences that will drive membership sales and retention. For many, this could also be a paradigm shift, requiring a shift in the club’s culture. Don’t forget to sign up for Whitney’s Top Rated Session at Golf Inc. Strategy Summit, The Experience Economy. She will be joined by panelists Michael Leemhuis of Leemhuis Consult, Donald Emery, President/General Manager at Arnold Palmer’s Bay Hill Club & Lodge, and Michael Gregory of Global Golf Advisors. You don’t want to miss it!