The coronavirus is changing consumer behavior in many ways. As the pandemic rages on, note that it brings an unprecedented set of challenges for business owners and markers. And how marketers should respond is a tricky question. There is no doubt that the events and experiential industry are now going through tough and uncertain times.

As many event marketing budgets remain on hold, many in the sector are asking how soon activity will return and whether spending will ever return to pre-COVID levels. Obviously most opportunities for experiential activations, like festivals, commuting, and sporting events, are now on hiatus. Brands have a strict duty to avoid exposing their customers to potentially risky situations. So it’s no secret that crowded spaces, communal VR headsets, and excited crowds are now off-limits for the foreseeable future. However, businesses still have to find new ways to engage their customers.

It is worth noting that granular monitoring of trends and data in consumer behavior is crucial to planning. Keep in mind that given the unprecedented nature of this pandemic and the serious changes that it is causing, experts contend that harnessing imagination might be even more important than usual. This is why marketers will have to think differently about what customers will feel, think, say, and do in the new normal.

What is Experiential Marketing?

We can define experiential marketing to include all manner of techniques that create meaningful experiences between consumers and brands. Experiential marketing campaigns can leverage tactics as varied as product sampling, publicity stunts, immersive experiences, and digital activations. These tactics can help bring brands to life in the eyes of consumers, allowing them to better engage with the brand.

Also known as engagement marketing or event marketing, the goal of experiential marketing is to stir positive emotions and create a lasting connection between customers and brands. So, one could say that it is about converting a transactional interaction into an emotional one.

The Amazing Potential of Immersive Digital Marketing

Over the last decade or so, immersive experiences and digital experiential activations have gained a lot of popularity. This is due to its strong and unmatched ability to deeply engage with participants and its appeal to younger consumers, many of whom have been raised to expect digital experiences and interconnectivity everywhere they look.

Still, it is worth noting that the potential audience for digital and immersive marketing experiences is even broader than it may seem. For example, social media influencers partner with brands in order to deliver memorable and meaningful marketing experiences online but also through samplings, events, challenges, etc. Influencers who provide fun and immersive experiences increase brand visibility, drive action, and build audience connections.

Personalizing Experiential Marketing

Brands can make experiential marketing discreet and subtle or splashy and headline-making. Either way, note that the actual value is in bringing memorable experiences to life online. Personalization of a digital experience can help forge deeper engagement with the individuals who participated, and it also introduces the experience to other people when shared via social media and other channels.

Experiential marketing can utilize various emerging technologies, such as augmented reality (AR), to create personalized and multi-sensory experiences for consumers. And this will be amplified if more individuals prefer to experience more things right from the comfort, convenience, and safety of their homes. For instance, marketers can easily enhance and improve the way consumers try out certain types of products, like visualizing how pieces of furniture would look within their home.

Such technologies are getting ever more powerful, which will allow them to continue to do more for consumers and for brands. The effectiveness and relevance of digital experiences will continue to grow in 2020 and beyond.

Consumer Behavior is Key

All of us know what it feels like to be marketed to, and at times that can be negatively perceived. But when executed well, brand events and experiential marketing should be a win-win for the consumer and the brand. Well designed experiences are fun and engaging for customers to participate in. Cleverly built experiences should provide them with an opportunity to feel special. And the brands that create receive both exposure and goodwill in return.

According to some studies, millennials tend to prefer experiences over things. They don’t want to just accumulate more things, like the generations before them. This is a generation that prizes the ability to work from anywhere in the world and has driven a rise in adventure tourism. So it’s no surprise they would value experiencing a brand over consuming its marketing messages. And it’s not just millennials – Event Marketer reported that 74 percent of consumers claimed to be more inclined to buy a product after attending an activation.

Final Thoughts

Overall, there is no doubt that the landscape for experiential marketing has considerably changed because of COVID-19. Although it might not be fully clear what experiential marketing will look like in the future, it is clear that most customers will always respond to fun and immersive experiences that help drive unrivaled and deep emotional connections. This is why the brands that innovate and experiment now will likely have a big competitive advantage in the next couple of years.

Featured Image: Joshua Sortino on Unsplash