One of the few feelings which has remained with me from infancy to today is curiosity, seeing something different and wanting to find out more. I am in no way unique in this, it’s a trait possessed by all humans in some measure and provides, in my mind, the answer to why experiential marketing is so effective in comparison to other channels.
Experiential Marketing in Retail
Simply put it’s unusual, everyone knows that when they watch TV there will be adverts, when they surf the internet there will be pop-ups, we know they’re coming and we’re ready to ignore them. However, place an activation in the street we take to work every day and not one person will miss it, given the average human attention span of 8 seconds, this kind of attention is priceless and instrumental to success.
Due to this success, it is not a surprise that the IPA bellwether report for Q3 2016 shows a 9.9% upward revision in experiential marketing budgets. Clearly marketers are cottoning on to the trend, however, there is still a relative lack of activations in retail, which is surprising given how well suited the sector is to the format.
It is my goal, in this article, to show just how well suited the retail sector is to experiential marketing through the use of thoroughly researched statistics from legitimate sources!
Achieves immediate sales uplift
The first and perhaps most important point for the sector is the immediate boost to sales seen as a result of activations:
98% of the respondents said that assuming the product or service promoted was one they were interested in, participating at the event or experience made them more inclined to purchase. (EventTrack 2015)
This statistic has even greater implications for retail activations which take place inside the store itself. With immediate access to the product and well trained, knowledgeable brand ambassadors, the time between call to action and point of purchase is minimal.
Combine this with the fact that 65% of consumers purchase the product or service promoted at the event or visit, according to the Event Marketing Institute, which is an 11% increase from the previous year and we can see that experiential marketing is a powerful tool for achieving sales uplift!
Engages consumers and increases retail footfall
The nature of experiential marketing lends it towards high levels of consumer engagement due to the inherently unusual nature of the installations. People are curious to see what “new thing” has popped up in their area. As a result of this, over 50 per cent of people surveyed said they spend between one and 10 minutes a day engaged with a brand through experiential marketing.
The onus is therefore on the brand to ensure the activation is of the highest quality possible, if you build it, they will come. In the retail context this is easy, the monotony of shopping is not lost on most consumers, people who’ve lived and shopped in the area for a long time fall into a routine. Anything you can do to spice up their day will not go unnoticed it will remain in their mind, attached to the brand that caused it.
To illustrate these points, according to Marketing Week, a full-sized farmyard installation in a local mall, created by the Cackle Street agency, caused a 28% footfall increase in the location, as well as a retail sales increase of 60%. This is the effect that delivering an engaging experience can have.
To begin, recent research undertaken by British Land between August and October 2016 showed that events can increase dwell time in its centres by 41%. This is ideal for retailers for whom consumer dwell time is often an issue, according to Davinder Jheeta, creative director at Simply Fresh,”the average customer spends just 5 minutes in-store.”
To contextualize the experiential marketing advantage, we will use Cadillac as an example. As part of their move from Detroit to New York, the brand created the ‘Cadillac House’ installation. Featuring a café and art gallery, the activation enjoyed an average dwell time of 30 minutes. Significantly more than the typical 5 minutes.
As well as this, advanced, fun technologies like VR, AR and NFC provide unique points of interest which hold consumers’ attention:
New tools have allowed businesses to establish feelings of emotional attachment between brand and consumer, unrivalled dwell time, and enviable levels of engagement and ROI.
Creates engaging content for promotion
Whether you’re a high-street giant or an arcade boutique, omni-channel promotion is key to success in the retail sector. Experiential marketing is unique in its ability to not only synergise well with digital channels, but also create content, user-generated and brand generated which will serve as promotion long after the event has finished, “98% of consumers create digital or social content at events and experiences“
— Hamleys Toys (@HamleysToys) November 20, 2016
It is important, therefore, that brands create an experience which promotes the creation of consumer content. According to the EMI, Seventy-two percent of consumers say they positively view brands that provide quality event content opportunities and experiences. Photo booths, photographers, videographers and personalised items are all effective means of branded content creation without breaking the bank.
Additionally, think of how many children are dragged along to shopping centres with their parents, the child’s day (and thus their parents’) is turned around by a picture with Spiderman. Pester power is a real thing, and you can be sure that those parents will share the experience with others in their circle.
You only have to look at the content generated by Hamley’s toy parade (see above) to see the creative power of experiential marketing. It is unsurprising then that according to the EMI:
Over the next three years, brands say they will emphasize promoting more social sharing and video capture as part of their experiential marketing content strategies.
This example from Pepsi shows exactly why, having received over 7.6 million views:
Develops a relationship between the consumer and the brand
One of the greatest attributes of experiential marketing is its inherent ability to create a deep emotional connection between the brand and the consumer. The value of this relationship is increased tenfold when it is viewed in the context of retail, where brands are battling every day to attract consumers to their stores. As a result of experiential marketing, 74% of the participants whom EventTrack polled have a more positive opinion about the company, brand, product or service being promoted.
The lasting nature of this relationship is another bonus, as it keeps consumers returning after the event has finished:
70% of event and experience participants that purchase once then become a regular customer.
This is, again, priceless for retailers as it gives them a yard in what is typically a battle of inches to retain customers.
Creates brand evangelists
Word of mouth advertising has always been a valuable resource. However, in recent years it has become essential, with a growing distrust in brand-controlled advertising channels. In the context of experiential marketing, “96% of consumers that tell a friend or family member about their experience mention the company or brand running the event.” (eventmarketer) This is a massive feather in the cap of experiential marketing, and is perfect for retail outlets. Positive reviews from a trusted source (friends & family) dispersed in the local community will only serve to improve the overall perception of the brand. This in turn will compel consumers to shop there in future.
According to EventTrack, “79% of brands are measuring their event and experiential programs.” Data is a valuable resource for any marketer. In the context of B2C retail, data can allow your brand to finely target advertising to consumer preferences, along with providing valuable insights on how products are resonating with consumers.
This can be done through several methods which suit retail to a tee. On-site data capture is an obvious choice, benefits that include the ability to ask the exact questions that a brand wants the answers to are certainly nothing to balk at.
However, advancing times give rise to new ways of capturing data. Beacons, no bigger than a credit card, can provide unprecedented levels of real-time data capture through bluetooth. Insights like consumer dwell time and foot fall, along with the ability to “push” offers to consumers’ devices make beacons a valuable tool for a retail activation and widely used by brand’s like US retail giants Macy’s and American Eagle.
The real beacon benefit is ultimate, ethical customer data collection at scale that can then be used to improve both real-time and right-time marketing, in-store and online.
Once again, data capture doesn’t stop when the event is finished, engagement rates on social content still provide valuable insight on what is landing and what’s missing, “Content sharing metrics are highly measureable and provide considerable customer insights.” (EventTrack 2016)
Before we talk about the prospective cost of experiential marketing, here’s a telling stat from the EMI:
75% of companies with event budgets between $50-100 million say they expect an ROI of more than 5:1 for live event and experiential programs.
A return of 5:1 is enough to prick even the most stalwart opponent’s ears up. Such a large ROI is one of the reasons why the cost of experiential marketing is often seen as negligible. Activities like sampling, guerrilla marketing and PR stunts are all effective experiential marketing tools with minimal costs. At the end of the day simply offering a discount in conjunction with your event is enough to get people talking at an exceptionally low cost.