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Why is experiential marketing so important post-pandemic?

The virtual changing room is a new tech installation at The Drum’s CornerShop, home to new experiential initiatives

Given the year the world has just had with weathering the pandemic, many are hoping that we’re through the worst and entering a much more manageable stage of the Covid outbreak, with life starting to return to some version of normality. With this being said, it’s little wonder that experiential marketing is now being demanded and accepted by consumers.

Prior to the pandemic, experiential marketing was already on the rise with marketers recognizing the increasing popularity of brand experiences and events. Consumer desire for real-life interactions has understandably only accelerated given the restrictions in place around socializing.

Live events, which returned to the UK this summer after a two-year hiatus, had to get crafty; they were willing to test drive new initiatives aimed at pushing new social distancing measures through. Dancefloor boxes were introduced at gigs and outdoor festivals, while bars and indoor events experimented with sitting down settings as a way to allow a select number of people to engage within a particular space.

What does this mean for brands?

Brands have had to learn to explore and embrace both virtual and hybrid experiences to keep up with ever-changing consumer demands. They’ve had to incorporate meaningful tech into experiences to bring them to life. Consumers are much more willing to try out new initiatives, knowing that some of these have been introduced to accommodate their needs and work around current restrictions.

The Drum’s CornerShop – a pioneering feature of the newly-launched Labs space – is inspired by a neighborhood corner shop and showcases a number of new tech installations reflecting what the future of retail could look like. All of the initiatives aim to simplify the customer’s shopping experience and make shopping a much more intuitive process.

The virtual changing room – which allows consumers to virtually try on items they’re considering purchasing through artificial intelligene (AI) and artficial reality (AR) technology – bypasses the hassle of doing it for real and takes into consideration restrictions around limited changing room space in a post-Covid era.

What’s in it for the consumer?

Taking the CornerShop as an example, customers sync up their mobile phone devices via the instore app upon arrival so they can have their experiences tailored to their interests and be shown preferential options. They can decide what music they want to shop to and be made hot drinks exactly as they like them.

Rolling out tech innovations such as these in an experiential space allows those visiting to be much more engaged with the store as they’re interacting with it in a more interpersonal way. After a year of Zoom and tech fatigue, customers are willing to try out new and innovative tech as they’re curious how technology has adjusted to improve their experience – so long as installations are simple to use and relatively non-intrusive.

Marketers should approach experiential marketing in a considered way, knowing that it’s currently easier to gain the attention of consumers, many of whom are venturing out for their first time in a long time and are a lot more tolerant toward and curious about brand activations.

The future may be uncertain, but while freedoms are far from curtailed, marketers should embrace experiential marketing and have fun with entertaining consumers in public spaces. Of course, the pandemic is far from over so carefully monitoring how these virtual experiences land will be crucial and pave the way for what works and what doesn’t – but marketers should prioritize reconnecting with consumers after so long apart.

Click here to find out more about The Drum’s new concept store The Labs.

From festivals to retail installations to unmissable activations, we examine the avenues open to marketers to reach consumers enjoying their newfound freedom in The Drum’s Experiential Deep Dive.

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