With most Americans still not attending events, experiential industry reemerging slowly

The experiential sector has been hit hard. However, there are some indications that interest in brand-led events is picking up, albeit at a much smaller scale. YouGov’s Graeme Bruce shares consumer attitudes towards events and where new opportunities may exist.

Experiential marketing has been among the channels most impacted by the pandemic, but there are signs that this vital tactic is beginning to emerge again.

For starters, US consumers support experiential marketing. Nearly three-quarters agree that for brands to be successful today, they must connect with consumers in real life. This was one of the key findings from extensive YouGov data on experiential marketing.

Even with the current restrictions in place, nearly a third (31%) of Americans have attended product demonstrations, one-in five have attended pop-up shops and 17% have gone to brand installations.

So, what are consumers’ feelings about attending events in the future? Well 16% of Americans say they are ’very likely’ or ’somewhat likely’ to attend an event organized by a brand in the next 12 months. Millennials, meanwhile, are even more likely to attend an event, with that number climbing to 24%.

While those are somewhat encouraging numbers, the fact remains the majority of consumers aren’t likely to attend a large-scale event in the next year. For example, CES — one of the world’s largest tech trade shows and home to some of the most elaborate marketing installations — will be held entirely online. This trend will likely continue in early 2021, forcing marketers to think about purely digital ways to offer lasting experiences with brands.

experiential

Experiences consumers find meaningful

The Covid-19 pandemic will continue to force brands to broaden and change the definition of experiential marketing. Here are some truths about how consumers generally feel about these experiential marketing opportunities, which could help inform marketers as they reimagine brand experiences during the pandemic.

During the warmer weather there appears to be opportunities for marketers. YouGov data shows that 44% of consumers prefer attending outdoor events in natural spaces than being at an indoor event. Events hosted outside while maintaining social distancing can provide a better opportunity to engage with customers.

When we asked which types of interactions they like, 18% of America’s millennials said they like product demonstrations and 11% said they like installations or booths.

But what aspects of events can be replicated in the virtual space? Well, nothing draws a crowd like free food and prizes. Marketers who can create giveaways, like free food and drinks, as part of their virtual events are likely to see success since that is the top thing Americans (41%) looked for at events prior to Covid-19.

Further, two-in-five (40%) say they look for prizes and roughly a quarter (24%) look for live performances.

The fact is, many Americans are tired of dull shopping experiences. This presents real opportunities for marketers to offer creative virtual experiences and to begin real face-to-face offerings as more the country begins to open up. Brands are eager to see it happen, and so are many consumers.

Graeme Bruce is a business data journalist for YouGov. To keep up with all our dedicated US coverage, sign up for the free daily briefing newsletter.

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