The Goal of Experiential Marketing is to Create Great Customer Experiences

A shift has occurred in the market… Did you feel it? It was the beginning of a larger set of tremors caused by the movement of brands shifting to a more experiential mindset in order to create great customer experiences. This transition has been in progress for some time now, but the flow  towards experiential marketing is really picking up steam, in 2018.  Perhaps the fact that Amazon accounted for nearly half of all e-commerce sales during the 2017 holiday season has something to do with it?

The Amazon-effect has released tidal wave-style ripples for both e-commerce and traditional brick-and-mortar businesses. In a “one-click-to-buy” world, consumers now have access to an ocean of product & service choices.  Oh, and next day delivery kills the convenience factor that brick-and-mortar has depended on for so long.  If I want to purchase a new “anything,”  I have approximately 38,394 different product options.  The internet marketplace is more cluttered now than ever before.  Thus, brands need to continue to find ways to stand out from the crowd-to create great customer experiences. Creative Experiential Marketing campaigns are helping to do just that.

Your Brand is in the ‘Creating Experiences Business’

Whether online or in real world environments (like stores and trade shows), the customer experience is critical.  Before consumers purchase your product or service, they must be open to purchasing your product.   The experience a customer has with a brand directly correlates to whether or not he/she  is open to the possibility of making a purchase.  This means that above all, your brand is in the “creating experiences” business.  If a brand can create a great experience, customers will consider purchasing, at which point you shift your focus toward closing the sale.

If it’s true that successful brands are in  the “creating experiences” business, and it is true that great customer experiences open customers up to the potential for purchase, then a positive first impression is critical.

To Create Great Customer Experiences, First Impressions Matter

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Malcolm Gladwell essentially provides us with the key in one simple thought-  If first impressions are shaped by the experience and the environment,  then first impressions can be exacted by controlling the experience and environment.  In other words, your brand is in control.  And, since impressions matter… make sure the experiences you create are simply remarkable.  Make it a focal point that, no matter how someone is introduced to your brand, there is a process in place for that first touch point to be magical. It’s wicked-important if you want to make it to the second touch point.

Package Product Information Within Great Customer Experiences

Once customers have a great first impression and realize that the experience is worth their time, they will continue moving along on your experiential journey. At this point brands can begin to infuse marketing messages wherever and whenever relevant. The best experiential marketing campaigns don’t feel like marketing campaigns at all. They feel like fun experiences, which, at times, are further enhanced by making a relevant connection to your products and services.

The key to effective product placement within the experience is making sure it makes sense and adds to the experience. It shouldn’t stand out for negative reason because it feels forced. The consumer of the experience should continue flowing withing the experience before, during, and after marketing messages and product placement are infused. Just like product placement on TV shows or other traditional marketing tactics, product placement within experiential marketing campaigns offers tremendous benefits without compromising a brands ability to create great customer experiences.

Leverage Data and Technology to Create Great Customer Experiences

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With how far technology has come over the past several years, brands of all shapes and sizes can leverage data and technology to create great customer experiences. From free software that can get plugged-into existing systems to further amplify customer experiences, to high-cost platforms that help organizations run entire business units, the technology your brand needs to create great customer experiences most likely already exists. The challenge all brands face is making the technology work so that it amplifies the experience instead of backfiring and hindering all efforts. The solution is to find the right data and technology tools to add to your experiential marketing stack and then effectively utilizing those tools.

5 Ways to Leverage Data and Technology to Create Great Customer Experiences

  1. Lead capture and email collection app – If your brand still uses pen and paper forms to collect information from customers at events or in stores, just stop it.  Stop it right now.  There has to be an app for that, and there is. It’s call OnSpot Social… Shameless plug, I’m sorry. That said, there is a real point to be made. When people think, ” how can I create great customer experiences?”  it is sometimes assumed that a full-on magic show must be performed. Although magic shows might be recommended in some instances, simple improvements to the customer experience can lead to large shifts in customer behavior.
  2. Peer-to-peer insights – When customers make decisions they often do so based on the recommendation from a trusted person within their network or based on mass opinion from a group of people who are familiar with the topic. Knowing this, brands can use data and technology to bring peer-to-peer experiences to life.  Whether that is simply adding a Customer Reviews section to an e-commerce website, or displaying real time polling results from a network of peers, brands can create great customer experiences by making peer data available to customers during the experience.
  3. Self-service kiosks – As consumers have gotten more and more comfortable with using technology, the rise of self-service kiosks can be charted along that same course. People want convenience. When brands find the right ways to integrate self-service kiosks great customer experiences can occur. That said, watch out for tactics that do not involve any human interaction from the role of the brand as the technology must be flawless. It cannot be clunky. Intuitive design wins when it comes to anything self-service.
  4. VR & AR – Virtual reality and augmented reality are changing the game for brands that want to create great customer experiences. VR allows brands to create completely virtual environments anywhere they interact with customers.  Lowes is bringing VR to their stores and letting customers virtually redesign their own home. It’s pretty heady stuff. AR allows brands to augment reality in order to get customers more engaged with their actual physical environment. Pokemon Go is a great example of AR in use.
  5. Integrating systems – The future is API-based. Just a few years ago there was a huge rush to create sales and marketing platforms. Now there are literally thousands of them. Many work well, others do not. What successful brands are currently doing is pinpointing the right sales and marketing systems and then connecting them together through APIs in order to seamlessly transfer data between them. This friction-less data transfer provides marketers with the ability to create great customer experiences around that data, in real time. Wouldn’t it be great if we could make purchase recommendations based on all previous behaviors, not just those completed online? With the right integrations, it is now possible to combine multiple data sets together to provide predictive recommendations. When executed effectively, this amplifies convenience for the customer and can add directly to the bottom line for brands.

Considering where technology is today, it almost doesn’t matter how crazy your idea is, there is probably a way to bring it to life. If you are determined to create great customer experiences, you will.

We are going to hear more and more about Experiential Marketing as brands continue to look for new ways to engage customers in order to compete with giants like Amazon. It’s important to remember that experiential marketing doesn’t have to be scary. In fact, most brands already have a stated experiential marketing goal as part of their traditional marketing goals. That’s because the goal of experiential marketing is to create great customer experiences. Brands that keep that at the forefront will carve out a nice niche for themselves next to that behemoth from the Amazon.