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A new survey of 1,000 UK consumers from leading retail and shopper marketing agency, Savvy takes a closer look at how UK consumers have been getting involved in live brand experiences, the different types of activity that appeal to them and it also assesses the building blocks of great live campaigns.

“The way people consume media has fragmented as new digital touch points have proliferated,” said Alastair Lockhart, Insight Director at Savvy. “As a result, the reality is that it’s never been so difficult for brands to be heard through the constant buzz of communication, to get their message across and to tell their brand stories.

In large part this explains the rise of experiential marketing in recent years. Increasingly brands see it as a powerful platform to be heard and, more importantly, to engage directly with their target audience without constraints on creativity.

A major finding of the research is the considerable importance that younger consumers attach to experience. As well as being the group most likely to engage with brand experiences, we find that a remarkable 73% of 18-34s rate experiences over physical products.”

Key research findings:

Are consumers getting involved?

  • In the past 12 months, 57% of UK consumers have engaged in some way with experiential activity, with younger people getting involved more deeply and in a broader range of events.
  • 60% of consumers said they feel more loyal to brands that they can interact with.
  • 64% perceive experiences as being more important than products while 63% say that experiences are more important to them now than they were two years ago. These numbers are substantially higher amongst the younger generation – 73% and 79% among 18-34 year olds respectively.
  • Consumers are more likely to expect to see experiential activity from certain types of businesses than others – with drink (1st) and food (2nd) brands topping the list, where experiential activity is ideally suited to tasting. Make-up and cosmetics brands feature third, followed by technology and gadgets.

Which types of brand experiences UK consumers have engaged with in the past 12 months?

  • Product sampling has reached the most consumers, with 47% of UK consumers having engaged with this type of activity in the past year.
  • In second place, with 37%, is a brand demonstrating product features and in third place with 36% are consumers who have visited a pop-up shop.
  • 32% of consumers have taken part in an activity for a chance to win something and 30% have engaged with activity to speak to an expert.

What kinds of activities and features of experiential events do consumers find appealing?

  • Tried and tested sales incentives perform well in terms of appeal, with 82% of respondents mentioning ‘money off purchase’ and 75% liking the idea of entering a free prize draw.
  • 70% stated ‘entering a competition’ – a substantially higher proportion than we see in sales promotions more generally.
  • It’s clear from the findings in particular that experiential has a key role to play for food and drink brands – 81% of respondents find ‘trying food/dining experience’ appealing, while 68% mentioned a ‘drink at a bar’.
  • Personalisation is popular with consumers and is especially suitable for experiential events – in large part because personalised messages and gifts can be created at the event itself allowing immediate gratification for the visitors. 73% of respondents in the research said they found ‘a personalised gift’ appealing.
  • Certain features are more appealing among younger consumers, particularly those experiences that are more physically engaging. Make-overs, virtual reality and playing competitive games all significantly over-index among 18-34s and they welcome more innovative activities that they can share on social media.

How connected are UK consumers?

  • Growth in digital technology, particularly social media, has done much to improve the effectiveness of experiential events since it provides a platform to continue the conversation with consumers long after the activity has concluded.
  • 77% of consumers use Facebook – even among over 45s, 72% use this social media platform.
  • Younger audiences require a social strategy with other platforms. 54% of millennials are active on Instagram, 32% use Snapchat and 67% view content on YouTube. These consumers use social media actively, with 68% saying they have shared a photo in the past month. This group are substantially more likely to look for and share content at experiential events.

Lockhart concludes: “Experiential marketing is helping to cut through the constant noise created by social media and always on news – as such it’s forecast to grow in popularity significantly over the next few years. Allowing brands to bring their products to life, we find it can help foster genuine loyalty, create great social media content and establish longer-term emotional connections with target audiences.

It is, however, really important to underpin a campaign, from initial planning through implementation and evaluation, with solid insight. Fully understand who the target is, how they behave and what they respond to in order to shape the user experience. A well thought out social strategy is also critical as a means to drive footfall to events, to share content at the event and to maintain a conversation after it’s taken place. Measurement is the final cornerstone for success – due to the temporary and live nature of experiential activity it is essential to collect data during the event itself as well as through evaluation.”