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What's causing the experiential marketing industry to evolve, and how can leading brands retain their competitive edge? It comes down to understanding and acting on trends in consumer behaviour, technology and the right engagement at the right time.

Watch our latest webinar, "Event & Experiential Trends in 2018: What Consumer  Experts Are Saying," and learn what major brands are doing to drive engagement  and lift sales.

1. Certain brand messages are rising above all the noise

Experiential marketing campaigns have allowed certain brands to grow relationships with consumers and stand out in the crowded social/digital marketing arena.

"Experiential is more important now than it has ever been because the other channels are so crowded," says former Ford Executive and current CMO of Viant Technology, Jon Schulz in an interview with Limelight.

This might explain why 61 percent of dealers have reported a rise in the conversion rate of store visitors in the last five years, according to McKinsey & Co. Brands can capitalize on consumer's attention and get their message across in a creative, interactive way without interruption.

Data privacy is a big issue now, and customers are wary of how companies collect and use information about them. The trend shows this will be even more on the customer’s mind in the years ahead as US laws begin to conform to European GDPR regulations.

In that world, one-to-one interactions made possible by experiential marketing will be even more valuable because they allow dealers to measure customer interest and motivation through observation instead of trying to piece together intent from a collection of unrelated search and click data.

2. Consumers are seeking out direct, sensory engagement

Digital can be a feast for the eyes and ears, but that is not how the majority of memories form. Experiential marketing techniques uses all five senses to immerse customers in your brand and form lasting bonds. In some senses, experiential is the ultimate marketing engine. It is the fastest track to take consumers in a multi-sensory experience accelerating conversations and sales.

“[Experiential is] the only place you can have a physical interaction with the product directly from the corporation, and it’s also one of the few places where you can have an open-ended dialogue… in experiential, we’re able to talk to consumers, understand what’s most important to them and have a dialogue back-and-forth,” writes Kristina Monllos, senior editor, Adweek. It's no wonder that 70 percent of users become regular customers after an experiential marketing event. Unlike other channels, experiential demands sensory engagement, a critical factor for creating lasting memories and long-term customer loyalty."

3. Intelligent brands are taking advantage of earned media

Consumers trust the connections in their networks more than information from brands trying to sell them something. Experiential moves past all the trust issues by giving brands an original channel and opportunity to generate buzz.

By nature, live events in the real world generate real excitement. They accomplish this both through earned media and organic, or user generated content. According to EventTrack, 98 percent of consumers create digital or social content at events and experiences and 100 percent of these consumers share the content.

The selfie craze is just a small piece of the larger cultural trend in average people documenting their lives on line to share with distant friends and family members. Part of it is an impulse for personal branding, but another piece of the puzzle is a deep-seated need for legacy and connection in an accelerating world. Technology can separate us or bring us together, and brands choose what they want to encourage with their decisions about marketing. A preference for live events and first-hand test drives by car dealers can move potential car buyers into the purchase-ready stage.

4. Consumers expect greater personalization

Just about everything can be personalized now, from our clothes to our soft drinks, thanks to just-in-time production and advances in rapid logistics. Consumers are accustomed to shopping for their groceries online and seeing their order on the door step in two hours or less.

The same level of personalization is coming to every industry as experiential marketing unlocks greater opportunities for greater omnichannel visibility. The days of experiential marketing being the wild west of marketing are quickly fading away. The most forward-thinking companies are using the channel to gather more data on their consumers. Marketers are already seeing a positive impact from integrating online and offline data into a single view of the customers.

One great example of this at work is how Porsche Cars Canada tailored interactive experiences to their individual show visitors. In an earlier blog, we detailed how: “When a consumer brings his daughter to a car show, the two of them could spend time together at interactive wheel stands with face detection and interactive displays. Analytics from live marketing software at the show gather intelligence on how attendees feel and act, even after they go home at the end of the day. Personalized emails after the show boost open and click through rates on offers from the dealership.”

Bringing It All Together

Leading brands are using the data they collect, both from online sources and personal interactions, to target their customers more accurately and drive conversions. The primary way they are able to do that is through experiential marketing and social network follow up, combining multi-sensory messaging, truly open-ended dialogs, user generated content and personalized experiences. Progressive brands are benefiting from these evolving trends and the future belongs to the companies that experiment with them most.

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