“I hear and I forget. I see and I remember. I do and I understand.” – Confucius
The majority of Americans shop online, happily tapping “Add To Cart” buttons on their computers, smartphones, tablets, and other devices. With so much buying and selling taking place in the digital world, it’s quite natural to assume that the best marketing tactics would happen there too. And while digital marketing can be effective, it is hardly the end-all answer.
For millions of consumers, a personal experience with brands – both those they love and those they are yet to meet – is vital in deciding where to spend their hard-earned dollars. Because ecommerce exists within the digital world, digital marketing is often its standard method of reaching consumers. Yet, digital marketing practiced on its own can have unintended consequences.
The influx of digital advertisements has ushered in an era full of marketing inundation; one that can be devoid of valuable human touch. And it is the human element more than any other that data has shown inspires consumers to purchase. Even when a brand lives in the digital space, it doesn’t need to stay there. Face-to-face connections do wonders when it comes to securing new and retaining loyal consumers. If you think now is the time to sit back and rest on your boosted posts and sponsored content, you’d be mistaken.
Ecommerce brands are smart to recognize the marketing benefits of old school human-to-human contact. Need more convincing? Here are three key reasons that ecommerce needs experiential marketing events to drive sales and differentiate themselves from their competitors.
1. Experiential marketing events put people at the forefront
Word-of-mouth marketing–even in the digital age– still reigns supreme when it comes to driving new consumers to a brand. As we know, word-of-mouth (WOM) is the organic action of sharing a product, service or brand with friends, families and associates. It’s what we do when we find an awesome hair salon and rave about it to our co-workers the next day, or when you ask a neighbor for a good tire place in the area or drop the details of the local mechanic you swear by. People love to share and be shared with, and some brands are too great to keep to one’s self.
WOM is based on something that cannot be manufactured: genuine love and enthusiasm for a product or service. It connects real-life people who already trust each other and have a high level of influence on one another. A staggering 92% of consumers trust friends and family more than ads. WOM produces twice as many sales as paid digital ads produce.
And the majority – two-thirds – of WOM interactions take place offline. From pop-ups to street teams, eCommerce brands do well to engage with their audience face-to-face through experiential activation. But that doesn’t mean online WOM should be left out. By crafting brand experiences that contain a digital element, WOM will spill over onto the internet.
Always keep in mind that generating WOM lies in part on the fact that people buy from people. This makes the skill level of your brand ambassadors in conveying messages and providing a positive human experience of the utmost importance. Their ability to connect with your audience and personify your brand is critical in making consumers feel compelled to share their experience.
2. Consumers value experiences over material goods
When it comes to modern consumers, while tech is seen as indispensable, Millennials in particular have an insatiable craving for physical experiences. Studies suggest that consumers are happier when their money is spent on “living” and not “having.” It shows the need for real, physical relationships and interactions with companies. This is one of the reasons that brands are responding to the shift in the world of brick-and-mortar retail by transforming their stores from showrooms to experiential marketing events. From Nike to TopShop, brands are answering the call to provide shoppers with a meaningful brand experience to remember.
Because ecommerce brands don’t have a physical location, it is even more critical to practice experiential marketing. These brand activations can be in the form of pop-up shop or temporary space, a brand presence at an event or festival, or even a street team. And with the immense amount of online competition, meeting consumers in the real world will help an online brand to distinguish itself. And it is especially crucial to be an early adopter in the experience game, when half of any given company’s competitors are investing in experiences.
3. In today’s world, transparency and authenticity are king
Through face-to-face experiential marketing events, brands are more than imagery and tag lines. They can become a person, or a story that is relatable to consumers – sometimes even one that is inspiring. It is often challenging to communicate at this level in 2D, but it’s inherent in experiential. Experiential can be a tremendous opportunity to showcase who your brand is, where it came from, and what it stands for.
In marketing, transparency and authenticity is king. “Almost half of social media users have called out brands, 60 percent of whom did so because of perceived dishonesty….brands improperly use cultural idioms or otherwise present themselves and their products in a manner deemed ‘inauthentic,’” according to Peter Minnium. Consumers have also shared that honesty is more important in their buying decisions than utility or social prominence. For ecommerce brands, an in-person experience keeps brands “real” and relatable and lets consumers see clearly – and believe in – “the why” behind the brand.
Although much of the world is glued to their phones and devices, marketing through the screen has become less effective. eCommerce brands are wise to reach consumers in real-life to make honest and meaningful connections. Experiential marketing events are an effective tool in harnessing the power of human connection, delivering a meaningful experience, and demonstrating brand authenticity. These elements are powerful for any brand looking to court new consumers, reinforce brand value to existing ones, and inspire both groups to evangelize its virtue to others.