How Experiential Marketing Fits Into The Customer Experience

Experiential marketing is a term I’ve seen thrown around a lot over the past few years, and many marketers use the term to equate with customer experience (CX).

As CX inches toward mainstream acceptance, many brands are jumping on the CX bandwagon. And at many companies, CX sits in the marketing organization, so I understand how the terms get confused.

But experiential marketing is not synonymous with CX. Let’s talk about CX. 

My favorite definition is from Forrester, which defines CX as “every interaction, or touch point, your customer has with your brand. It not only includes the whats (the interactions), but also the hows (perceptions, feelings) the customer experiences.”

Great CX is all about ensuring a customer’s expectations and wants are met, their expectations align with a brand’s value proposition/brand promise, and this understanding of CX is transparent across the brand’s entire organization. 

Put simply, experiential marketing enables someone to experience a brand at an event. These live experiences connect consumers to brands in a personal and purposeful way. 

CX and experiential marketing converge in the creation of dynamic, rich, and emotional connections with consumers that can generate brand loyalty. 

They diverge in this way: With experiential marketing, these connections tend to be transactional and tactical, usually occurring at a particular event; with CX, the connections occur continuously, consistently, and seamlessly at multiple touch points across channels along a customer’s journey. 

What Experiential Marketing Is
While it is true that experiential marketing’s origins are in event marketing, the discipline has become so much more than that. In the past, a brand focused its event marketing on generating demand to amplify brand awareness and reach. Today, brands focus their events on live experiences—personalized, one-to-one engagement—which goes beyond mere brand awareness to gathering data to provide real-time insights on engagement and other behaviors to drive ROI.

Customers are in charge of a brand. They expect brands to know them and provide them with the experiences they want. So brands must place the customer at the center of their businesses to be able to grow. 

Brand marketers must focus on providing customers with content that they perceive is of value. Customer perception of value is the only way that will drive reach, engagement, and sales. 

In fact, these experiences are so important that according to the Event Marketing Institute (EMI), 77% of brands view experiential marketing as a vital piece of their marketing strategy. And roughly two-thirds of brand marketers see increased sales because of their experiential marketing campaigns. 

Also, experiential marketing budgets are on the rise. EMI estimates in its 2017 Experiential Marketing Spending Forecast report an 11% average increase in experiential marketing budgets for 2017 (up from 6.1% in 2015). 

This “new” experiential marketing seems to be working. 

According to EMI’s Event Track Study, Experiential Marketing Content Benchmarking Report 2016, 72% of consumers said they positively view brands that provide quality event content experiences. And 74% noted that engaging with branded event marketing experiences made them more likely to buy the products being promoted.

There are three key factors that are driving the evolution of experiential marketing:

1. The experience economy: According to a 2014 Eventbrite study, more than three in four Millennials would choose to spend money on a desirable experience than purchasing something desirable. More than eight in 10 Millennials participated in a variety of live experiences. Seventy-two percent said they wanted to increase their spending on these experiences. 

The study also showed Millennials want personal experiences. Almost eight in 10 Millennials said the experiences helped to shape their identity, create lifelong experiences, and make them feel more connected. 

But Millennials didn’t have the monopoly on wanting more experiences; the demand for more experiences is increasing across generations, and companies are attempting to meet that increased demand.

2. Big data is changing the playing field: As companies increase their focus on experiential marketing’s ROI, they need advanced data-driven solutions that provide them with real-time data collection and actionable insights to improve these live experiences and make them more personalized so brands can more effectively measure ROI.  

Big data is providing the tools to deliver real-time data and actionable insights, which enable brands to be more agile to make changes to messaging, create more value, and increase consumer engagement on the spot.

3. Experiential is now viewed as a key part of the marketing strategy: Marketers understand that what they deliver to customers must be consistent and relevant across all marketing channels to create one seamless experience. This omnichannel approach can improve a consumer’s experience with the brand.

Often, an experiential marketing campaign is the first interaction a consumer has with a brand, and as such, it is vital experiential marketing is part of the marketing strategy from the onset.

CX and experiential marketing have vital roles to play. The key to a brand’s success is in understanding how CX and experiential marketing work together to create the best experiences that drive corporate growth. 

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