Before the onset of 2020, experiences were a major factor in brand marketing, and a significant driver of consumer engagement. Brands everywhere started to integrate trends that further immerse shoppers in a brand’s vision, such as pop-up shops, influencers, augmented reality and customization to provide consumers with an even more personal and hands-on experience.
The pandemic has unequivocally disrupted the experiential economy. Around 67% of shoppers have reported trying a brand other than the one they usually purchase due to product outages, thus giving second and third-tier brands that were previously excluded from consumer’s consideration, a new prominence in the consideration set simply by being on the shelf.
Comfort and necessity have been primary motivators for consumers during COVID-19, and shoppers have been attracted to brands and retailers that can get them what they need in a timely manner and prioritize safety. No pop-up shop or flashy display needed: great experiential has simply become great customer service.
But quarantined consumers are still craving experience, and we are seeing the elasticity of that term. The definition of a great brand experience has quickly shifted to straight-forward messaging, reassuring consumers their most basic needs are being met and the brand’s core values are the focus.
Shoppers expected their long-term loyalty to brands to be repaid in the form of options like quick delivery, while also looking to brands to provide guidance on safety and comfort through convenience. There has never been a better time for brands to charm consumers with some ingenuity and a reimagining of brand experiences.
Consider Walmart’s Mother’s Day drive-thru sample stations, which provided guests with a special experience to celebrate mothers everywhere, yet still kept safety top-of-mind.
Or Whole Foods, providing services previously not considered “experiential"prior to quarantine, but now firmly in the consumer experience space. Shoppers texted when they were on their way to collect groceries and could pull into designated parking spaces, drastically cutting down on wait times and impressing shoppers with a feeling of priority.
Footlocker and H&M stores are using screens outside their stores to inform shoppers about real-time store capacity, and displaying content while shoppers wait to be admitted.
This will be the new “distanced experience” economy: as retail stores start to reopen, the smartest ones are looking at how to apply this strategy to their current marketing plans. Retailers will find their future success determined by their ability to adapt, progress and impress through communications of their core values that respect shopper concerns and allow for the simple joys of shopping and brand discovery -- just at a safe distance.