With so much marketing focus now on digital channels and the growth of virtual experiences, AI, the IoT and social media, it seems almost counter-intuitive that physical events are still a core marketing channel. But the fact is that many digital platforms are already reaching a tipping point and proving that physical interaction is still king for experiences.
Let’s look more closely at how events are still offering value and consider why a third of marketers now actually view physical events as the most important marketing and communication channel that they have at their disposal.
A Saturated Digital Space
Social media platforms are already becoming saturated. Snapchat users have begun to decline. Various platforms which offered great things simply went bust and faded away. And many are likely to be relatively short-lived as trendy younger consumers migrate to endless new options (remember MySpace anyone?)
Advertisers are also becoming less enamoured with digital engagement methods as ad blocking software becomes more widely deployed. At the same time, online users are starting to apply their own screen-time filters and becoming more discerning about the way that they live their online lines and, particularly, how they interact with brands.
This all means that marketers are keen to get people back into a room and offer what really matters; a rich and engaging face to face experience which provides a fully sensory experience and a lasting memory. Think about the physicality of an event and the profound and lasting experience that it can have on you. Events which are visually arresting, which have exciting sounds, which let you feel products, play games or interact with other people… these stay in your memory and create profound impressions. Compare that all-encompassing ‘real’ experience with a two-second flash animation on a screen.
Physical experiences last
As we mentioned above, physical events stimulate and engage every sense to create a far greater impression than a fleeting digital experience. Marketers also have the chance to connect with guests on a multi-sensory level. They can use high-tech approaches such as VR technology and gamification to bring digital into the mix, but combine this with activities that add real value to delegates, such as networking with peers, enjoying food and drink and trying out products and services directly. None of these things can be delivered in the same way with a purely online experience.
Events are immediate
Digital channels take time to build critical mass and to lead customers through a sales process to conversion. Events have an immediate impact. Consider the power of a physical explainer show, a product trial space, or a physical brand launch – complete with a multimedia presentation. The immediacy of the experience is profound and the perception of the brand grows in real time.
Events are evolving
The future of events is exciting indeed. Technology is being integrated to offer richer experiences that meet different learning and engagement styles and which offer the best of all worlds to delegates. For example,
- Targeting can help marketers to hand out relevant promos
- Digital registration makes it quick and easy to register online and to enter the event without delay
- Interactive devices allow gamification, from voting through to online games and competitions linked with the brand
- Apps can be used to allow delegates to prepare for the event and to self-serve certain elements such as pre-booking onto workshops or speaker slots, printing off materials, pre-registering their attendance, specifying food and drink requirements and so forth.
- Live Streaming can bring the physical event to those who can’t attend in person, to provide a dual-experience
Ultimately, the creation of exciting and rich physical and digital-enabled events gives marketers far more creativity and the potential for innovation in the brand experiences that they create.
That’s not to say that there are no challenges. For example, the blending of physical and tech can bring about data sharing and confidentiality issues and there are often technical constraints such as bandwidth. Analytics are also challenging to deploy accurately and the promise of many technologies doesn’t yet always translate into a usable reality for many brands, especially an accessible and affordable reality for smaller brands.
But the potential is there and face to face events will continue to offer significant and measurable value to B2B and B2C marketers alike; value that isn’t likely to diminish over time and which is, in fact, likely to be enhanced with the judicious, creative and strategic application of enabling technologies that enrich the experience and make it more accessible to all.
Image credit: Events marketing via Mr Burger Hut/Shutterstock