In today’s cluttered world of information, consumers have evolved into hyper-active multi-taskers, constantly squeezing the 25th hour out of a regular day. In a highly digitised age, consumers are constantly bombarded with information from thousands of brands, vying for the consumer’s attention. Needless to say, only few brands which are able to genuinely make an emotional connect with us are able to cut through the clutter.
In the past decade, consumer mind-set has undergone tremendous evolution. Technology has not only sped up eCommerce, but also reformed the expectations from actual products and services. Consumers expect more from the products they purchase. The easy accessibility of smartphones and increased Internet speed has given birth to a new breed of ‘research junkie consumers’. In today’s hyper connected world, no consumer can be expected to make a purchase decision without being influenced by conversations-offline or online, reviews or recommendations by the peers or thought leaders/influencers. The addition of research as a compulsory step in the purchasing process has made it more challenging for brands, as consumers no more rely on brand promises, but look for verification from other consumers.
Less than 10 years ago, social networking sites were in their absolute infancy but have now grown to dominate and dictate how we communicate with friends, family and brands. With more than 1600 million active users around the globe, sites such as Facebook and Twitter generate immense amount of immeasurable conversations online. Consumers are armed with reviews along with the pictures and videos of the products that influence their friends and families while making the purchase decision. While more and more people are being influenced online, it also provides an opportunity to the brands to make their presence felt by engaging the consumers in an engaging conversation.
The marketing gurus are trying to find more and more out-of- the box experiences for their consumers to blur the digital and real – life experiences in retail. An interesting example was, installation of The Sweet Shoppe during London Design Festival- that was turned into a hyper-real, personalised, technology-enabled retail experience where the guests could see, smell, touch, and taste the products. On arrival, guests were taken on a 20-minute curated personal journey to determine their perfect sweet. Without question, this version of the Sweet Shoppe was created to appeal to the consumers of the future who will have no recollection of life without the Internet, will not distinguish between the real and digital worlds, and will seek experiences that seamlessly integrate the online and the offline.
When every brand worth their salt are trying fiercely to catch eyeballs on each possible medium of communication, the consumers rarely get a chance to actually ‘miss’ their brand. The logic is simple-out of sight, out of mind. Marketers have learnt the hard way that consumers are a tough species and they cannot be bored or brow beaten by orthodox, old fashioned advertising anymore. The only way to connect with them is to immerse them in a holistic brand experience.
The constant need to create a direct and personal experience for the consumer to control how they feel has given rise to the most sought after flavour of our today which is Experiential Marketing. In the simplest terms, Experiential Marketing is a form of advertising that helps the consumers experience a brand or product prior to making a purchase. While traditional advertising (radio, print, television) verbally and visually communicates the brand and product benefits, experiential marketing aims to immerse the consumers by creating engaging experiences.
Numerous marketing studies have shown that companies who skilfully manage and execute customer experience strategies, reap enormous rewards. They achieve higher customer satisfaction, increased revenue, reduced churn and greater employee satisfaction. With rising competitive pressures, creating a highly differentiated customer experience can help turn dissatisfaction or indifference into delight. People like being WOW’d and having their expectations exceeded.
A good customer experience helps easing the process of customer acquisition, drives customer loyalty and improves customer retention. People want to buy from places that make them feel good. Creating an experience that is memorable and enjoyable for the customer will help to keep them coming back for more and not turning away due to lack of connect. The brands can no longer compete on price, customers want more, they want an emotional connect with the companies they deal with.
E-Commerce is one of the strongest precursors to have led to the need for experiential marketing. Online shopping has taken Indian market by storm with the ease of shopping and finding all products at one platform, from the comfort of your home with high discounts to further sweeten the deal. As online purchasing becomes more popular, brick-and-mortar stores will need to focus more on the experiential rather than the transactional. But let’s not be too gloomy by the fact, as this is also an opportunity for offline retailers. As consumers still crave social interaction, a bit of retail therapy and the need to touch, smell and feel the product before actually parting with the cash. We want to know the brand story and personality like it were a living person. We need to make every such interaction between the brand and the consumer magical, to spark customer loyalty.
Brands today are increasingly spending more of their marketing budget on experiential marketing campaigns. Event Marketer’s Event Track 2014 study predicts a 5% increase toward experiential marketing initiatives in brand marketer’s budgets, keeping pace with an upward trend that has been steady since their first report in 2012. The majority of the increase (65%) is being taken from other strategies in the marketing mix, clearly showcasing the shifting priorities of brand marketer’s priorities in creating a holistic experience that will become a driving factor in engagement and revenue. This makes sense considering that 14% of marketers saw a return ratio greater than 5 to 1 from experiential marketing initiatives, up from 7% in 2013.
So the next very obvious question is what exactly constitutes EM?
Some of the common examples are in-store tastings- more common in grocery outlets, live demos-mostly in shopping malls and department stores and product testing sessions. One of the most brilliant EM was by one of the toilet soaps. At Kumbh Mela, the largest congregation on earth where all big marketers are vying to sell their wares and boost their brands, one promotion that stands out is Hindustan Unilever's 'Roti Reminder' for its soap brand. The company branded chapatis with heat stamped message “Lifebuoy se haath dhoya kya?” that while creating awareness about cleanliness also prompted them with a call to action that drove product experience. The campaign ran for 30 days and the message reached to more than 2.5 million visitors. Not only did it push the brand salience and recall, but also generated an immense amount of conversation both online and offline.
At OPPLE, we understand the importance of experience and feel of products for a consumer before they make a purchasing decision. We aim to share our knowledge with and understanding with our consumers through a team of experts at our Experience Stores. In fact, customers can utilise a special consulting service for ‘Lighting Design Solutions’, where-in our experts help the consumers understand and implement the best lighting solutions for their space. This service helps them to achieve optimum efficiency with the most pleasant results.
Jim Rohn, an American entrepreneur, author and motivational speaker famously said, ‘"One customer, well taken care of, could be more valuable than $10,000 worth of advertising." This stands more relevant in today’s hyper connected world than ever. Marketers need to focus on the very first customer experience. Treat it like being on a first date. Make that connect happen and it will lead to many sub sequential interactions in the future. We need to stop satisfying the customers and start wooing them.
By Naveen Saxena, Country head, Opple Lighting India Pvt.Ltd.