Author: Sam Coates, Head of Marketing at Keith Prowse
Marketing is an essential part of any brand’s corporate strategy. Recent developments in digital marketing techniques and e-commerce – including data analysis and the use of customer relationship management systems – may have improved efficiency and profitability, but they have also made the relationship between customer and service provider impersonal.
Digital marketing does not adequately drive engagement with consumer and business audiences. In fact, automation of brand messaging is eroding trust between brands and their consumers. Experiences, on the other hand, bring personality to today’s big data metrics and provide an opportunity to engage directly with user groups.
Experiences bring personality to today’s big data metrics and provide an opportunity to engage directly with user groups
Keith Prowse has been at the forefront of the experience economy for more than 200 years, providing the best seats in the house, great food and headline talent. We’ve had a hand in creating a range of premium experiences at events including the Championships, Wimbledon, the Fever-Tree Championships at The Queen’s Club and rugby internationals at Twickenham Stadium.
The business of hospitality has always been about building networks. Now, it is increasingly about nurturing trust between hosts and their guests. To understand what guests want and what influences them to attend events, we had to question why people buy experiences.
To find out the answer, we conducted an industry-wide survey that asked buyers, sponsors and attendees of hospitality events about their previous experiences. The research, compiled in a report titled People Buy Experiences: a Study into the Future of Hospitality, looked at the demands, trends and best practices for guest engagement and retention when it comes to entertaining clients, suppliers and employees.
As an organisation that serves up premium experiences at the UK’s major cultural and sporting events, we were able to gain responses from more than 400 organisations. This meant the analysis and subsequent findings could delve deep into the needs of the corporate buyer.
The report contains a number of useful insights. It shows that brands are 57 percent more likely to secure face-to-face opportunities and build meaningful relationships by using hospitality to connect with their target market. Individuals connect with brands on a far deeper level when they buy into an organisation’s story as opposed to simply buying its goods.
As more brands come to understand that people place increasing value on experiences, they have learnt that days spent with family, friends and colleagues are more engrained in the memory than material goods and are therefore more effective marketing tools.
Of course, that doesn’t mean that just any experience will resonate with customers. Producing effective entertainment and hospitality is not just about knowing where your customers are and what brands they prefer, it’s about knowing them so well you can create and deliver personalised experiences that will entice them to remain loyal to you and to talk to others about your brand. It’s probably the most valuable form of promotion there is.
Interestingly, our research pointed to a marked reliance on hospitality to engender trust between organisations and their stakeholders. Hospitality is being used to nurture relationships by creating opportunities to interact in person, taking people offline and creating personable, meaningful and lasting interactions.
Brands must be careful to create experiences that are unique but also authentic – businesses that mislead consumers and break promises usually suffer long-term reputational damage. It’s all about staying true to your brand while meeting (and exceeding) your customers’ expectations.
Know your guests
A wide range of industries have begun using experiences to bring their products to life, including firms in the retail, tech, food and media sectors. This means attendees and their needs will vary significantly from event to event. It is essential that brands identify who their attendees will be and how best to engage with them.
Our People Buy Experiences report found that there is a marked difference in the demands of various demographic groups. Short-form events such as Twenty20 cricket and music concerts appeal more to a younger demographic that prefers the flexibility of not having to commit to a day-long event. The ability to share the experience on social media is another important factor for younger age groups, meaning events should be visually striking.
This increasingly influential young audience perceives premium experiences differently to older respondents. They are expressing a growing interest in attending performance and arts-based events. They also value fantastic food and drink as key factors in their event experience.
Conversely, the report found that older guests appreciate discretion and formality and are willing to commit to an entire day at an event. Social media was also of less relevance to older respondents, while exclusivity held greater importance.
The report found that while blue ribbon events remain the most desirable across all demographics, there has been a widespread casualisation of the hospitality industry. Pared-back design, well-considered food and communal experiences are trends that hit the mark for the Millennial guest and are being replicated at events and on high streets across the UK. Similarly, meetings are rarely conducted at restaurants anymore. Instead, they are being held at venues with standout imagery and a strong social media presence.
The Millennial market
Faced with an increasingly diverse set of customers, markets and channels, brands must pay close attention to how they execute their business entertainment events. Driven largely by the influential Millennial audience, UK brands are creating packages and concepts to suit this burgeoning market’s increasingly sophisticated tastes.
A bold backdrop for social media shots, informal seating such as bars for mingling, high-quality catering curated by well-known chefs and lively entertainment represent the new order for today’s standout occasions.
This new generation of guests is not only attending hospitality events but also purchasing such experiences. As younger generations increasingly use social media to build their personal brand, they require beautifully put together modern experiences at accessible price points. In response to this emerging demand, businesses are designing tiered packages that remain aspirational yet appeal to broader demographics and their needs.
Well-executed experiences turn consumers from passive viewers to active participants. Organisations are seeking to re-engage with their customers, suppliers and stakeholders by offering rich content, tiered pricing and high-impact experiences. It’s about creating days out that attendees will remember fondly while maximising the networking opportunities that these events are designed to facilitate.