The experiential industry took a massive hit with the global lockdown, and, as experiences in person took a halt, we saw people take a natural pivot to online in a bid to maintain a semblance of normality.
Hunkered down at home in a, now, very slow-paced world, we were plunged into a content overload phase as people tried to remain socially connected, albeit physically distanced. I dedicated time to my online fashion business YANGA, armed myself with makeshift dumbbells in the form of two tins of beans and sought reprieve in online fitness classes.
For me, online workouts were not only motivated by the fear of a decline in my fitness level, they provided a structure to my day. They were the clean break I needed to transition between work time and me time, and soon enough I moved from class participant to virtual trainer, teaching my own classes and training my own clients. It was the experience I sought out as it proved useful to both my physical and mental health.
This proved that experiences were never tethered to physical gatherings or the environments they took place in, but more about their ability to connect people, elevate moments and enrich lives. Even now with a vaccine available, it is fair to say we are not going back to normal anytime soon. What we do know is that experiences are going nowhere, though they may shapeshift as consumers' need evolve.
People will seek out live experiences to restore joy
There is no denying that the pandemic not only affected our physical health, but also deprived us of the social connections that make our lives truly meaningful. People will be looking to reconnect with loved ones and rekindle the sense of community that they have missed, and brands who provide this will create a long-lasting emotional connection.
As a respite from machine-based interfaces, people will want face-to-face interaction and the good old human touch. The rise of the "Insperience" trend also provides brands with an opportunity to reach people at home in a non-intrusive way, spreading delight and elevating key moments.
Here, simplicity is key. Brands should look to provide the tools for connection and facilitate the interactions without dominating it. Done right, the sheer act of creating an environment that drives connection with loved ones will create brand affinity and preference.
More will be required from hybrid experiences
As live experiences make a comeback, brands should consider harnessing the flexibility, convenience and scale that virtual experiences provide by reimagining in-person experiences as a stage for digital interactions.
Beyond merely streaming a live event online, consumers will seek seamless integration that brings together the very best of both to provide extra value. In a hybrid setting, the challenge for brands will be figuring out how to function in two very different environments, engaging the in-person and virtual audience simultaneously.
Brands that get this right will be able to engage with their audience in the real world, and reinforce with digital experiences in their car, home and workplace.
Brands will need to ask what they can do for the consumer
Trust and transparency have never been more important factors as the post-pandemic consumer is more aware of social matters and cynical about big brands who claim to help. As we emerge from full lockdown and face the post-pandemic reality, where many businesses and jobs have been lost, big brands must look to truly give back.
For brands, talking about their merit will not be enough, showing it with actions is what will cut through. One way is to elevate local heroes and independent creators, most of whom have sprung from a wake of unemployment and turned their hobbies into full-time careers. By investing in these businesses and individuals, who are often at the heart of local communities and who now struggle to cope in the post-pandemic reality, brands can begin to restore trust.
As we navigate this new normal TRO believes shared experience – so bringing people together wherever they are – should sit at the heart of brands looking to thrive, a concept we explore in our white paper.
Fola Enifeni is a strategist at TRO.