Experiential Marketing and Digital Sales: A New Frontier

You know experiential marketing when you see it. It’s the home improvement store that holds workshops where kids and their parents can come build something together. It’s Nespressoboutiques that creates an emporium-like atmosphere for tasting. It’s Ikea hosting a massive slumber party in one of its stores in the UK. In short, experiential marketing is a strategy for developing a closer bond between individuals and the brand by immersing them in a fun or memorable experience.

Experiential marketing best practices have traditionally revolved around engaging as many of the human senses as possible. And that’s fine for brick-and-mortar settings, but things work a little differently when it comes to digital sales. How do you get an online shopper to smell, touch, or taste your product?

One rising trend is combining ecommerce with brick-and-mortar showrooms. For companies exclusively centered around ecommerce, one way to implement experiential marketing is to shift your focus from the tangible to the emotional. You look beyond transactional commerce ‘ “Click here to add this product to your cart” ‘ and draw customers into the whole shopping experience by connecting with them emotionally.

Before the term “experiential marketing” was coined, J. Peterman was knocking it out of the park with its Owner’s Manual. It started as a paper catalog, but they continued the same concept with the onset of the digital age. When you click on an item in the company’s online store, you don’t see a boring list of specifications. Instead, you find yourself immersed in a story. The stories, whether they describe how J. Peterman found that product on one of his trips around the world, or simply outline the type of customer that would fit with a certain piece of clothing, show customers that they, too, can be like the people in those stories through those products.

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Today, the Internet provides possibilities that were unimaginable when J. Peterman published its first Owner’s Manual. Let’s look at some of the ways we can use technology to deliver a shopping experience rather than simply complete a transaction.

Interaction:

Think about the ways that you could draw customers into a fully interactive online shopping experience. Quizzes, surveys, assessments, or printable coupons are some easy options ‘ but why stop there? If your company sells clothing, create a digital dressing room where customers can upload a picture for a virtual try-on session. Or, follow Behr’s lead ‘ the company’s “Paint Your Place” application lets consumers upload pictures of their homes to see how they’d look with different paint colors.

Purpose:

For experiential marketing to actually make an emotional connection with consumers, it has to have a purpose. If you sell work boots, showing a video of kittens playing in your boots isn’t going to help consumers connect with your brand and buy the boots. On the other hand, showing pictures of people wearing your boots and sharing stories about how they use them helps customers imagine how those boots would fit into their own lives.

Personalization:

Think of taking the old, small-town drugstore and implementing that highly personal business model digitally. Big Data gives you the information you need to interact with your customers as individuals. What’s more, they know you’ve got it. They expect you to deliver some value in exchange, like filtering out products that their online behavior suggests they’d have no interest in.

Sharable Content:

The most powerful experiential marketing doesn’t capitalize on customer-brand interactions alone; it also optimizes customer-to-customer interactions ‘ in other words, social sharing. Take Target’s #KidsGotStyle campaign, which allows children to take a picture with their Bulls-eye mascot and post it to Twitter or Instagram with the #KidsGotStyle hashtag. In this type of interactive campaign, customers aren’t just interacting with the brand; they’re participating in a shared social experience that will have a lasting effect on their memory.

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The beauty of digital experiential marketing is its ability to connect not just with consumer segments or customer personas, but also with individuals. Additionally, digital experiential marketing offers customers the chance to interact with each other, not just the brand. The interaction within those relationships ‘ customer-to-brand and customer-to-customer ‘ underscores the efficacy of digital experiential marketing.