84% of UK consumers want to try new brand experiences post-lockdown

2020 was a hammer blow for the brand experience industry. With stores closed, activations put on hold and events cancelled, brand campaigns stunted before they even had a chance to flourish!

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With the announcement that the UK is moving to lift restrictions by the summer, Independent marketing agency iD wanted to examine what audiences will be looking for from brands as they begin to re-engage with live experiences. 

To that end iD ran a survey of 340 UK consumers to gather tangible insight on audiences’ wants and needs. The findings have been compiled into an in-depth report: Redefining Consumer Experiences Post-Lockdown’.

  • 84% of UK consumers want to try new brand experiences post-lockdown
  • 65% of the public want to attend a festival or outdoor market as their main experience
  • 7 / 10 Respondents say that digital experiences do not compare to the real thing
  • 59% of respondents stated that they wanted COVID protection measures at any brand experience they attend this summer
  • 55% of consumers have planned events and experiences for summer 2021

In order to really benefit those in the brand experience space, iD exclusively targeted consumers between the ages of 18 – 54. From their 28 years of experiential marketing experience, iD knew that this demographic was the most likely to want to engage with experiences in summer 2021 making their opinions all the more valuable.

This included 20% from Generation X, 69% Millennials (Gen Y) and 11% from Gen Z (Zoomers).

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When it comes to the prospect of running a brand experience in the summer, iD wanted to know what audience appetite might look like for experiential events moving forward.

They found that 84% of people surveyed said that they were ‘eager’ to try a new brand experience once restrictions were lifted. This demonstrates the opportunity open to brands as the UK approaches summer and audiences can once again get out.

This was further evidenced by over half of audiences saying they have already booked or are planning to attend an event in the summer. This is a good indicator that the public sees the start of summer also as the end of lockdown, so brands that are prepared to deliver now will almost certainly be in pole position once restrictions are lifted. The challenge will be standing out from the crowd and delivering an experience that has been worth waiting for. 

The events of 2020 had a significant impact on the way brand experiences are delivered, and the way audiences engage with them. Nearly 40% of the audiences iD spoke to said that they had engaged with a digital experience whilst in lockdown as an alternative to a brand experience or event.

Of this number, over 70% stated that digital experiences do not compare to the real thing. The data suggests it is hard to recreate the design and engagement that you can get in a real event space – and clearly, true digital alternatives are still some way off.

Zaine Venter, Managing Director – Brand Experience at iD commented on audience’s preference to real events when compared to digital alternatives.

“The results of our survey suggest that audiences still prefer the live experience, and that stand-alone digital experiences will no longer be an alternative to live events once lockdown is lifted. Granted, basic things like the way we work and shop for food may have changed but the way we spend our social and leisure time will not.

Digital experiences served as a temporary replacement in a desperate time for the events industry, but they were never expected to be a long-term option moving forward. Instead, we expect them to continue to play an important role in amplifying and widening the live experience reach but never fully replace it.”

iD also investigated the types of experiences audiences want to attend post lockdown to give brands an insight into the events that will receive the most footfall.

Over half (55%) of audiences said their preference would be an outdoor event. Nearly two-thirds (65%) said they would want to attend an outdoor festival, market or fayre over the summer, compared to a dedicated pop-up shop or product demonstration event. Clearly, brands need to be seen where their audiences are, rather than adopting a ‘build it and they will come’ approach. This is something that brands will need to consider when deciding on how to activate new campaigns.

Of the people iD surveyed for their independent report, 59% stated that they wanted COVID protection measures at any brand experience they attend this summer.

Whilst the data does suggest some trepidation among audiences, as long as brands have something truly special to offer, and consumers feel reassured of their safety, there will be no shortage of people looking to engage with new experiences in the summer of 2021.

In order to bolster their independent data, iD gathered quotes and comments from a variety of industry experts within the UK retail sector. Jim Winship, Secretary at the Events Industry Forum reaffirms the sentiment posed by the report that there will be an enviable amount of consumers still attending live events.

“I think it depends on the age groups, I think the older age groups are going to be more cautious about going to events, younger age groups will be desperate to go out and do things again.

All we can go on is that there seems to be this pent-up demand for people having been locked down and now wanting to go out and do things again. I think we saw it to some extent last summer, the few events that took place on a small-scale last year the demand was certainly there for it.

I think all the signs are there that people want to get back to events.”

iD’s full report offers valuable insights that brands and marketers can use as a resource while they attempt to fulfil their audiences’ wants and needs post lockdown. They hope it can help to ignite a collective effort amongst agencies and event organisers to build brand activations that truly resonate with audiences and cement the future of retail experiences for years to come.

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