BY BRIAN COUCH | JUNE 16, 2021
Now that the pandemic and related restrictions are easing, there is enormous pent-up demand for live experiences and travel. According to reports from both Variety Magazine and Living Life Fearless the LA based Day Trip Festival scheduled for July sold out in just 90 minutes and the Las Vegas hosted festival Life Is Beautiful scheduled for September also sold out in record time. Analyst are bull-ish on live event online ticket sales which are expected to hit roughly $14.3 billion which equates to a 16% increase over 2019 sales according to a report found on IBIS.
Heightened demand for experiences doesn’t end with events but carries over to travel as well. According to research conducted by American Express 78% of Americans want to travel in 2021 and 87% of them have stated that having a trip booked is giving them something to look forward to. In China travelers are so excited to get back out into the world they are buying tickets on “mystery flights” which whisk travelers off to destinations unknown for ¥98 or about $15. People have missed traveling so much that 56% sate they booked travel even knowing they may have to cancel it if the pandemic conditions change. According to a survey by Trivago “38% of Americans would be willing to give up sex for a year in order to travel again immediately”.
The demand for travel and live events is real. People are willing to spend money now to enjoy these moments. Still, there are many questions and challenges to be addressed for brands as we emerge from the pandemic?
Pre-pandemic personal experience was king. It didn’t matter if those experiences happened with or without family. Since the pandemic there has been a noticeable shift to prioritize family time over individual experiences. Brands must adapt to this new mindset. Agoda’s “What Matters Most 2021” says that one in three people reported spending quality time with family and friends as the most important thing in 2021. If 2020 was the year of survival, then 2021 is a year for connecting and family.
Eco-friendly Now More Than Ever
People were forced to stay home during much of 2020 and spending time outdoors was a much-needed respite. Not only have people embraced the great outdoors for a short excursion but according to Trip Advisorover half of Americans are more likely to take an outdoor trip than pre-pandemic. With Sixty-nine percent of Americans saying they have a renewed appreciation for the outdoors; brands should strive to strengthen their eco-credentials in order to appeal to this burgeoning market segment. Brands can show that they are environmentally conscious will have an opportunity to win with this group of consumers.
One brand excelling in this endeavor is New York based sneaker brand Thousand Fell. This summer they are offering consumers a $20 coupon in exchange for old sneakers. If the sneakers are in decent shape they are donated to a non-profit and if not then they are either recycled into new shoes, industrially composted, or incorporated into construction projects. A 2019 CGS article claims that 70% of US adults say sustainability is at least ‘somewhat important’ to them when making a purchase. The same survey also reveals that the second-highest reason a person returns to a brand is because of its sustainable and ethical business practices.
Alex Bodini of Spin Brands claims “90% of customer interactions with a brand on social media get ignored” by the very brands that are speaking to. This is a miss because consumers have a desire to feel connected to their favorite brands. Consumers want to know who they are buying products from on a personal level. In the UK over 51% of consumers look to buy from independently owned businesses according to Shopify. Even for businesses that aren’t “local”, people still want to feel a connection the surroundings of the businesses they support.
They also want to know the leadership that is making the important decisions and setting the vison for a brand. People are not just buying into a brand anymore but are buying in on the visionary people that set the brand values. Consumers want to have access to brand leadership in both live and virtual environments therefore business leaders need to be regularly attending events, interacting with customers, and posting to social media. CEOs are increasingly viewed as not only market actors, but also moral ones. “CEO reputation today means more than mastery of the marketplace. It’s also about a commitment to serve society,” says John Gerzema, CEO of the Harris Poll. Business leaders are under pressure to cater to the needs of diverse consumer groups, it will be clear, values-driven leadership that ensures public buy-in. Large brands can compete with the local shopkeeper if they are able to engage consumers in an authentic manner.
There is no doubt that the pandemic has changed what we value. Our family and friends are more in focus than ever before. Consumers desire a life that goes easier on the environment and are looking for ways make conscious decisions about their own impact. More than anything else, people want to feel a connection back to the companies and brands they support. Every conversation that conveys these values should be two-way…if there is learning from the virtual events that Soho Experiential has led over the last 12-18 months, it would be that the best experiences are the ones that provide a true dialog between the brand and its most passionate fans. As brands consider what a live event will look like in 2021 authenticity, transparency, and connection should be key pillars of the consumer experience.