The Experience Economy: Remoulding the Event World

17 May, 2023
Cook + Associates | Insightful Blogs

Marketing Manager, Anna Bray explores the evolution of the ‘experience economy’ and how designing for this evolution is shaping a new event world.

The digitisation and social consciousness of the 21st century have elicited a change in customer behaviour. In 2014, Eventbrite and the Harris Pollfound that 78% of consumers would rather spend money on an experience or event than buy a desirable item, adding fuel to the ever-evolving ‘Experience Economy’. For years traditional product-centric marketing was top dog, but in 1999 Joseph Pine and James Gilmore of the Harvard Business Review coined the term ‘Experience Economy’ – a fundamental shift into how brands go to market. Gone were the days of traditional product marketing and in its place came the customer-focused model, where the next stage of the competitive battleground lay in staging experiences.

Over 20 years on and this concept is just as pivotal -if not more pivotal – today than ever before. Being led by millennials, today’s experience-driven economy has stemmed from a variety of 21st-century constructs but none more powerful than the advent of social media. Instagram and TikTok views and likes are becoming the new form of social currency and as audiences hunt for the most ‘Instagrammable’ experiences and environments, word-of-mouth customers have become world-of-social media ones. As such, the bar is being continually raised for brands and event agencies worldwide, who must now not only create memorable experiences but also experiences that are shareable.

Good design is just not enough anymore, there must be a wow factor that draws in customers with an experience that aligns with their values. The experience should be centered around the creation of unique and unforgettable moments, where the memory itself becomes the product. Designing for this evolution has been the driving force behind a new era of event planning, all about creating immersive, interactive, and absorbing brand experiences that leave a meaningful impression.

The Four Realms of Experiences Model, Experience Economy.

Technology has blown the terrain wide open for event agencies to create experiences that stand out from the crowd and showcase a level of immersion beyond physical limits. From AR, VR, and the metaverse, hyperreality experiences are leading the way for customer engagement as the ‘phygital’ world begins to highlight moments that have never been seen before. Even extensions into multi-sensory experiences have been explored for audiences to feel more, with a focus on entering a customer’s long-term cognitive memory. Hendricks Gin finessed this idea with a VR experience that enticed their customers’ sense of sight, smell, and taste:

The global experience economy is expected to peak at $12 billion by the end of 20232 and is predicted to grow exponentially over the next 5 years. Whilst holding promise for the future of the events industry following the devastation of COVID-19, with consistent growth also comes the consistent need for innovation – the more experiences customers are exposed to, the harder it is to surprise people. But, surprise is only one side of the coin, it’s important to remember the ultimate goal: emotional connection.

As the experience economy suggests, the event industry needs to transform its focus into one that aims to connect with customers on a deeper level. The pandemic emphasized the importance of making memories and with the rise in the cost-of-living people are becoming more discerning about how they spend their time and money. In turn, ‘experiencers’ are reaching for a feeling of belonging and understanding at events, looking for moments that enrich their lives whether that be commercially, psychologically or practically. Be it technology, human connection, aesthetic picture-perfect environments or brand immersion there needs to be a specific and niche understanding of customers at events to leave them feeling satisfied and fulfilled.

Above all, the experience economy has made one thing clear: prioritizing experiences over monetary transactions can build stronger relationships with customers, and potentially longer ones too. As the experience-driven economy continues to evolve, event agencies must consider every aspect of an event, from the atmosphere to the activities, to harness and activate the customer’s emotional connection and generate customer loyalty.

1 – Eventbrite Study

2 $12 billion by the end of 2023