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Getting Ready to Roar: In-Person Branded Experiences Outpacing Virtual For The First Time Since Pandemic

We’re seeing unprecedented growth in the Experience Economy, and IRL is back! We’ve compiled some fascinating data about this boom across our partner base. Going to be a roaring summer!

While most of us would love to stop hearing the term “Roaring 20s” as a label of the humanistic explosion, many sociologists are expecting it should not be lost on us that the original decade – the 1920s – immediately followed the 1918 Pandemic. As history repeats itself, many are expecting another decade of experiential immersion, cultural overload, and general hedonism. This time, things are destined to be even better.

In 2021, we’re standing at the precipice of massive global change. The world is evolving from a Things Economy to an Experience Economy. Of the world’s 20 largest companies by market cap, less than half (9) make most of their revenue from producing material things. In 1920, almost all of them were. 

Things have become commoditized. Millennials are saving up for experiences rather than things. Retail brands are shutting down every week. Marie Kondo has built a global brand telling us to throw away hard-earned objects that don’t bring us joy. This would never have been possible in 1921.

Instead, as many of us leave our living rooms for the first time in 15 months, what we’re seeing is the seeds of a true Experiential Renaissance. People are craving human connection, craving the kind of novel experiences that release dopamine and adrenaline into our brains, and the brands that are thriving are leading the way. From Dick’s Sporting Goods launching their House of Sport to Johnnie Walker investing millions in new Scotch brand homes, from Nike’s Running Club (as well as other running clubs) seeing massive jumps in numbers to concerts selling out almost instantly (often before lineups are even announced), an experiential boom in a thriving experience economy is unprecedented. 

To better understand how the Experience Economy will evolve during the coming renaissance, we did a deep dive into our data to produce The Annual Experiential Trends ReportTo prepare the report, AnyRoad analyzed data from three million unique experiential records derived from over 400 customers’ branded experiences in more than 90 countries (primarily US and UK). 

The report covers operational insights from AnyRoad Experience Manager, including types of experiences, geographic trends, and engagement metrics (such as guest volume, services and bookings revenue, revenue per visit, etc.), as well as sentiment and behaviors, surfaced through AnyRoad Atlas, including NPS surveys and open text feedback analyzed via NLP.

Some highlights include: 

  • Reopening is accelerating and in-person experiences are booming. For the first time in over a year, in-person experience attendance outpaced virtual events and 68% of experiences in May 2021 were in-person, up from 4% in May 2020. 
  • Online experiences remain an effective way to increase geographic reach. One brand analyzed was able to increase its audience size by over 60% by adding online experiences to its portfolio.
  • Online experiences have a similar impact on brand perception as in-person experiences. Post-experience net-promoter scores (NPS) for online (80 NPS) and in-person (82 NPS) experiences have narrowed over the past year. 
  • Zoom fatigue means compelling content is critical. On average, just one in three consumers shows up to an online experience, whether it is paid or free. Brands that offer unique content can double attendance rates for online experiences, as top-performers saw attendance rates of 65%.
  • Consumers are booking ahead and spending more per visit. The average booking window has increased from 11 to 15 days and spend per visit has increased by 4.5x year-to-date as more activities open up. 
  • Increased opportunity for add-ons and personalization. Post-COVID consumers are 10-15% more likely to upgrade or personalize their experiences. For example, a brand that offers a distillery tour might generate a lift in sales by offering a limited edition bottle at checkout.

Bottom line

The pent-up desire for IRL experiences and events creates a once-in-a-lifetime environment for brands and consumers alike. The brands that are quick to reopen and engage consumers yearning for human connection will reap rewards including increased loyalty, more data and insights, and ultimately more revenue.

Check out the full Experiential Trends Report here

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