What is the value of the Experience Economy when the world is stuck in their homes? We’ve been having this conversation daily with customers and colleagues during the Covid-19 crisis, and have come to a few powerful conclusions.

The most innovative and successful modern brands are all becoming experiential ones. Lululemon, Guinness, Home Depot, Nike, and BMW all are built on offline experiential engagement; when you interact with those brands – through yoga classes, beer tastings, test drives, or running clubs, your love for them grows exponentially. Over the last seven years, we’ve proven out this engagement ROI across millions of experiences with the most innovative global brands. Experiences change our behavior .

Now, the question is, in an age of self-quarantine, can you do real Experiential online? 

As it turns out – Yes! … but it will take real effort for brands to adapt to this new normal. 

The New Normal

A Wall Street Journal article on April 10th highlighted how the Covid-19 crisis has jump-started America’s innovation engine. Related to this we’re seeing examples every day on Zoom of people pushing the boundaries of remote engagement. Organizers stuck in their homes are organizing meetups, dance parties, music festivals, math classes, singing circles, weddings, and all kinds of different virtual experiences right now. Stylists are guiding virtual haircuts. Dating has moved to video chatting. Burning Man is happening on the internet. The best experiences are reimagining how to build three dimensional experiences on a two dimensional medium.

At Highclere Castle, also known as the aristocratic home that served as the set for Downton Abbey, Lord and Lady Carnarvon are virtually opening their doors for the first time to market their four-year-old gin brand, Highclere Castle Gin. https://t.co/Q4WElzpY1I — Adweek (@Adweek) April 17, 2020

 Brands are no different in their quest for engagement. 

As most brands pull back on traditional advertising, they remain laser-focused on building relationships directly with their customers. “We’re not in advertising mode,” explained Anheuser-Busch CMO Marcel Marcondes. “You have to be consumer-centric, more than ever. Never be self-serving. There’s no space now for anything that is not adding value to people.” 

How have our most beloved companies launched programs to add value to the indoor masses? Michaels launched free art classes, Barry’s Bootcamp hosts regular live fitness classes, Sierra Nevada is hosting beer tastings, BrewDog built out 102 “virtual bars”, which will offer tastings, live music and even pub quizzes. Check out Ian Zelaya’s content on AdWeek.com for multiple examples. 

“We’re not in advertising mode,” Marcel Marcondes, CMO, Anheuser-Busch.

Bringing ‘3D’ brand experiences online 

Brands are coming out of their brick and mortar confines to leap across the digital divide into their customers’ living rooms. The most forward thinking are trying to combine physical goods with experiences – sending beer samplers shipped in time for online beer tastings, workouts with specific equipment, recipe packets for group cooking classes.

Photo by Meritt Thomas on Unsplash

Bringing the future forward

My mom had never heard of Zoom before Covid-19 hit, and one day she asked me, “Are you doing this Zoom thing?” Just 4 weeks later, she’s consuming live digital content on an hourly basis, attending digital concerts, theater productions, art classes, and lectures. This crisis has accelerated the world of online experiences by at least a decade.

When the world comes bouncing back, don’t expect these virtual experiences to just fade away. 

When the world comes bouncing back, don’t expect these virtual experiences to just fade away. We’re in a new normal, and while humanity stuck in their houses are yearning for human contact and exhilarating experiences, many people who never considered – or had access to – these experiences are now comfortable learning by screen. We believe offline experiences will rebound to levels significantly greater than before, yet millions of people have now also blended online experiences into their lives, and are more comfortable in social distanced events. We have forever changed the way people interact, and there is no going back.

What is AnyRoad doing to support our customers?

At AnyRoad, our customers have been calling us nonstop. It’s clear brands, more than ever, are looking for ways to engage their customers and fans. Additionally, with social outlets reduced, consumers are seeking community online. Brands have a societal role to play here and the benefit can be mutual. A sofa bound captive audience seeking to engage and brands looking to protect revenue and loyalty. 

Listening to our amazing customers, we accelerated the launch of our newest product, AnyRoad atHome, designed for brands seeking to run online experiential programs. Our solution combines AnyRoad’s product suite with a variety of streaming platforms such as Zoom. This delivers a seamless consumer experience while giving brands the audience data and insights they need. With the right insights, our customers are A/B testing online experiences to maximize ROI, aiming to achieve engagement that rivals that of real-world experiences.

While we still believe that the most compelling experiences take place in the physical environment, we’ve been really encouraged by the innovative use cases our customers have planned. The time is right for brands to leverage online experiences to drive engagement, community and revenue in this unprecedented operating environment. You can find out more about AnyRoad atHome by tuning in to our webinar on April 30th.

With social outlets reduced, consumers are seeking community online. 

Parting thought – Establish your data strategy early

One thing is clear from the conversations we’ve had with customers – Insights and ROI are critical components for an online experiential strategy. The fast pace of innovation can sometimes rely on gut instinct and guesswork. While this makes sense to test a hypothesis or new concept, it’s not sustainable. 

Imagine spending $1Million on a series of online activations with celebrities / influencers and having no mechanism to capture data and establish ROI. That could lead to an uncomfortable conversation with your CFO down the line. But, if you had the right goals, tracking and infrastructure setup for your online experience. Data could tell the ROI story that you need to re-up your plan.

Bottom line – It is possible to balance diligence and speed when it comes to rolling out an online experiential program and it all starts with data. 

Questions, comments or feedback on this post – feel free to reach out on Twitter @whereisyaffe or via email at jy AT anyroad.com