5 compelling reasons to create unique customer experiences

Tue Jun 26 2018

Forget the traditional high street shop; a space with shelves full of products and sales assistants stuck behind a till. That’s not what consumers want at all. They can buy online in minutes, from anywhere, at any time, which means physical brand interactions need to be much more than transactional.

Festivals have evolved from greasy burgers and endless queues, to slick operations full of immersive experiences. Now retail and food and drink are, and need to continue moving away from long-lease premises, to pop-up spaces. Not with the intention to sell, sell, sell, but to create places and spaces that allow people to engage with your brand, experience something new, with the option to buy via another channel (like a smart mirror or their smartphone) while in store, in restaurant or in bar.  

Now’s the time for brands to give consumers what they really want, and that’s great experiences. After all, the experience economy is the new norm. 

In 2013, Barclaycard presents British Summer Time festival in London’s Hyde Park hosted 70 food and drink merchants. In 2014, that number rose to 81, and now, in its sixth year, over 100 merchants are appearing. According to eFestivals’ numbers, 440 new festivals have appeared on the calendar since 2007i.  That’s an average of more than 44 new festivals a year in the UK and Ireland. We’ve created an infographic all about the growth in value and popularity of festivals. 

The bigger picture is one of growth and diversification across retail, too. 

According to the founder of Appear Here, traditional retail leases have shortened considerably, ‘from 25 years to just three years’ii. Appear Here launched around 80 pop-up shops in 2014 and more than 3,000 just two years later (in 2016)iii. Between 200 and 300 of those were for fashion brands during December alone. It seems pop-up retailing is booming as brands look for innovative ways to join up their online and offline stores with continued consumer demand for live, physical experiences.

If those figures weren’t reason enough to think about getting involved in the pop-up world and get a foothold in the experience economy at festivals, here are five more. 

One: Consumers want experiences, not just material things

That means music events, festivals, artisan food and drink markets, and pubs with more than just beer. Festivals alone totted up a whopping £2bn in 2015iv, doubling that figure in the 12 months to July 2017, taking £4bnv. Your customers are looking for new ways to interact with your brands, and your competitors are finding ways to give those consumers unexpected experiences.

Did you know that according to thefestivalcalendar.co.uk, between June and September 2018, there’ll be 63 food and drink festivals in the UKvi? And that doesn’t include all the ever-reinventing markets like Borough Market (London), KERB street food markets (various locations across London) and St Nicholas Markets (Bristol), to name but a tiny number.

Two: Pop-up = potential new revenue streams

If you don’t try, you’ll never know, so the saying goes. Pop-up commerce at railway stations, shopping centres, festivals and sporting events is a great way to test new products and ideas, poll your customers on what they want and how you’re doing, and reach a broader audience. Did you know that in 2016, 4m people attended a festivalvii? And that in 2017, 74.5m tickets were sold for sporting events in the UKviii?

That’s a potential of 78.5m customers – can you really afford to pass up that scale of opportunity? Not only that, but the potentially wide-ranging demographics of that vast number means you’re bound to be reaching people you’re not reaching through your existing channels.

And you might just find that how you perform at temporary commerce might start informing how you run your bricks and mortar store, the products you sell online, or where you open up next. It’s the ultimate way to give consumers something brand new, unexpected and exciting. The three things that might just get them to rave about you on their social feeds.

Three: Diversify to fly

Diversification in business is a good idea, while standing still really isn’t. Yes it takes planning to give consumers different experiences in temporary and unexpected locations, but do your research on event or area demographics, have confidence in your idea, and pick the right events that give you expert support and it could pay off. Take Barclaycard presents British Summer Time festival in Hyde Park (London), for example, by giving people new and exciting experiences, we can reach new audiences, and so can our vendors. 

Four: Untapped PR and social brand opportunities

Events and temporary spaces like food and drink markets aren’t just an opportunity to sell your great wares, they can also offer visibility on a mass scale, especially at events or high footfall locations with lots of press coverage and social interaction. A well-branded pitch, plus amazing products, outstanding customer service and some well-planned creative marketing campaigns could lead to column inches and an engaged, fast-growing social following. 

Five: Realise the full benefits of contactless technology

At any retail location, pop-up or otherwise, the keys to great vending are fast-moving queues, great customer service and high quality products. Contactless payment technology delivers on the first of those, and helps with the second. Customers don’t want to fork out their hard-earned cash for event tickets then queue for hours to get a pint, pizza or merchandise.

Now the contactless limit is set at £30, it’s quick and easy for people to buy a round with a tap, so you can serve more people at peak times (between music acts at a festival, for example). At Barclaycard presents British Summer Time, the number of Barclaycard contactless terminals has risen 285% in five years - from 70 in 2013 to 270 in 2017ix.

This massive hike proves the widespread adoption of contactless payment technology and the success of contactless in serving thousands of people in short spaces of time.

Are you sure you have the payment systems in place to take advantage of a new era for retail? We’ve got the data, insight and expertise to set you on the right track for the future.

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