In normal times, how important are in-person events and experiences to your brand? Have you struggled with brand messaging during the COVID-19 pandemic? Many businesses, particularly those who previously relied on in-person experiences, have struggled to keep their brand identity alive during this time. 

Events and experiences are crucial to your brand strategy. 

You may have incredible products or services, but your brand can never really take off unless you can carve out ways of interacting with your potential and existing customers. 

Building new relationships, strengthening existing ones, and boosting brand engagement and loyalty are the goals of brand events. Trade show attendance and pop-up stalls, event sponsorships, and VIP events are just a few examples of events that can boost your brand.  

In early 2020, the in-person opportunities disappeared overnight. So, what have businesses done to compensate? What are the success stories so far and what can we learn from them? 

Where are we now and where do we go next?

After well over a year, COVID-19 is still limiting the opportunities for brands to interact with the public in person. In the first half of 2020, everyone had hoped that this would be a short-term problem. But then, as the world began to experience second and even third waves of the pandemic, it became clear that it was going to remain for a lot longer than anyone expected.

What is also clear now is that there are likely to be permanent shifts in customer behavior, and these questions remain:

  • When will the large majority of people feel comfortable attending busy events?
  • When will travel restrictions lift permanently? And will people want to travel in the same way, anyway? 
  • Have people enjoyed online events and experiences so much that they may prefer them, even when life becomes ‘normal’ again?

This last question is really important. There have been some incredible success stories during this time. Can online brand events now trump in-person experiences? Is this a permanent change? 

Brands need to be smart. 

Having brand experiences online is certainly vital right now and it could stay that way forever. If you aren’t yet utilizing online brand experiences as much as you could, then you are definitely falling behind. You need to make sure you don’t stay behind for the long term.

Read on for some tips that will help you move your brand forward.

What makes an impactful virtual brand experience?

Let’s get up to speed with what makes a virtual brand experience successful.

As you know, all brand experiences should aim to provide positive, valuable interactions between a business and its customers, or potential customers. Your own in person success stories will have likely provided interactive, immersive experiences and will have gone beyond merely showing the product or service. 

Online experiences have the same goals. Virtual brand events should also be interactive and immersive. 

Next, we’ll look at ways brands are already creating these online experiences. 

4 examples of virtual brand experiences that work

Here are some ideas of what’s working for brands right now. 

Try-before-you-buy product realization

Augmented reality technology allows consumers to ‘experience’ products virtually. Digital overlays are used to make a product magically appear on a smartphone or tablet screen using their camera.

For example, paint colors can be painted virtually on real walls and furniture placed in rooms. Customers can also try on shades of lip and eye makeup, see themselves in virtual shoes or sunglasses, and more from the comfort of their homes.

Social media sharing is also providing additional benefits for those who have invested in the technology to allow their customers to do this. 

Virtual tours of real spaces

Virtual tours are another example of an online experience where customers can explore the benefits of a brand from their sofa.  

Experiences can be small scale, like vehicle demos or property viewings. However, larger-scale demos have proven to be popular pandemic pastimes. Virtual zoo, museum and theme park visits have been huge hits with families. 

In the educational sector, visiting campuses virtually has also been very popular. Hotels and the hospitality industry have also made good use of virtual tours. 

Gamification experiences

Online marketing that uses gaming is another popular strategy. 

Customer-orientated games can attract brand loyalty, build connections and incentivize customers to return again and again. Techniques such as giving out prizes and incentives, ranking and scoring attract new customers and keep existing customers engaged with the brand.  

Virtual events and gatherings

Online brand events have been taking place on every scale, from intimate gatherings to events with thousands of participants. 

Examples include cocktail parties and fine dining events for just a few VIPs or influencers where the necessary products are delivered to attendees. 

At the other end of the scale, events attracting huge global audiences have delivered online virtual conferences, trade shows, careers fairs and fashion shows, and many more. These immersive events utilize avatars, gamification, live feeds, virtual tours and more. 

There are many examples of successful virtual events. The fact that they are highly accessible for guests and cost effective for businesses is making them very popular with brands. 

How to create a virtual experience that’s right for your brand

Take a look at the following tips if you want to create a virtual experience. 

  • Focus on consistency

Consistency is key to branding, so your virtual experiences will need to follow suit. Make sure your online strategy aligns with your brand company values and identity. Your online content should never risk confusing or alienating your core customer base. 

  • Plan a high-quality experience

Whatever you choose to do, make sure it is not second best to an in-person experience. Go all out, talk to the experts, and deliver something incredible that is completely focused on satisfying your customers. 

  • Go interactive

As explained above, interactive content works well. So, make your virtual experience engaging, fun and worthwhile. Use gamification and other interactive strategies to create buzz and to get people talking and sharing. 

  • Use social media

Once you have an event or experience in mind, you need to seek your audience. You should utilize your mailing list. However, you also need to look for potential customers.

Where is your customer base spending their time online: YouTube, Twitter, Facebook or other platforms?

Utilizing your customer base’s engagement preferences is going to be key to putting your online experiences in front of as many people as possible.  

One final tip

Moving your events and experiences online can still feel daunting, even with the above tips.

However, there are teams of experienced professionals out there who can help you out every step of the way. They can create an impactful, engaging experience that completely aligns with your existing brand strategy. 

Don’t fall behind; begin planning your virtual brand experiences today. 

AUTHOR BIO

Stuart dreamt of being an astronaut when growing up. Or a fire fighter. Or a policeman. He never could make up his mind and he didn’t think it was necessary to. This open-mindedness and curiosity always has him learning new things, in both work and his personal life. One of the best listeners we know, he’s the perfect guy to confess all your wild ambitions for your business to, whether you hope you’ll be bought out by Zuckerberg 5 years from now or become the most talked about IPO in history. He will take all of it in and come back with a strategy that will help set you on the path to achieving your goals.