The concept of an “experience economy” was first brought up in 1999 by Joseph Pine and James Gilmore, who proposed that businesses should create memorable experiences or interactions for their customers. They also rightly predicted that these experiences, rather than the product itself, are what would eventually create the most value for customers.

The concept of experiential marketing is not new. Exhibitions, activations, and demonstrations have been a part of the marketing strategies of leading beauty brands for several decades now. However, it was not until the advent of digitalisation and social media that this trend truly gained momentum.

In today’s world, people's ability to research beauty products, share opinions with friends, and make purchases - all via online channels, in a matter of minutes - is bringing the focus back to customer experience. By bringing experiential marketing to the forefront of their marketing strategy, brands are not only able to increase top-line metrics like sales and brand awareness, but also build meaningful engagement with customers, increase brand recall, and gain deeper insights into how customers interact with their products.

Beauty brands are slowly realizing the importance of this and trying to create dynamic experiences that can translate to multiple channels, including online as well as in-store. However, planning a good experiential marketing campaign requires a lot of careful strategizing and public relations support to be successful.

NME estimated that in 2019, the industry for activations and experiential marketing in the UK was worth £2.3 billion. However, the outbreak of COVID-19 has placed a huge restriction on the number of experiential marketing campaigns and events that can take place, causing multimillion-pound losses for several companies, and throwing the future of the industry into turmoil.

In the UK, experiential marketing campaigns for beauty brands typically involve consultations and demonstrations with beauty experts, pop-up events and exhibitions, or sponsored events.

At present, the pandemic has resulted in a large number of customers flocking online, where it can be challenging for beauty brands to build unique digital experiences through which to engage customers. Some brands like Maybelline, Nyx, and the Body Shop have been successful in replicating these activities online through activities like virtual-try on, online customer communities, and personalised recommendation engines.

However, when customers return to stores following the lockdown, brands will also need to consider how they can reinvent in-person activations amidst stronger health and safety restrictions. Since the physical component of experiential marketing is so strong, they will need to find innovative ways of delivering experiences that allow them to meet their sales objectives while keeping customer safety top-of-mind.

The best way to achieve this is through technologies that marry both, the physical as well as digital components of experiential marketing to create hybrid online-offline interactions for customers. Such an approach can help brands create multiple touchpoints for interactions with customers, through which they can both, increase their opportunities for sales, and also learn more about their customers’ purchase habits.

A recent campaign by Dove is the perfect example of omnichannel experiential marketing in the UK. In this activation, Dove used outdoor digital screens outside the busy London Victoria station to broadcast questions related to beauty to passers-by. Commuters were invited to respond with thoughts or comments, which were then shared in real-time on the screens. Additionally, Dove offered free rewards for participating in the conversation. Through this activity, Dove managed to build a conversation around their products and remain top-of-mind, while simultaneously capturing customer contact information to use for later activities.

In a similar activation, beauty brand Lancôme teamed up with e-commerce giant Alibaba to launch a mobile-based game and pop-up store in Hong Kong for Chinese New Year. The game invited customers to participate in an augmented reality scavenger hunt, through which they could stand a chance to win exclusive products and gifts at the pop-up store. This campaign successfully increased brand awareness at a key time in the region and created excitement and conversations around the products.

Marketers need to realize that experience matters. While quality, price, and referrals are also considerations in the purchase process for beauty brands, a memorable experience can be something that tips the scales towards customers buying your product, and more importantly becoming vocal supporters of your brand. Word of mouth marketing can be especially valuable in this industry, since referrals from friends and family are the most influential factor behind most purchase decisions for beauty products.

Odore’s sampling device is unique way in which to elevate in-store experience for your customers. The device allows brands to create memorable branded activities through which customers can be targeted, profiled, and rewarded with personalised samples. Additionally, by capturing contact information, the device allows you to then retarget customers who interacted with your brand with further offers and promotions, creating a long-term opportunity that can be harnessed across multiple channels.