From product launches to tasting tables, live experiences help brands come to life for customers. They play a vital part in the business-customer relationship. They can also help SMEs improve the customer experience at events.

And there are stats that demonstrate the power of experiential events. 71 per cent of small business owners say event marketing helps them find new customers.

So what is a great customer experience? Why is it important? And how do you go about creating a great customer experience at small business events? Read on to find out how to improve the customer experience, create worthwhile relationships and truly connect with customers.

How SMEs can improve the customer experience at events

1. Why choose an experiential event?

An experiential event will introduce new customers to your brand experience. It may also coax existing customers into making further purchases. Either way, creating a memorable customer experience will help you connect with customers and build loyal relationships.

Indeed, a recent survey found that 70 per cent of attendees become regular customers after an experiential event.

2. Follow a customer experience strategy

Customer experience starts at the top

If you’re reading this as a business leader, ask yourself: what does customer experience mean to you?

Your vision matters because the way your company treats customers comes from the top. Your employees look to you every single day, after all.

So it’s important to communicate your vision – your customer experience strategy – to your employees.

Ford, the multinational automotive manufacturer, helps employees to see this bigger picture. Its concise social media guidelines are clear, but allow room for manoeuvre. As one rule goes, ‘You speak for yourself, but your actions reflect those of Ford Motor Company.’

Pick strategic targets

Delivering a specific customer experience to suit your target audience helps your message hit home.

In 2015, Facebook embarked on a US tour called Facebook IQ Live. It targeted mid-level agency workers and aimed to improve perceptions that the company was difficult to work with.

How you can improve the customer experience at your events

Facebook IQ Live. Credit: Facebook

To tailor this particular B2B customer experience, Facebook put on more than speakers and discussions. Each event took place at an amazing location (e.g. overlooking Lake Michigan). Valuable insights, such as when new parents are most active on Facebook, and a cocktail hour went down well with guests.

Positive feedback and improved relations confirmed that Facebook successfully tailored the events to its audience, and created an engaging customer experience.

3. Make your event easy for customers

Your guests’ feelings before and on arrival at your event play a large part in defining the customer experience. The more you provide clear, customer-focused information up front, the more your guests will feel confident, prepared and in control.

You may have built the most customer-focused culture in the world. However, if your technology experience doesn’t make attendees’ lives easier, your event won’t have the same impact. Small details, such as checking guests in quickly with a reliable barcode scanner, shape attendees’ perception of your event from the start.

Ease is important during your event, too. At Lollapalooza music festival, finance brand Citi utilised RFID (radio-frequency identification) technology to enable contactless payments and make life easier for event-goers. Not only did this improve the customer experience, but helped Citi to drive brand affinity and build customer engagement.

4. Leverage cost-effective event technology

Payment isn’t the only area where you can make a difference to your event experience. There are many types of affordable event technology that can help you enhance the customer experience throughout your next event.

Make it seamless

Like most SMEs, you may be looking for simple, cost-effective measures to improve the event experience. Many companies, for example, utilise an all-in-one data capture app to streamline their events and create a seamless customer experience. From product launches to competitions, they use this versatile piece of event technology to collect and store accurate customer data.

Features such as a business card scanner allow you to engage customers and capture new contact details wherever you are. Take British manufacturer Bentley, which saw a 50 per cent increase in event leads using Gather’s data capture app.

See how it works in the video below.

Make clever use of space

Other versatile event solutions include temporary inflatable structures, which are portable, quick to install and avoid some of the costs associated with venue hire. They represent a creative space, easily adapted for product launches, seminars, conferences and many other corporate events.

Make clever use of space to improve the customer experience at events

Credit: Imagine Inflatables

5. Create an emotional connection with customers

Experiential marketing can help your customers to get a better understanding of your brand. There are many types of experiential marketing, but the key is always to identify what emotion you want people to feel.

Take Bumble Trading Inc. – the creators of the female-first app that helps users find friends, dates and business. To generate awareness and media attention, the company created the Bumble Hive NYC.

Experiential events are a good way to improve the customer experience

Credit: Nathan Dale Studios LLC

The month-long event aimed to empower women, and offered educational, motivational and networking sessions – plus a memorable, sharable event experience. The event attracted 3,500 attendees for an average of two hours and garnered 200 million media impressions (double Bumble's target).

SMEs can improve the customer experience by creating an emotional connection with customers

Make a good first impression

Bumble’s New York event was a huge undertaking. Most SMEs want to create a memorable event experience on a far smaller scale. Here, it’s important to condense exactly what you want people to take away from your event into one word. Do you want them to feel inspired, curious – nostalgic?

To enhance the customer experience, many businesses want a quick, simple solution that gets the job done. Fortunately, first impressions make a big difference. They’re also an opportunity to help your guests understand what type of customer experience they’re walking into.

Putting some thought into the design of your event entrance will shape guests’ understanding of your event and start customers on your brand journey. As Nomadic Display’s design shows below, even a front desk can create a powerful impression from the outset.

SMEs can improve the customer experience at events by making a good first impression

Credit: Nomadic Display

Make it fun

Last, but by no means least, a great way to improve the customer experience at your event is through competitions and prize draws.

Take Boundless. The non-profit organisation used competitions and vouchers for free drinks to great effect during its rebranding campaign. As a result, four staff used Gather’s app to capture 1,227 leads at eight events promoting the company’s new image.

Why not see how Gather’s smart, secure and easy-to-use data capture app works for yourself?

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