The Future of Retail Experiences – How to Drive Brand Loyalty

The Future of Retail

It has proved challenging for the High Street recently with lacklustre sales and footfall in brick and mortar stores at a six-year lowThe convenience of online shopping has seen a huge increase in e-commerce transactions. E-commerce revenue in UK is expected to grow to 91.2 billion pounds in 2023; having achieved £65.7 billion in 2017. The rise of big retail events like Black Friday, Alibaba’s Singles’ Day and the upcoming Prime Day, are changing the way consumers purchase. Brands need to understand these shifts to offer more seamless and personalised shopping experiences.

The experience economy which took hold a few years ago saw the trend towards spending money on DOING things rather than BUYING things – as we like to call it experiences over things. The traditional approach to retail is failing the high street. Mega sales promotions, aggressive advertising and rewards programs may get people through the door to a point, but these short-term strategies don’t build the types of emotional connections that drive long-term profits and loyalty.

The problem is not that people have become lazier and defaulted to online shopping; it’s that brands have become complacent about making shopping in real life, “IRL” a worthwhile experience. More and more start-up brands are recognising that stores provide a direct platform to their customer base and are a huge asset. They have the power to deepen the customer’s relationship with a brand, to cultivate those strong emotional connections – ultimately increasing their lifetime value. It’s no longer about the price point but the emotive experience that will drive brand loyalty and retail spend.

Brands need to have the most compelling and relevant content and products as well as optimised and personalised shopping experiences now if they are to benefit. Here we look at what is driving these changes in the retail landscape and how brands need to evolve to stay agile and relevant:


Online and Offline Retail Experiences

Jack Ma, the founder of Alibaba, coined the phrase “new retail” to depict the increasingly blurring boundaries between the online and offline shopping world. Technological innovations are allowing us to see a synthesis of the digital and the physical with the adoption of Augmented Reality (AR) and Artificial Intelligence (AI). Certain brands are embracing interactive technology to provide consumers with more memorable, customised shopping experiences.

In 2020, Generation Z are set to account for 40% of all consumers and will influence nearly $4 billion in discretionary spend. Brands need to understand how to reach this influential audience and build brand advocacy now to benefit from this upward trend.

Blending in-store and online shopping experiences will be key to the survival of brick-and-mortar retail. In a recent study by Criteo, 
80% of Gen Zers said they looked forward to shopping in stores when they had time, but 75% do most of their shopping online out of convenience. Most Gen Zers prefer having the option to touch and feel products before purchasing and to use their smartphones while in-store. They also enjoy unique product displays and ways to test out products in stores. 

Beauty brands are leading adopters in terms of AR-apps that enhance the shopping experience. Through combining augmented reality and computer vision, customers are able to try on makeup virtually at home or in-store, and share through their social media channels, all while simultaneously collecting behavioural data for brands. For example, Estée Lauder-owned Smashbox partnered with Modiface [now acquired by L’Oréal] to use customer eye tracking insights to heat map the areas on a screen receiving more attention by users. This helps Smashbox understand which features are the most interesting and iterate on its website to make the beauty shopping experience more relevant for consumers.

Interactive experiential pop-ups and ‘smart stores’ with virtual greeters and facial recognition payment options will provide shoppers with the personalisation and customisation that they seek.

Creating a new retail experience

It costs more today to reach your online target audience, than it has ever before. As more and more businesses are popping up online each day, you can guarantee advertising costs on Google, Facebook, Instagram and Twitter are going to continue to increase. That’s not to say cut all social activity, like Lush did earlier this year. It is creating that omnichannel experience that combines the online and live seamlessly. Shifting from transactional selling to emotive experiential shopping.

 James Wallman, a trend forecaster and the author of Stuffocation: Living More with Less, in which he charts the move from possessions to experience.  “If you think about the 20th century, the big dominant value system was materialism, the belief that if we had more stuff we’d be happier,” says “The big change to what I call experientialism is more about finding happiness and status in experiences instead.” Studies also suggest the anticipation of an experience has a crucial, additional value. In a 2014 paper called Waiting for Merlot, psychologists Amit Kumar, Thomas Gilovich and Matthew Killingsworth showed how consumers derive value from anticipation, and that value tends to be greater for experiential than for material purchases. That feeling lingers longer, too, tied up as it with memory.

Audiences are actively seeking memorable, authentic and shareable brand experiences around products. Having a consistent brand narrative that offers an experience at every touchpoint will cut through the noise, heighten engagement, increase brand advocacy and drive results. In a Gallup report, consumers with strong emotional connections with retailers will visit their stores 32% more often and spend 46% more money than customers without emotional bonds.


Personalisation from Big Data and AI-based recommendations

From recent research, 64% of consumers report that they feel like retailers don’t really know them. This is why many retailers have increasingly started to leverage AI to personalise the shopping experience. AI is able to learn through user behaviour and its algorithms get better over time – the rise of the AI stylist in the fashion industry is going to be huge – UK e-commerce startup Thread, which tailors recommendations based on a user’s behaviour and allows direct purchasing, has received Series B funding from H&M.

But AI doesn’t end with product recommendations. AI is being implemented across the entire shopping journey, particularly with chatbots to support shoppers. The likes of Alibaba and Amazon will have incredible data and buyer insights that will help brands create new products, as well as trends that will feed into their strategies. Timely and personalised product recommendations during these “FOMO” shopping events and experiences will be a key way that brands can demonstrate that they understand their customers’ needs and preferences. Find out how AR and VR can be utilised to enhance brand storytelling and brand experiences.

Maximising “Micro-moments”

 Think with Google started talking about the different types of touchpoints that consumers experience (on average) 150 times a day, as “micro-moments”. Audiences will often turn to their mobiles during these shopping micro-moments.

With the augmented ease of payment through mobile by users scanning their fingerprints and faces on their mobile devices, ‘in-the-moment’ purchases are ever on the increase.

It is critical for retail brands to have a solid mobile-friendly offering, and to ensure that their apps provide that seamless shopping experience that users seek and come to expect.

The retail moments that matter – the micro moments you need to factor into your brand narrative and the customer journey

Shopping micro-moments often start when people have a need or desire to purchase a product and they begin thinking of ideas. This leads to research and eventually purchase. These moments tend to fall into one of three categories:

  • I-need-some-ideas moments happen when people have general awareness of the product category they’re interested in, such as living room furniture, but they haven’t yet narrowed down their choices to an exact product.
  • Which-one’s-best moments—a.k.a. consideration moments—happen when people turn to their phones in short bursts of activity to compare prices, brands and specs, and read product reviews from trusted sources.
  • I-want-to-buy-it moments happen when the research is done and it’s decision time. People make a choice about which brand or retailer to buy from, and whether to buy online or in-store.

How can brands maximise the opportunity from these micro-moments? Behavioural analysis, timely and personalised recommendations, through emotional storytelling  and the immediacy of direct product brand experiences. The more relevant and authentic your brand offering is the more brand advocates will spend and engage with your brand even when presented with available alternatives.

Shoppable Social Media as a significant driver for retail

As more shoppers turn to their phones to shop, we expect to see more of that happening through social media feeds. Multiple social platforms are raising their game to maximise advertising revenue from retail brands, but some channels are gaining the traction over others. It’s expected that Instagram will grow 3x faster than the growth of overall social traffic, which translates to a 51% year-over-year increase in traffic to retail sites. Meanwhile, Facebook will see traffic referrals to retail sites shrink by seven percent as Instagram begins to own more traffic share.

Alongside referral traffic to retail sites, Instagram is working on a standalone e-commerce app called ‘IG Shopping’ which will allow its 1 billion monthly user base  to browse collections and make in-app purchases. Instagram will be leveraging its 25+ million business accounts to take on e-commerce competitor Shopify.

Last year Snapchat launched a new Discover channel called ‘Shop and Cop, which highlights app-exclusive e-commerce deals from chosen brands and enables on-platform purchasing of those items, so you can snap up the deals without leaving the app. The ephemeral usage of the app may prove challenging for brands to establish lead conversions from the platform.

The future….

Brand experiences will provide a key way to engage with target audiences through online and live experiences. Audiences expectations and values are changing; they want meaningful experiences over things. This provides brands huge scope to create compelling ‘onlive’ experiences whether as part of a product launch, pop-up, online or in-store experience. Authentic brand narratives will also build crucial emotional connections with consumer audiences – lasting brand affinity is based on personal feelings and emotive engagement and not on logical, short-term price point relationships.

This is the era of ‘New Retail’ where brands must focus on fulfilling the personalised needs of each consumer through emotive transformative brand experiences. Start your brand experience journey now and find out how we can help you engage with your audiences more meaningfully.

1. Blurring of online and offline

Audiences are seeking hybrid experiences that blur the boundaries of online and off-line – they still want to test products, engage with brands directly and for their experiences to be personalised. 

2. Creating a new retail experience

Consumers want brands to engage with them authentically, and they want to be active participants in their shopping experiences. Shopping is no longer transactional; it needs to be an emotive experience.

3. Personalisation from Big Data and AI-based recommendations

Technology like AI and AR can create more personalised customer journeys through targeted product recommendations as well as digital interactive product sampling either in-store or online. Behavioural analysis and tailoring of retail experiences will establish stronger brand affinity.

4. Micro-moments

Anticipating these retail micro-moments and conveying an authentic brand narrative, that addresses each touchpoint, will build a more emotive relationship with your audience. The more emotionally invested your customers are, the more they will choose and spend on your products and experiences over available alternatives.

5. Social Media as a significant driver for retail

Choosing the best referral channels like Instagram will bring significant growth for retail brands. Social media is evolving into e-commerce platforms and increasing ‘mobile-only’ and ‘in-the-moment’ shopping behaviours.

Contact - Create your brand experience

How to be GDPR Compliant and Still Engage with Audiences Effectively

Known as the most important change in data privacy regulation in the last twenty years, the General Data Protection Regulation has fundamentally impacted the way data is handled. In fact, in recent research 60% of respondents said GDPR has significantly changed their organisations’ workflows for collecting, using, and protecting personal information. (Source: McDermott, Will & Emery)

Cast your mind back to May and you’ll remember an influx of emails asking for your re-consent to receive email marketing. So now the dust has settled and we make our way towards 2019, we see that emails have died down but website cookies have increased. Although it’s been a few months, are you clear on how GDPR affects you from an events perspective, and how it impacts exhibitions, conferences, guest lists and so forth?

We know that some of the GDPR pain points stem from a lack of expert staff (43%), followed by lack of budget (40%) and limited understanding of GDPR regulations (31%). (Source: Crowd Research Partners). In this article we revisit what you actually need to know from an event professional’s perspective, we’ll tackle the grizzly GDPR bear and provide easily digestible and useful insights on how you can tame and approach it.

We know you’re short on time, so if you just want the topline summary then click here to go to the end of the article for our key takeaways.

GDPR Compliancy at Exhibitions

GDPR Compliancy at Exhibitions

Let’s jump right in and explore GDPR compliancy at sponsored events and exhibitions. Here we will cover common scenarios and describe the best plan of action.

Scenario one:

You have invested marketing budget to promote your products and/or services at an exhibition. Having a presence with an exhibition stand can open many doors and craft an environment for meaningful interactions. We’re sure you’ll agree that it’s a missed opportunity to leave these conversations within the exhibition’s four walls. It’s imperative to your ROI that you can continue to engage with potential prospects and, indeed, brand advocates post-event.

More often than not, events will opt for badges with a registration barcode or QR code. These make interactions incredibly easy for delegates and exhibitors as it allows for information to be passed electronically in the blink of an eye. In this situation it’s important to always ask the following question: “Is the consent legally obtained?”

Our GDPR experts advise that exhibitors can collect personal data if they validly obtain the consent of the participants. Where the data subject presents his/her badge to be scanned, he/she expresses their consent by a positive act. At this moment, the exhibitor must explain the purposes of this personal data collection.

So in summary, you will be GDPR compliant when scanning a delegate’s badge providing you are explaining what you will use the delegate’s data for. You will also be compliant by allowing individuals to opt-out of badge scanning. It is worth noting that all organisers should have a consent element as part of their original registration. But we advise double checking.

Scenario two:

Let’s use another example: an event organiser has sold LIVE data downloads of the delegates who entered their symposium as part of the sponsorship package.

When delegates register for an event, you should ensure that there is a clear question to ask if delegates consent to sponsor communications. The consent is validly obtained if:

(1) The data subject is warned of the use that is made of their data (it’s the case when they register and took note of the Privacy Statement),

(2) And that the registration form contains a clause providing for this scanning possibility (“Exhibitors or sponsors may scan your badge when you visit their stand. If you don’t want your badge to be scanned, please let the exhibitor know directly. Otherwise, your personal data will be released to them.”)

We use a variety of different technologies to collect, store and process this personal information: Ticketing software, mobile attendees apps, RFID/Cashless systems, marketing software and back of house management software. 

When partnering with vendor suppliers, it’s crucial you do your due diligence by conducting compliance assessments to ensure the providers that process your data are GDPR compliant and that they responsibly protect your data using accepted security practices, including signed formal data protection contractual clauses.

GDPR Compliancy for Guestlist invitations

Compliant Guest List Invitations

If you have an upcoming gala dinner or an awards evening to host, you may be wondering whether you have crossed your ts’ and dotted your i’s when it comes to GDPR. Forming a guest list can be tricky at the best of times but it is imperative that you contact your guests in a compliant way. Research shows that 60% of CMOs and senior-level marketers believe that GDPR will make it harder to build a direct relationship with the consumer – we’re here to tell you that it doesn’t have to be this way.  

Let’s go back to basics and understand where you got your data from. We need to understand its origin and if it was obtained fairly.

To start with it’s worth noting that the GDPR does apply to B2B marketing – the ICO says that ‘you may be able to rely on ‘legitimate interests’ to justify some of your business-to-business marketing’ providing that ‘you can show the way you use people’s data is proportionate, has a minimal privacy impact, and people would not be surprised or likely to object to what you are doing’.

In this case, sending out an invitation to a gala dinner or awards ceremony is a legitimate interest and email marketing is applicable. If you are the event’s data controller and have a list of existing active contacts from the last three years, you can safely invite them if you use a GDPR compliant mailing tool like MailChimp. Issues can arise in Outlook as it does not provide a simple way to unsubscribe, nor does it offer in-depth analytics. We recommend consistently applying an unsubscribe link with every email you send to ensure that people can withdraw their consent at any given time.

Alternatively if you collected business cards at a trade show, you can contact the person for business legitimate interest.

GDPR Compliancy for B2C Events

Compliant B2C Events

We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again – festivals are the go-to way to attract millennials. They also provide the perfect set up for a brand activation or a product sampling event to consumers. But how can you communicate to your prospective mailing list before and after?

As aforementioned its best to comb through the data you have to understand if the list has consented to communications. Following our Marketing Tool Best Practices (below) will also help when making sure you are being compliant.

During the registration process, make sure you include a check box asking if attendees would like to sign up to email communications. This way if they consent, you can carry on the conversation after the event. The email must also link to a privacy policy describing the way their data will be processed and for what purposes – this way subscribers can activate their rights.

Starting a new list is not a bad idea either! For public consumer events it’s always beneficial to create as much buzz around an event as possible. Promote your festival or activation online through your social media and encourage participation through these channels.

What’s more, you can build up an engaged email list through website sign up forms. Stay compliant by using GDPR-friendly forms that include checkboxes for opt-in consent, and information that clearly explains how and why you are using their data. This means that you’ll have a clear breadcrumb trail showing exactly when people signed up to your list and proof that they have opted in for communications.

Continuing the event legacy is as important as the event itself. Keep the conversation flowing with follow up event communication to those that have opted-in. Make sure to pay close attention to the length of time you retain personal data for, a.k.a. the retention period. According to GDPR, it is not possible to retain personal data for an undefined period. At MCI we have defined guidelines in terms of data retention length per category of data processing. For instance, personal data collected during an event should not be retained more than 5 years after the event date, unless a shorter period is mentioned in the client’s contract.

Marketing Tool GDPR Best Practice

Marketing Tool Best Practice

When using a marketing tool like MailChimp it is important to cover off a few essential GDPR best practices.

  1. Ensure that each of your emails include a Permission reminder in the email footer.

    Here you will clearly explain to recipients how you got their data. It can be as simple as putting ‘You are receiving xx emails because you recently signed up for updates through our website’ or ‘You attended a previous xx event or expressed an interest via the event website’.

  2. Display a clear unsubscribe link on every single email communication.

    This way recipients can decide to opt out at any time. You can also provide a softer option for them to update their preferences, as they may want to remain subscribed to your event updates but unsubscribe from your monthly e-news for example.

  3. If in doubt always secure permission before you send.

    Don’t assume you have permission, and if you’re unsure seek confirmation.


Top GDPR takeaways
Our Top GDPR Takeaways

    1. Be transparent: tell delegates what their data will be used for and why.

    2. Clarify contractual relationships: Agree roles and responsibilities with partners in the terms of Data Protection.

    3. Track: keep a record of how you acquired delegate data so that you have a clear trail to follow.

    4. Sponsor communications: should only be sent to delegates who have opted in to receive them. Ensure you have explicit permission and that the event organisers have given you a GDPR compliant list.

    5. Collect consent: if you didn’t GDPR proof your contacts before May, you should collect consent from them before sending any future communications.

    6. Follow our Marketing tools best practice 

We hope we’ve given you some handy insights that will influence how you approach GDPR in the future.

At MCI Experience we’re pioneers of personalised brand and event experiences. We love to help our clients find the perfect solutions to their brand challenges.

Find out exactly how we can help you – get in touch!

5 Ways the Retail Landscape is Changing and How Brands Need to Evolve in the Era of “New Retail”

Both Black Friday and Cyber Monday are expected to generate billions of pounds in sales this year, in the league of last year’s spend of £8 billion. With the High Street seeing lacklustre sales, many retailers will be hoping that shoppers will be coming out in force to kickstart the festive shopping season. Having big retail events like Black Friday and Alibaba’s Singles’ Day are changing the way consumers purchase and brands need to understand these shifts to offer more seamless and personalised shopping experiences.

A lot can be learnt from China’s recent Singles’ Day retail extravaganza, or, as its officially called, the Global Shopping Festival 11:11. Singles’ Day started in the 1990s when young single people used it as an excuse to get together. Then in 1999 Alibaba co-opted it and turned it into a shopping event. Now it’s not just a single day – it’s a 20-day shopping festival – the biggest global event in retail and e-commerce with China now being the world’s largest e-commerce market. This year’s event smashed the 2017 record by racking up sales of 213.5 billion yuan (an eye-watering £24 billion) within 24 hours, (27% up on 2017). For comparison the US Black Friday sales in 2017 achieved $5 billion (£3.9bn). Alibaba also set a world record for most payment transactions with Alipay, its online payment platform, processing a staggering 256,000 payment transactions per second. The number of delivery orders surpassed 1 billion. In just one day.

These big seasonal retail events are seeing significant consolidated consumer spend and they will account for almost half of all holiday shopping transactions (40%) – that’s 21% growth from 2017. Brands need to have the most compelling and relevant content and products as well as optimised and personalised shopping experiences now if they are to benefit. Here we look at what is driving these changes in the retail landscape and how brands need to evolve:

Mobile will be the preferred device for festive purchasing

Salesforce is predicting that mobile devices will dominate both traffic and transactions for the entire festive season. They observed that on certain peak holiday shopping days last year, mobile devices processed more orders than computers for the very first time. This marked a big milestone on the path to ‘mobile-only’ shopping behaviours and this is expected to grow exponentially. This year is seen as the tipping point for mobile commerce where mobile devices will surpass PCs for order and traffic share from here onwards. Black Friday is set to be the biggest digital shopping day of the season and mobile is expected to achieve 46% of purchases. Interestingly Alipay saw 60% of total payments for Singles’ Day completed by users scanning their fingerprints and faces on their mobile devices. With the increased ease of payment through mobile, ‘in-the-moment’ purchases are ever on the increase.


It is critical for retail brands to have a solid mobile-friendly offering, and to ensure that their apps provide that seamless shopping experience that users seek and come to expect.

Creating a new retail experience

Here is where Alibaba exceeds in shifting from transactional selling to experiential shopping for Singles’ Day. Audiences are invited to engage with brands and products through interactive treasure hunts and augmented reality games. The blend of retail, entertainment and innovation allows consumers to be active participants and this proved popular with Alibaba’s audiences – almost half (46%) of Singles’ Day consumers were born in the 1990s, not surprising given that 28% per cent of China’s 800 million online population are aged between 20 and 29. In 2020, Generation Z are set to account for 40% of all consumers and will influence nearly $4 billion in discretionary spend. Brands need to understand how to reach this influential audience and build brand advocacy now to benefit from this upward trend.


Blurring of online and offline

Jack Ma, the founder of Alibaba, coined the phrase “new retail” to depict the increasingly blurring boundaries between the online and offline shopping world. Technological innovations are allowing us to see a synthesis of the digital and the physical with the adoption of Augmented Reality (AR) and AI. Certain brands are embracing interactive technology to provide consumers with more memorable, customised shopping experiences.

Blending in-store and online shopping experiences will be key to the survival of brick-and-mortar retail. In a recent study by Criteo, 80% of Gen Zers said they looked forward to shopping in stores when they had time, but 75% do most of their shopping online out of convenience. Most Gen Zers prefer having the option to touch and feel products before purchasing and to use their smartphones while in-store. They also enjoy unique product displays and ways to test out products in stores. 

Beauty brands are leading adopters in terms of AR-apps that enhance the shopping experience. Customers are able to try on makeup virtually at home and in-store as well as share through their social media channels. Interactive experiential pop-ups and ‘smart stores’ with virtual greeters and facial recognition payment options will provide shoppers with the personalisation and customisation that they seek.


Personalisation from Big Data and AI-based recommendations

From recent research, 64% of consumers report that they feel like retailers don’t really know them. This is why many retailers have increasingly started to leverage AI to personalise the shopping experience — and those that do are reaping the rewards of those efforts. This season, it is expected that 35% of all revenue driven by shoppers will be from an AI-based product recommendation — a 25% increase over last season. But AI doesn’t end with product recommendations. AI is being implemented across the entire shopping journey, particularly with chatbots to support shoppers. The likes of Alibaba and Amazon will have incredible data and buyer insights that will help brands create new products, as well as trends that will feed into their strategies. Timely and personalised product recommendations during these “FOMO” shopping events will be a key way that brands can demonstrate that they understand their customers’ needs and preferences.


Social Media as a significant driver for retail

As more shoppers turn to their phones to shop this season, we expect to see more of that happening through social media feeds. Overall, social traffic share will surpass five percent during the holiday season —up 17% from last year. Multiple social platforms are raising their game to maximise advertising revenue from retail brands, but some channels are gaining the traction over others. It’s expected that Instagram will grow 3x faster than the growth of overall social traffic, which translates to a 51% year-over-year increase in traffic to retail sites. Meanwhile, Facebook will see traffic referrals to retail sites shrink by seven percent as Instagram begins to own more traffic share.

Alongside referral traffic to retail sites, Instagram is working on a standalone e-commerce app called ‘IG Shopping’ which allow users to browse collections and make in-app purchases. Instagram will be leveraging its 25+ million business accounts to take on e-commerce competitor Shopify.

Ahead of the Black Friday shopping rush, Snapchat is this week launching a new Discover channel called ‘Shop and Cop, which will highlight app-exclusive e-commerce deals from chosen brands and enable on-platform purchasing of those items, so you can snap up the deals without leaving the app.


The future….

The phenomenon of big retail events is not going away with consumers choosing to spend more if a deal is to be had.  Retail brands need to be ensure their messaging is in the right places and reaching audiences at the right times. 

This is the era of ‘New Retail’ where brands must focus on fulfilling the personalised needs of each consumer.

1. Mobile will be the preferred device for festive purchasing

E-commerce purchases via mobile devices are at a turning point as well as in-app transactions with seamless fingerprint and facial recognition.

2. Creating a new retail experience

Consumers want brands to engage with them and they want to be active participants in their shopping experiences. 

3. Blurring of online and offline

Younger audiences are seeking hybrid experiences that blur the boundaries of online and off-line – they still want to test products, engage with brands directly and for their experiences to be personalised. 

4. Personalisation from Big Data and AI-based recommendations

Technology like AI and AR can create more personalised customer journeys through targeted product recommendations as well as digital interactive product sampling either in-store or online.

5. Social Media as a significant driver for retail

Choosing the best referral channels like Instagram will bring significant growth for retail brands. Social media is evolving into e-commerce platforms and increasing ‘mobile-only’ shopping behaviours.


Need to engage with your audience in new ways? We help brands tell their story through compelling on-live experiences, whether this is a product launch, an activation, pop-up installation or B2B/B2C engagement. We provide strategic audience insights so that your brand narrative resonates and activates brand advocates. What are you waiting for? 



Four Key Takeaways from Sibos 2018

Over 7,500 people gathered in Sydney for Sibos 2018, and we were fortunate to join them to glean the latest insights.

Here’s four learnings we took away from the world’s largest banking and financial conference.

Given the number of security breaches this year alone – the latest being Eurostar – it came as no surprise that cyber security was high on the agenda. The conversations addressed measures to prevent threats from the dark web and organised cybercrime. With a mega 3-5% of global GDP tied to financial crimes, it’s never been more important to tighten up risk management and protect customer data.

Recent research indicates that one in five people (21%) have been victims of a breach. Out of this 34% experienced a financial loss. Prevention is absolutely key; banks cannot afford to withstand reputational damage. After a security incident, 78% of respondents stated they would no longer engage with the brand online, and 36% would stop completely. Interestingly despite these divisive figures, customers are not prepared to pay for increased protection. The onus firmly sits with banks who need to be more accountable for cyber security, or risk damage to their business and customer pool.

Shifting payment landscape

There’s no doubt that the customer needs to sit firmly at the centre, which is why there’s been so much interest in the future of payments. Top takeaways from Sibos include the forecast projection that we could all be using in excess of ten different payment methods in the next five years – thus growing e-commerce and m-commerce. With the rise of payments through wearable technology and social media, banks will need to change up their approach in order to stay relevant.

What’s more, instead of traditional players competing with alternative payment provider services and FinTechs, they should instead learn to collaborate and enjoy the mutual benefits of closer working. The customer will ultimately benefit from these relationships and the payment process will become smoother and more transparent as a result.

Digital tech investment soars

Not only have we seen an influx of tech companies investing in banking – think Apple Pay and Google Pay – we’ve also seen the reverse too. Alan McIntyre senior managing director and head of Accenture said: “Some of the largest banks, the top five, see a lot of investment in digital and into the future. Some of the regional banks are more challenged, and part of the reason is the huge reliance on technology vendors, so their ability to move quicker is somewhat limited. Market share is clearly moving toward the large players, the top three or top five, partly because they have invested in digital”.

In recent weeks and months we’ve seen headlines announcing vast sums of investments into digital tech. HSBC forecasts an investment of $15-17 billion in new technology alone. The banking giant has reportedly spent $2.3 billion to improve its artificial intelligence (AI) and digital capabilities. Nationwide Building Society, too, plans to spend £1.3bn over the next five years to expand its offering and compete with FinTech disruptors. Although Nationwide is heavily investing in machine learning, it’s not neglecting the value of its human workforce, hence its plans to create up to 1,000 jobs with a new tech hub.

Bottom line: customers are changing and so must banks. FinTechs like Monzo have seen a huge flurry of interest due to their streamlined processes and optimised interfaces. Traditional players are playing catch up and investing in digital tech in the hope to elevate customer experience and update their offering.


‘Embrace Disruption’ was a key learning from Sibos. Whether that be artificial intelligence as we’ve seen earlier; chat bots to improve customer engagement; faster and more open payments with APIs or improved fraud detection.

The connotations of disruption were flipped on their head and seen as an opportunity to meet customer needs in increasingly dynamic and innovative ways. Surprisingly blockchain did not feature as prominently within the Sibos programme despite its joint potential with cryptocurrencies to disrupt the financial landscape. The adoption of disruptive techniques could see a real difference in bottom lines for companies and equally customer satisfaction.

Looking ahead to Sibos 2019

We’re excited that Sibos will make its next stop in London! With 2.3 million people employed in the financial services industry alone, Sibos 2019 will prove significant for the UK. Michael Ward, British Consul-general and director general, Department for International Trade, Australia & NZ, noted that “such a high proportion of global financial services happen in London and Sibos is about that connectivity between banks and the financial services industry”. He continued that FinTech is worth “about 7 billion sterling to the economy at the moment” so therefore will attract an even stronger presence next year.

Will your company have a presence at Sibos? Our relationship with Sibos spans 12 years, so if you’re planning to attend and looking for support with your event concept, exhibition stand design, or engagement strategy, connect with us to get the ball rolling:

10 Tips to Get the Most out of Exhibiting at Mobile World Congress

The Mobile World Congress is ‘the’ annual event for an ever-growing and rapidly changing mobile industry.  As the mobile industry continues to expand and evolve, it will naturally involve a growing and increasingly diverse range of market participants from a developing and diverse range of market sectors. New mobile developments in connected cities, cars, health, entertainment, and fashion-wearables are adding new audiences and industries to the mobile sector. This is both good and bad news for Mobile World Congress exhibitors. Good news in that there is growing demand for mobile solutions; bad news in that as the industry expands, so does the focus of the event and the diversity of its exhibitors and audience.

If you are exhibiting at Mobile World Congress 2019 [Barcelona, 25-28th February], you’ll no doubt be in the thick of planning your strategy and presence at the event.  With over 2,400 exhibitors and sponsors, all with ranging budgets, from the small to the ginormous, it’s critical to have a detailed plan of action that ensures you achieve a significant ROI and the most out of your participation. 

Here are few strategic considerations to help during this planning period.

Set clear objectives MWC

1.) Set clear objectives

Seems obvious, but you might be surprised how often exhibitors have unclear, unquantifiable and sometimes even unachievable goals. As we’ve discussed, MWC is a huge, crowded and can be a challenging environment.  It’s really critical to define and prioritise what you want to achieve and that everyone on your team is clear on these objectives.  Establishing clear, achievable objectives is the critical first step to designing a strategy that will deliver results. Your exhibition stand should then be designed around this, ensuring that it elevates and fully realises these set objectives.

Define Target audience MWC

2.) Define your target audience 

With over 107,000 attendees, from 205 countries in attendance at Mobile World Congress, finding the right audience with whom you want to engage with can be a little like finding a needle in a haystack.  Whilst we believe in the power of serendipity, hoping the right people visit your stand is not recommended and will not be successful.  Instead make sure you carefully define, profile, and prioritise your most important target audience and design a quick qualifications screener to qualify the potential lead and avoid wasting valuable event time on the wrong audience.

One Strong Message

3.) Have one really strong message

There are lots of things you want to say about your product, service or brand, but we recommend developing a message hierarchy that is designed around one really strong key message to your target audience that clearly defines your primary proposition.  MWC is a visual and auditory barrage that can be overwhelming for the attendee. Your message is your brand’s call-to-action and is vital in instantly conveying how you want the audience to feel and think about you. To stand out and get noticed, it’s critical that your message is clear, understandable, relevant and compelling. Most importantly, this message should be joined up with the rest of your brand’s communication channels to ensure a cohesive and seamless brand message.

Pre-event Communications campaign

4.) A pre-event communications campaign is key 

Once you are clear on your target audience and have developed your messaging, it’s not too early to begin a communications campaign to let them know that you plan to be at MWC and how they will benefit from meeting with you there. This is where the collaboration between sales and marketing functions is integral.

Pre-scheduled meetings matter

5.) Pre-scheduled meetings matter

For many exhibitors at MWC, the ultimate value of the event is all about pre-scheduled meetings. GSMA estimates that over 1 million meetings are held during MWC and many of these were scheduled in advance of the event. With pre-scheduled meetings, you get to meet a pre-qualified audience and engage with them directly.

Decide primary function

6.) Decide on the primary function of your space

In recent years some of the largest exhibition stands at Mobile World Congress resembled an Apple Store with clean, white display counters featuring tethered mobile devices, whilst others were either the more traditional mix of big graphics, briefing space and display pedestals or invitation-only meeting space.  Part of the excitement of Mobile World Congress is exhibition stand design and experience, and last year there were some amazing architectural wonders and exciting brand environments on show.  Innovative, engaging products should have equally as innovative and engaging stand experiences. The type and layout of the physical space speaks volumes about your brand.  Event space needs to provide an environment that communicates the brand’s personality. Ultimately stand design should be driven by your brand’s objectives, not by design for design’s sake.

Mobile World Congress Focus on Value

7.) Focus on value, not just features 

Increasingly it seems that the mobile industry is becoming focused less on mobility features and more of the value of mobility.  It’s now what the mobile user is able do that matters. Our mobile devices are becoming an inseparable and impenetrable extension of who we are and how we live our lives. My device, my communications, my music, my photos, my videos, my social personality, my alarm clock, my pedometer, my health monitor, my garage opener, my business, my whatever-I-want-it-to-be. The relationship we have with our mobile devices is becoming an important part of our private and public personality. Personalisation is not only what the mobile experience will be all about in the future, but live event experiences like Mobile World Congress will need to be more personalised too.  Make sure you demonstrate the ultimate value of your product service, not just the features and functions.

Make it participatory - Mobile World Congress

8.) Make it participatory 

At Mobile World Congress, many exhibitors now feature some way to engage the audience in a participatory activity. The most prevalent of these is the use of VR experiences.

But if you use VR – use it wisely. If you’ve been to a trade show then you’ve seen it before. The exhibitor whose proposition is so uninviting, that they revert to attracting attendees with a bowl of candy on their stand. Unless they are attempting to attract people with a sweet tooth, most of the time the candy itself has very little to do with their proposition. At Mobile World Congress last year, VR experiences sometimes felt a bit like stand candy. No clear relationship to the brand proposition but very popular with attendees queuing down the aisles for a chance to wear the “sweet” headset. VR isn’t going anywhere and can be an incredibly engaging way to interact with your key audiences – just make sure that it ladders up to your overall brand strategy.

Have Purpose Mobile World Congress

9.) Support a good cause and have purpose 

One of the things that is becoming increasingly important, particularly to millennials, is that of a clear articulation of brand purpose and the authenticity of a brand. In a recent survey on similar products, 81% of consumers will choose the brand associated with charitable causes or with clear CSR. Many of the world’s most respected brands are becoming active at promoting how they are helping to make the world a better place.  This trend is also influencing how brands at Mobile World Congress are incorporating these values into the design of their event experience. For example, even as mobile devices continue to get stronger and faster there is still a huge gap between the connected haves and ‘have-nots’.  It’s expected that 67 percent of people in the world will have mobile phones by the end of 2018, while only 47 percent of the world’s population has access to the Internet. Some argue that the mobile industry should focus on “finishing the job” of connecting the billions of people in society who still don’t have access to the internet, rather than focusing on getting faster and stronger connectivity for those that already have access.

MWC also offers opportunities for exhibitors and sponsors to get involved in a number of CSR-type activities during and even after the event.

Social Sharing Content Plan Mobile World Congress MWC

10.) Have a social sharing content plan

Exhibitors at Mobile World Congress are beginning to realise that the event experience is an amazing source of valuable and sharable social content.  Increasingly live experiences like MWC are being designed to reach both the audience that is actually physically present, as well as the potentially much larger audience that’s not even there but reachable through the very technology they are championing. 

Are you exhibiting at Mobile World Congress?

Are you exhibiting at MWC?

We have over 23-year’s combined experience of creating unique stand experiences at Mobile World Congress. It’s crucial for brands to stand out from the crowd and make an impact amongst the marketing noise. Year-after-year we’ve helped major brands engage with their key MWC audiences with enhanced messaging, immersive experience and compelling stand design. Our strategic approach to brand experience is insight-driven and campaign-led.

Find out how we can collaborate on your Mobile World Congress strategy and create innovative brand experiences.
Get in touch on  or drop us a line: +44 (0)20 353 00100.

Employee Engagement vs. Experience

Major factors impacting Employee Engagement

The workplace and the ways in which we work are changing at a rapid rate. The rise of digitisation and automation, increased access to information, and the globalisation of markets are among the trends challenging traditional approaches to work, company cultures, management and jobs. Extensive research in employee engagement shows a positive correlation between employee engagement, productivity, retention and profitability. Tactics to engage are often intermittent and companies need to look at how they engage employees in a more holistic and consistent way; through the Employee Experience (EX). Here we explore the major factors impacting employee engagement, productivity, what EX is and why it’s a crucial driving force for better brand advocacy and customer service.


The lines between employees and technology are blurring with developments in Artificial Intelligence (AI) and a changing workforce in this cognitive age. For businesses to embrace this shift they will need to bring the Employee Experience (EX) into focus instead of solely focusing on customer satisfaction and reliance on engagement metrics.

Organisations everywhere are looking for strategies to stay competitive, relevant and grow — by simply doing what they’ve always done, in relation to employee engagement, is likely to prove unsuccessful in the long term.

Next Generation

Today millennials and Gen Zers, in many sectors, make up the majority of the workforce. For these workers the 9-to-5 workday is a thing of the past, and today’s millennials confess to being online and working almost constantly. They hold different work values and attitudes that have significant consequences for work culture and leadership.

In order to attract and retain millennials and Gen Z, a holistic employee experience is required. A positive employee experience will result in a positive employer brand, a perception which is becoming just as important as the customer brand.

Rather than diminishing the role of people, in the cognitive era people are at the forefront of working with and realising the benefits from new technologies to achieve more than was ever possible before. In fact, the cognitive era is just as much the human era. It is a time when work can be a more rewarding experience for employees.

The Growing Need for Employee Experience

Smart companies have become adept at finding ways to effectively tackle the customer experience; smarter companies are now learning how to master the employee experience.

What is EX?

Employee experience isn’t about any single thing, but rather it’s the culmination of countless experiences gleaned over time. Day-to-day employee experience tends to be in constant flux and therefore in need of constant care and attention. All of this makes it even more difficult to get a fix on the full meaning and significance of what is an ever-changing process.

What can be said is that the employee experience is ultimately about people, and while it can be characterised in countless ways, it’s made up of three basic elements:

  1. An overall set of employee perceptions across time and touch points

  2. A collection of environmental factors: cultural, technological and physical [derived from Jacob Morgan’s research]

  3. A broadening of traditional HR functions that recognise the correlation between employee engagement and customer experience

By focusing on these three aspects, organisations can take significant steps toward actively designing and shaping compelling experiences for their employees.

what makes a difference?

We are all familiar with employee engagement and the difficulties of creating inclusive initiatives and internal communications around these.  Most employee engagement initiatives though are focused intermittently and spike engagement for a short-lived period then dip again until the next engagement session. They seem to be short term fixes with short term strategy.

Technology also makes it easy to create an “employee survey” and call it an engagement program, which allows a company to fulfil an apparent organisational need with a “check box” approach. But metrics on their own don’t drive change or increase performance. Many of these survey-only tactics measure employee perceptions and provide metrics instead of improving workplaces and business outcomes. Though most approaches are well-intended, with an ultimate goal of improving the workplace and performance, too many contribute to a status quo that is not helping the business. 

In Gallup’s latest research report, The State of the Global Workplace, organisations with low engagement scores experienced 18% lower productivity, 16% lower profitability, 37% lower job growth and 65% lower share price over time. Overall, just 10% of employed residents in Western Europe are engaged — that is, involved in and enthusiastic about their work. By adopting an employee-centered focus, this promotes improved business performance. Retention is also a key factor in maintaining a productive team – when employees are engaged; they grow with the business.

Businesses that orient performance management systems around basic human needs for psychological engagement, such as positive workplace relationships, frequent recognition, ongoing performance conversations and opportunities for personal development, get the most out of their employees. Strategies that allow individuals to identify, develop and use their natural talents so they become strengths have the potential to dramatically improve workforce productivity. 

Gallup report stats

In many cases, making better use of employees’ strengths will require businesses to grant workers greater input and autonomy to use their strengths. This approach often requires a profound shift in management perspective, as traditional manager- employee power dynamics give way to more personalised relationships through which managers position their team members for maximum impact according to their individual strengths. The resulting sense of empowerment benefits both the employee and the organisation. Employees who strongly agree that their opinions count at work are more likely to feel personally invested in their job. Higher levels of autonomy also promote the development and implementation of new ideas as employees feel empowered to pursue entrepreneurial goals that benefit the organisation — that is, to be “intrapreneurs”.

Jacob Morgan, a prolific author on Employee Engagement, explains organisations need to look for long term impact by redesigning the experience to create a place where employees want, not just need to work. Jacob’s extensive research has been through interviews with inter-disciplinary specialists in psychologists, innovators, economists, HR experts across sectors including tech, startups, retail, manufacturing, education and professional services. As a result, he has created the world’s first Employee Experience Index. From this research, he has identified three environments that matter most to employees: cultural, technological, and physical.

From his analysis of ‘best of’ companies in America, those that invested most heavily in employee experience were included 28 times as often among Fast Company’s Most Innovative Companies, 11.5 times as often in Glassdoor’s Best Places to Work, 2.1 times as often in Forbes’s list of the World’s Most Innovative Companies, 4.4 times as often in LinkedIn’s list of North America’s Most In-Demand Employers, and twice as often in the American Customer Satisfaction Index. Compared with other companies, the experiential organisations had more than four times the average profit and more than two times the average revenue. They were also almost 25% smaller, which suggests higher levels of productivity and innovation.

The ROI of investing in employee experience is significant and translates into higher productivity, profit and revenue per employee, stock price performance, and much more.

So what is the ideal employee experience at work?

1. An Overall Set of Employee Perceptions

What is certain is that the employee experience, however you personally define it on any given day, impacts the way you think about the work you do and the people for whom you do it. EX is therefore a matter of crucial importance, not only for your personal and professional wellbeing, but for the wellbeing of your organisation.

Measuring employee engagement isn’t the same as improving it. Although employee experience and employee engagement are inextricably linked, it is becoming abundantly clear that companies focused on engagement alone haven’t been doing enough to understand the factors motivating it, employee experience chief among them.

Successful EX design focuses on HR products and services that strengthen the emotional connections people have to their work. While such designs are often co-created so as to produce mutually desired results across multiple touch points, “there’s no magic formula” according to Sir Richard Branson. In a 2010 interview with HR Magazine, the renowned entrepreneur remarked, “The key is just to treat your staff how you would like to be treated”. Think of it as the Golden Rule for creating an exceptional employee experience.

Richard Branson quote

2. A Collection of Environmental Factors: Cultural, Technological, and Physical

a) Cultural

Culture can be defined by the way an employee “feels” at work in relation to what’s expected of them on a day-to-day basis. It’s the aura given off by a company’s structure, hierarchy, and leadership, and it takes into consideration traditional work factors like compensation and benefits. For years, culture was thought to be the sole aspect of an employee’s experience: the belief was that if an employee showed up and did satisfactory work, he or she would in return be happy to receive a living wage and paid vacation each year. Needless to say, this one-dimensional, old-fashioned approach is no longer valid as employee values have shifted over time. The days of focusing solely on culture are over. Even in this day and age, the definition of culture is shifting too to embody shared values, behaviours and attitudes in more dynamic ways.

Airbnb’s mission is to create a world where you can belong anywhere, and they believe that central to achieving this mission is creating memorable workplace experiences across the entire employee life-cycle, which is why they made the move to set up an employee experience function. They believe this is different to the more traditional HR set up, in that the focus is much broader. This wider scope includes the office environment, facilities, food, and CSR. In addition, it includes a group of employees that they call “ground control”, who are tasked to help bring their culture to life via a range of activities such as internal communications, events, celebrations, and recognition.

b) Technological

The technological environment is all about the tools an employee needs to do their job. Advancements in digital technology have greatly changed the ways that people work, and as technology continues to make exponential advancements (in Artificial Intelligence, Virtual Reality, 5G mobile technology), it will continue to influence industry in profound ways. More and more employees are enabled to work remotely and flexibly; but no matter the setting, organisations are expected to provide the best tools available in order for their employees to do their jobs. That includes finding new and better ways to facilitate communication and collaboration, collect and share feedback, and—perhaps most importantly—make data actionable. In an interview with The Drum, Chris Patton (UK & Ireland head of marketing for Fujitsu) said that businesses are using more innovative tools to enhance their employee’s experiences, the same way we see technology improving the customer experience.

c) Physical

The physical environment is everything you can see, hear, smell, touch, or taste in the working space environment. These factors, which include temperature, air quality, and office lighting, all affect employee concentration and directly influence the wellbeing, performance, and productivity of your teams. Workers who are satisfied with their physical surroundings are simply more likely to do better work. The physical environment is thus of crucial importance, especially for desk-bound employees who spend long hours inside their organisations. Those in charge of designing physical spaces need to make certain that they offer a motivational atmosphere that promotes creativity and productivity.

Efforts that foster engagement through technology need to be made so that remote workers can do the same with their virtual surroundings, encouraging a culture of inclusiveness that makes information and discussions open to everyone, no matter where they are.

WeWork is a global network of workspaces designed for collaboration and community, that describes itself as a “movement toward humanising work”. It’s chief product officer, Shiva Rajaraman, describes how they are developing products that are “delivering against how people will work in the future”. This means thinking about how technology can make workspaces more responsive and “liquid” to people’s needs. For example, it has taken the concept of ‘checking in’ to your work environment to create products such as a chair that ‘remembers’ the height someone likes to sit at, or a desk that will adjust to whether the user prefers to be sitting or standing. They also utilise sensors to analyse corporate spaces and detect the way in which their people are using the space. This in turn can inform how “managers structure teams, as well as things like how they use space to help strengthen company culture.” For Shiva, “once you can measure it you can optimise it”.

3. A Broadening of Traditional HR Functions

It has long been understood that creating a positive customer experience (CX) is pivotal to the success of a business. As a result, marketing teams have become more and more adept at creating compelling customer experiences. But there is a counterintuitive concept behind this line of thinking: successful customer experiences depend upon putting your employees first, not your customers.

Employees are on the front lines of brand representation, and organisations are finally realising that the same focused attention aimed at developing customer relations should be shown to their workforces. It’s something of a cliché that corporate leaders refer to their employees as being their most valuable asset; but despite the sloganeering, many continue to focus on approaches that send the opposite message to employees. The customer, it seems, is not always right, and businesses that act on this realisation by actively putting their employees first, consistently see that it ultimately leads to better customer service. 

What is changing?

Leading organisations in the EX movement are now aiming to provide their people with positive touch points at all stages of the employee life cycle. This transformation is part of an idea that has been described as “the consumerisation of HR”, and it encompasses how companies are beginning to apply a consumer and digital lens to their HR functions through the creation of social, mobile, and consumer-like employee experiences.

How agencies are adopting and realising EX?

Netflix set the bar when Patty McCord created their definitive Freedom & Responsibility Culture slide deck  a few years back. Over 124 slides, the comprehensive deck covers their nine values and the seven aspects of their culture, one of them being “Courage”, where they want their employees to embrace change and risk-taking for an adaptable culture. Their core company values empower their employees to transform the company and have impact, whilst embodying purpose.

Adobe is one such company at the forefront of this type of employee-first strategising. In 2016, they created a Customer and Employee Experience department. The press release announcing this move is an excellent summary of the ideas that prompted it: 

“Researchers such as Gallup have proven the correlation between higher employee engagement and positive customer ratings. Realizing this critical connection, we at Adobe have combined two previously disconnected parts of the company into one new entity. Our new Customer and Employee Experience organization combines our customer experience organization—the people who are on the front lines of helping our customers utilize our products—with our human resources and facilities organization, the team that was focused on our people and their workplace environment. We believe we’re one of the first companies, at least in the technology industry, to combine these functions. The unified focus of this organization is the people that are essential to our business, our customers and employees, and the understanding that people want the same fundamental things:

To be treated with respect for their needs and their time

To find the information they need quickly

To feel invested in a long-term relationship, whether it’s with the employer or the brand

Taking this kind of active HR management approach to employee experience design—one that reaches across hierarchies and departments—is an effective means for bringing a company’s brand to life. An ideally designed EX will mirror a company’s unique brand attributes.”

Employees who have established an emotional connection with their companies will be far more likely to inspire positive customer experiences.

Other companies that are challenging the status quo include LinkedIn and Accenture, who both host HR hackathons, where employees help deconstruct and rebuild the People and HR functions to reflect the work that they really do (and need to do). Airbnb treats its physical space like software: the company is constantly experimenting with different layouts and floor plans, and employees get to volunteer to design and build their conference rooms, with a modest budget. The employee experience is a positive and powerful – and ultimately human – experience, in which employees are able to invest more of their whole selves into the workplace and essentially personalise their experience.

Experience leads to better engagement

EX leads to better Employee Engagement

Looking at the data, it’s clear that there is a significant return for organisations that focus on employee experience over the long term, not just engagement in the here and now. The bottom line is that a well-considered and wisely implemented strategy in regard to EX—one that takes into consideration employee perceptions, environmental factors in the workplace, and a consumer-style approach to HR—is certain to lead to greater levels of employee engagement, enthusiasm, involvement, retention, and employer brand loyalty.

Through a holistic approach to EX; ensuring your employees feel part of a team with shared values and engaged in purpose, employees will be engaged and involved. Tailoring employee experiences around physical engagement breaks down the barriers between management and teams. Through our unique insights, we help brands create personalised experiences that communicate and engage with their audiences. The power of live and on-line experiences are impactful ways to make employees active participants and advocates in your organisation.

Want to find out more, and see how we can help create engaging employee experiences for you and your team? Drop us a line!

The New Rules of Experience Marketing

ICYMI, at this year’s The Meeting Show, our Director of Client Services, Max Fellows, presented ‘The New Rules of Experience Marketing’ to an audience of 80 corporates. There’s never been a better time to be in the experience marketing business. An increasing amount of corporate marketing budget is moving to experiential work as marketers recognise the power of brand experiences to build stronger customer relationships. But as demand for brand experiences grows, it is becoming clear that creating successful brand experiences is not business as usual.

Audiences’ preferences and priorities are changing; how and where they consume information, and with this, so too does the way in which we communicate our messages. How do we engage more meaningfully with these digitally-enabled audiences and cut through the marketing noise? Here’s what Max uncovers as the key shifts in experiential marketing and engagement.

Audiences are increasingly opting for experiences over things. A key example of this can be seen in AirBnB’s Travel Experiences, where travellers can learn and enjoy local experiences hosted by local experts. This concept has seen growth of 2,500% in 2017 alone. Value is equated with having a memorable experience and audiences are actively seeking these out; whether it’s a summer pop-up or a unique dining experience, brands need to ensure that the audience’s experience is the focus of their message or event.

When we go back to basics, what is an experience – how do we define this? The word experience stems from the Latin word experientia, which means to try; very apt when put into the context of brand experiences – an engaged audience wants to try new products and technology. The Oxford dictionary defines an experience as ‘Practical contact with an observation of facts and OR events’.

We often associate experiences with extremes – the most memorable ones are either good or bad. Daniel Kahneman, the neuro-scientist whose TED talk has been watched millions of times, discusses the brain and how memory works as two components: the Experience Self and the Remembering Self. The Experience Self is very much in the present, living moment to moment. It is emotive. The Remembering Self is part of the rational side of the brain and is the story-teller looking through the catalogue of the past.

The foundations of all experience are through our senses – they are the gateways to forging memories. Why does this matter for brands and event profs? Why is it significant? The more potent the experience the stronger the memory therefore the easier it is for us to recall. When we say potent we mean, the strength of the experience, the scale of the emotions we feel at that moment in time. The greater the reaction to the experience the greater the bond you have to that brand. The more we can engage all the senses of our audiences, the more powerful the experience and the memory.

Out of all the senses, smell is the most under-utilised and yet it the only sense that is connected with the emotive side of the brain. Memories based on smell are 70% more accurate when recollected a year on, whereas the other senses registered by the rational side of the brain are only 40% accurate after a month. Retail has been utilising scent experience for a while now as have hotels but there are huge opportunities to create bespoke event scent experiences as well as marketing collateral. We partnered withThe Aroma Company to create the sense of the British seaside for our audience at The Meeting Show with their ‘Rockpool’ scent. Making these subtle enhancements can make a huge impact on audience experience.

There is compelling evidence suggesting that brands must tap into the emotive cues to brand experiences to connect with audiences and build a lasting brand engagement. Knowing all of this we can really tailor an environment to engage with all the senses to ensure that endurance of experience and information retention through a multi-sensory approach.

So what is changing?


Audiences are changing – before the focus was on Baby Boomers and Gen X, now Millennials are becoming the most influential consume profile and soon Gen Z’s will be a force to be reckoned with and present huge opportunities for brands. Gen Z’s expectations for authenticity, technology and social equality will capitalise on this growingly influential consumer segment. This comes down to knowing your audience and personalising your messages to gain their attention.

Experiences over things

Experience over things & personalisation:

We mentioned earlier that audiences are seeking authentic experiences over material goods. But why… As a generation brought up on mass-mass production it has never been easier to get what you need when you need it. Experience, in that market, is a premium product. The more an experience can be personalised the more likely your audience will become a brand advocate.

Attention spans and digital distraction:

We can’t move away from the fact that attention spans are changing – audiences are becoming more demanding and more sophisticated. The average adult attention span is 14 minutes, but this goes up to 29 minutes if the person is having fun with their friends. Audiences are more digitally-enabled and with this more easily distracted – how do we vie for their attention? Gen Z are the first generation to be born fully digitalised. They can flow between 5 screens easily and you need to grab their attention in the first 8 seconds! Digitally-enabled audiences are in control. It’s not a case of shouting the loudest; your message needs to have resonance with your audience and be personalised.

Attention spans are changing

Agencies are diversifying:

The market place is changing – the agency landscape is becoming confusing and over populated. More niche specialised agencies are challenging the bigger brands and carving a unique market share through focused expertise and service offerings. Clients are also building their own capabilities so agencies need to evolve.

B2B opportunities:

B2C is moving forward rapidly in live experiences – there is huge scope and potential for more B2B experiential marketing opportunities. We are all consumers at the end of the day, why not apply this consumer-led approach to engagement to a B2B context by using those personalised experiences to inform, engage and build brand advocates. B2B events need to change; they can’t follow the same formula of a basic conference or tradeshow as before.

Audiences are changing and so too does the need for B2B events industry to evolve.

B2B events need to change

The future!


Today’s event attendee wants to play a role in the experience and be part of the conversation. They are looking for more creative, inspiring and fun formats for live interaction. To form more personalised experiences, we need to look to more personalised involvement of your audience. It’s all about active participation.

Active participation & immersion


Increasingly experience designers are looking for ways to take event participants out of their ordinary lives for a unique adventure, often challenging them to ‘role-play’ as actors. This kind of theatre can create a compelling and engaging experience prompting collaboration and problem solving amongst attendees.

The type and layout of the physical space speaks volumes about the event organiser’s brand.  The event space needs to frame the brand and provide an environment that communicates the brand’s personality.  Events will also be sure to re-imagine the spaces they use to allow participants to have a more active and participatory experience.

More collaborative events, design as brand voice and more creative formats mean greater demands on venue selection and event layout. Events are going 360 – to fully consume event goers in a brand world environment. Think of your brand values or objectives and manifest those in the physical representation of your event.


On-Live experiences are key to the multisensory mix, whereby a live event combines digital elements that enable engaged audiences to share content well after the event has finished.

Digital technology is fast progressing to allow fully immersive environments in the way of Augmented Reality, Virtual Reality and Mixed Reality, which are highly effective in brand storytelling. We’re all familiar with this wearable technology, but the breakthroughs happen when you find new creative concepts and contexts to apply them in.

Technology should enhance an experience rather than be a bolt-on. Technology is clearly a very empowering tool for events but technology for technologies sake will be more interruptive that engaging. Moving forward we must evaluate opportunities to use emerging technologies in events based on its purpose and value to the experience.

Technology enhancing


Engaging all senses to forge those powerful memories – enhancing the stimulus of all 5 senses however subtle can have a big impact. Don’t underestimate smell! As mentioned it is linked with the emotive side of the brain and increases the accuracy in recollecting memories. Tactility of surfaces will also enhance the multi-sensory experience – think of creating an all-encompassing brand world for your audience.



People love to share their stories and experiences – smartphones and apps like Instagram and SnapChat allow for the easy sharing of these experiences. In 2017, 1.2 trillion digital photos were taken worldwide and that is only going to increase. Ensure there are plenty of photo opportunities so your audience can engage and share content to allow for incredible digital currency and brand awareness. When creating environments in consumer and corporate contexts – you need to think about how your audience can share their experience so there is a legacy. How will your event live on in the digital world?

Photo opportunities


The new consumer habits are showing an increase for EVERYTHING NOW!

Rapid advancements in digital innovations and technology is creating an on-demand, always-on culture where consumers have everything at their fingertips. With apps and in-home technology like Alexa expectations are increasing in the process. Research shows that 72% of UK consumers shop more if same-day delivery is possible. The number of Amazon Prime membership, which allows for one day, same day and next day delivery, was announced in April this year by Jeff Bezos and equates to more than 100 million subscribers worldwide. In 2016, Prime members contributed to equivalent of approximately 40% of UK ecommerce sales for the year. When designing experiences or content around your events, whether a product launch or a thought leadership conference, audiences want to try, test, and have immediate access to products, technology and content. Through bespoke apps and event technology you can bring your audience closer and engaged.


Brands needs to stand for good – reflect your brand values and your CSR policies. Let your audience know what you care about as a company. There is growing research that shows consumers are more engaged with brands that actively contribute to good causes and to social projects. Incorporate these key messages in your marketing campaigns and realise them in your live events in an authenticate way to gain traction with your audiences.


There are plenty of opportunities to enhance and create more meaningful experiences. Through utilising consumer insight, augmented technology, live experience and a multi-sensory approach, brands can really stand out, drive engagement and nurture brand advocacy with their target audiences.

This is what we know, do and love – let’s chat as we’re all about meaningful experiences!

Immersive Experiences at the 2018 FIFA World Cup

The beautiful quadrennial game captured the world by storm and it was hard not to get caught up in the whirlwind of infectious football fever, live action and brand sponsorship experiences worth $1.65 billion in marketing rights.

Despite the mounting anticipation and excitement from a global audience of football lovers, FIFA struggled to secure sponsors and partners following the corruption fallout at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.

Brand giants like Sony, Johnson & Johnson and BP’s Castrol pulled out of sponsoring, only to be replaced by a clutch of Chinese companies looking in on the action. Wanda Group partnered this year, while six new brands joined the sponsorship line-up, including Hisense, Mengniu and Vivo as well as regional backers Diking, Yaeda and Luci.

With the 2018 World Cup drawing to a Tricolore conclusion and almost coming home (well done boys you’ve done us proud!), we delved into the brand experience highlights that captivated an estimated global audience of 10 billion viewers.

A peak audience of 37 million tuned in to the BBC to see England make their first semi-final in the tournament in 28 years.


The largest American beer brand upped the stakes for this year’s marketing and sponsorship with a hard-hitting campaign focussed on immersive experiences.

Budweiser launched a matrix of innovative, digital techniques including:

    • The first audio-activated AR Snapchat lens – this technology takes virtual experiences to the next level, enabling fans to engage with reactive brand filters and play AR games with touch, motion, and facial control features.
    • Created eight million sound-activated red light up cups for its campaign: ‘Light Up the World Cup’. We admire this experiential sensory technology and love that the cups detect audio and cause LED lights to react and glow brighter when the sound increases with fever pitch cheers from the crowds. Engagement and interaction at its best.
    • Diverse and inclusive light up cups – following the incredible coverage of Carlos Alberto Santana, a huge football lover who is blind and deaf, Budweiser adapted their light up cups with the additional vibrate feature which allows fans to tap into the game’s energy and live action.
    • An inspirational storytelling video featuring a fleet of drones travelling from Budweiser’s Missouri brewery to countries around the world, finishing on an impressive shot of a swarm of drones delivering all-important Budweiser gifts to avid fans.


Vivo led the “My Time, My FIFA World Cup” campaign with a real focus on digital experiences, online communities and fan engagement.

  • At the 2018 tournament, Vivo released a limited edition V9 Blue smartphone and a complementary campaign to showcase the handset’s best digital features, namely the 16 mega-pixel camera. They flipped the engagement coin and transformed the conventional spectator into content curator. Vivo embraced the saying ‘no two people have the same experience’ and gave fans the power to share their own, personal and extraordinary moments – something that definitely resonates with us and increasingly with Millennials and Gen Z’s
  • Granting access to exclusive pitch action, Vivo enabled fans and promoted their digital content including photos, video and even dances!

Handing the reins over to the fans created a real online buzz and boosted the brand’s credibility and loyalty on a global scale.


    • The Chinese smart TV manufacturer revolutionised the way we watch the game with a built-in, one-click feature allowing viewers to see from 37 different angles! Fans could flick between angles and access 4K content from the comfort of their homes! Win.
    • The World Cup brings viewers on a collective journey of hope, community and game highs and lows. Similarly Hisense launched a journey of their own with #SeeTheIncredible ‘Road to Russia’ tour! Across the World Cup, we watched comedian Lloyd Griffith travel to 5 countries and 6 cities as he made his way to Moscow. Lloyd interviewed sporting professionals and influencers, with the likes of Luis Figo, Robert Pires, Joshua Pieters, Michael Owen and Benedikt Höwedes. Hisense’s experiential marketing tactics fuelled football fever and captured the spirit of the World Cup, delighting and uniting fans from across the world.



    • Seeing the tournament as the perfect international platform, McDonald’s capitalised on the opportunity and promoted their new 24/7 McDelivery service. With games being shown around the clock, this fast food solution caters for the die-hard football fans who don’t want to miss a thing!
    • McDonald’s also surprised five lucky children with the incredible opportunity to be McDonald Player Escorts. The fortunate five wore broad smiles on the pitch as they got to meet their heroes and get in on the action! Like Evian’s #WimbleYoungReporters this month at Wimbledon, we think it’s great that brands are actively encouraging younger audiences to get into sports and be part of games that have captured the world’s attention.


Fast moving sponsorship brand experiences reflected the pace of the tournament this year; Chinese brands surprised and impressed in equal measure, presenting a spectacle to a global audience and leaving a lasting legacy until the next World Cup graces our screens in 2022.

Captivate your audience with a bespoke immersive experience to remember.





What to look out for at Cannes Lions Festival of Creativity 2018

Here’s MCI Experience’s take on Cannes Lions week

Cannes Lions is in full swing and here’s what has peaked our interest and what we’ve got on our experiential radar.

This year Experience is one of the key nine content “tracks” at Cannes and for the first time has its own category, a testament to the evolving industry landscape of brand experience and client engagement. Harnessing the power of transformative and personalised experiences will set brands apart and is a crucial element in brand storytelling.

All Experience is Personal

Experiences need to be personal and authentic to have any traction with audiences. Marketers and event specialists are relying increasingly on brand experiences to create meaningful relationships with target audiences that deliver against business objectives. Personalising experience will require that brands take a more empathetic human-centric design approach to experience design to create meaningful audience engagement.

What makes for an impactful brand experience? When multi-channel and multi-sensory elements come together in live events and digital environments. For live events to strike an affinity with audiences, they need to be immersive, informative and emotive allowing people to share and amplify the brand’s reach.

Hello - personal experiences

On-Live Experiences

We are in the era of experiences over things; this is where audiences find value and where they are more likely to become brand champions after an impactful experience. It’s finding the right balance between the physical and digital worlds with multi-sensory and interactive touchpoints. The advancement in portable and wearable technology fully puts the audience in control. AR, VR and Mixed Reality all allow for highly personal interactions in immersive 360 degree environments.

Immersive experiences in events

AI & Data

Retail brands are now re-inventing the retail experience by utilising e-commerce technology and virtual worlds in new and exciting ways with the adoption of facial recognition and gesture-controlled technology. These coupled with the tracking of consumer data and the utilisation of artificial intelligence, a brand can deliver highly personalised and immediate content, based upon customer profiles. Brands can be more targeted with more impactful messaging and engagement. Apple will be presenting their “Reimagining of the Retail Experience” as part of the Experience programme, exploring how Apple Retail has reinvented itself, inspired creativity and learning through a commitment to human connection.

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Manifested Brand Worlds

Brands are curating their own experiential identities that come to life in very tangible ways. Creative customisation of the physical environment with brand colours, materials and textures truly immerse attendees in the brand world and by extension the brand values. To break away from the digital clutter, analogue activations are also seeing a rise, as audiences are able to authentically connect in a physical space.

Social Good

More and more campaigns are with a conscience to leverage their engagement for social good and raise awareness. Consumers are also responding and demanding more from brands to make a positive impact in communities and reflect their audiences’ values.

Social Good in Events

Cannes has acknowledged the growing importance of brand purpose with the Sustainable Development Goals and the Glass Lion for Change award.  We expect to see much more purpose lead brand experiences as awareness of the role that brand purpose can play to shift culture, create change and positively impact the world continues to grow.

Personalised brand experience

Growing Importance of Experience

Experience is undoubtedly a powerful brand currency that is on the upward trajectory with enduring longevity.  The focus on brand experience at Cannes Lions this year is testament to the fact that there’s never been a better time to be in the experience marketing business. Brand marketers now recognise the value of experience as a powerful approach to building and sustaining strong customer relationships and creating opportunities for brand innovation and growth.

We know a thing or two about breakthrough brand experiences so drop us a line to collaborate.

MCI Experience shares its philosophy with some of the UK’s top brands


Last Wednesday night, marketing and events professionals from some of the world’s top brands including Amazon, HSBC, Visa, Virgin Atlantic, Facebook and Santander gathered at London Grind, the London Bridge-based restaurant and cocktail bar and listened to Kim Myhre, managing director of MCI UK and MCI Experience share his marketing philosophy, including his thoughts on industry developments in the next five years.

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“The changing nature of brand experience will reach well beyond what we today think of as an event and will require a new approach to design and delivery,” Myhre of MCI Experience explained. “As demand for brand experiences grow, brands will require more from their agency than ever before. Experience marketing agencies will need to recognise that there is more to delivering a brand experience than event logistics but will instead look to all relevant touch points – both live and online – to create client success and this will require an agency with an increasingly diverse range of skills.”

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Myhre continued: “The convergence of emerging technologies, more demanding digital native consumers, and a growing and increasingly complex choice of content and media options means we will need to rethink our more traditional views of brand experience.

“Indeed, the tables have now turned. It is the consumers that are now in control of what marketing experiences they will accept and engage with. They have moved from passive observers to active participants and their attention is at a premium. We may be able to get them to attend an experience, but for them to put down their device and actually participate in the experience means that we will need to make sure that the experience is relevant, personalised and delivering real value.

“Gone are the days when attendees will sit through irrelevant, boring, uninspiring experiences that are designed around the brand’s needs not theirs. This will require experience marketers to have an in-depth and empathetic understanding of their target audience’s needs, preferences and desired outcomes and applying this insight to experience design.”

He concluded: “We aspire to help brands realise their marketing objectives and ambitions through meaningful and memorable live, digital and virtual experiences. Our interdisciplinary design-led, strategic approach to brand storytelling is imaginative, immersive and emotive. We partner with our clients to create breakthrough marketing experiences that achieve measurable business results.”

Want to find out more….come say hello!

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