The formula for building experiences for startups

Experiential Marketing as the name connotes refers to a plethora of marketing techniques that focus on immersive experiences having a lasting and evocative impact. Defined as a “Brand-relevant two way communication between consumers and brands delivered face-to-face or remotely,” it relies heavily on the power of experience to educate, create awareness and drive adoption through active engagement with potential customers as opposed to the more passive push-based approach of traditional advertising.


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Experiential marketing can be used to drive any of the considerations of awareness, interest, desire or action and has the huge advantage of lower cost per reach, greater word of mouth and virality, higher brand recall, can result in stronger brand stickiness and most importantly can drive brand adoption. Since it engages all the senses and allows the user to actually experience the lifestyle change that the brand promises to deliver, it not only cuts through the ad clutter that vies for consumer attention but also communicates the brand promise in the most effective manner possible.

Faced with a mammoth task of going to market with tight purse strings in an overcrowded marketplace, experiential marketing presents a unique opportunity for startups to get noticed. Considering the number of new entrants in the market and the customer’s diminishing attention span, experiential marketing allows startups to reach, connect and engage with potential customers in the most cost effective manner possible.

The traditional model of experiential marketing that hinged on sampling and trials has been used very well by lenskart to overcome the mind set barriers inherent in the online purchase of a product that is primarily considered a touch and feel buy. Not only did they offer a unique option of trying out frames through a virtual interface that addressed the issue of try-outs of an increasingly fashion oriented commodity; but their aggressive corporate promotions through partnerships with banks also increased their reach and awareness with their target audience of young office-goers.

A similar experience has been offered by D’décor through an application that allows you to create a virtual replica of your house complete with wall colour and texture and then try-out various furnishings thereby greatly improving the customer buying experience and boosting online sales. A minor variation of this is the one week free trial that Cult Fitness offered to get people hooked on to their fitness and healthy diet combo.

One offline brand that rapidly became synonymous with sport through sheer user experience and on-site product trials at its enormous retail outlets is Decathlon. The entire concept of trying out sport or sporting products took the buyers’ imagination by storm and Decathlon outlets became a destination by themselves – the product buy was almost incidental. By encouraging sport at its store – be it cycling or football or even a game of cricket coupled with the mind boggling array of sporting goods all under one roof; it embodied its brand promise and made sport the new fad that invariably resulted in increased sales.

A similar tactic can be used by an established player to introduce a new offering, like how Amazon introduced its content platform Amazon Prime to its customer base. Initially touted as an express delivery service; Amazon used the right bait to get its shoppers hooked on to Prime especially since it offered a free one month trial with a guaranteed 24 hr home delivery. The content was initially incidental and this helped create a critical mass of users for the platform.

In today’s digital marketplace, experiential marketing has expanded from mere sampling and trials to encompass the entire customer user experience – from the time of purchase to product consumption. The effort is to create a unique experience that wows the customer during the purchase process, deliver a superior product that lives up to the brand promise and back it with hassle-free support and service to ensure repeat buys.

Online fashion stores like Shopify stand apart from the clutter of online stores because of their unique offering of tailor made apparel. There are many others who simulate the offline trial experience by allowing customers to create a virtual avatar of themselves complete with complexion and hair colour so that they can try out the dresses almost for real.

Today the online space is replete with examples where brand awareness has been created solely by content, which in most cases has been user generated. The user experience and sheer convenience has driven interest and desire and easy availability and accessibility has resulted in action.

Cases in point are portals like Zomato, HolidayIQ and even Practo. Each of these started as content based platforms that attracted visitors in droves due to the quality of content available. The fact that a majority of this was generated by other users merely increased the veracity of the content and bought the trust of the users. Both Zomato and HolidayIQ thrived due to user reviews and soon became a voice to reckon with in the food and travel industry respectively. Having amassed a significant user base, both Zomato and HolidayIQ branched out to revenue generating services like table booking and home deliveries in the former and holiday bookings in the latter.

Practo, for instance, started off a listing site for doctors in the vicinity that encouraged user reviews. This gradually expanded to crowd sourcing of listings which not only added to the comprehensiveness of the platform but also gave users the sense of recommendations – especially since it involved doctors and physicians. It was just a logical extension to move into promotion of physicians and finally into patient management systems – thereby coming full circle in the demand generation and fulfilment cycle.

While the methodologies of experiential marketing might have evolved to keep pace with a digital world, it still relies heavily on amplifying brand awareness through word of mouth. This can only happen when the user experience is tailored to create a sense of wow that in turn results in positive referrals and buzz. The focus on brand experience has never been greater especially when customer feedback can either make or break your brand and one unhappy customer can snowball into a mud-slinging army.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house

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