Coming to a high street near you: how covid has changed experiential

Coming to a high street near you: how covid has changed experiential

Merry Christmas? That will depend on coronavirus infection rates. But if we avoid lockdowns, in the next few weeks shoppers across the country can expect big brands to be offering entertaining experiences worthy of a shareable selfie in places they have never seen them before. It could be a Christmas like no other.

Previously redundant spaces – from local parks and beaches to foyer spaces in large general hospitals – have become hot properties for brands as a result of almost two years of the pandemic. And experiential experts are predicting this festive season will see brands popping up in these spaces all over the country.

Location Live Co-Founder Neil Jones says, “Our inventory is changing like TV did when we went from four channels in the UK to more than 500 now. Brands have relied on social media during the pandemic but they are now desperate to get out and engage with people.”

Categories such as electric cars, alcoholic beverages and home furnishing are among those most eager to reimagine experiential spaces this Christmas.

Expect big local experiences in the regions

Declining footfall in the wake of the pandemic, which decreased year-on-year by 34.6% in high streets, 31.5% in shopping centres and 10.8% in retail parks, has left thousands of spaces empty.

So what can we expect this Christmas?

Forward-thinking brands are hoping to reverse these declines with innovative, engaging, immersive experiences at Christmas, says Neil.

One of the biggest changes will be the move towards ‘hyper localisation’ – a move away from large city centre experiential events in favour of smaller regional towns reflecting the fact that people are congregating locally rather than in major hubs.

“There are two categories in experiential – ‘spaces’ and ‘places’. Places are venues to which people are invited, and they have not come back. Spaces are environments with a determined footfall around it – such as Trafalgar Square. These are through the roof in terms of bookings,” says Neil.

One example of a recent ‘hyper-local’ event was the launch of the new Adidas GLITCH football boot [see main image] at a family-run fried chicken restaurant in East London.

Five hundred pairs of new boots were given away for one night with a live performance from a local grime artist to target 14-19 year old football players. The event was filmed and photographed and shared thousands of times on social channels.

The Location Live team also created a surprising event for Burberry when it floated a giant replica of its Olympia bag on a barge down the Thames [see video].

“The unexpected location created iconic moments for people to share on social as it floated from the Royal Docks all the way to Tower Bridge,” says Neil.

A fast-changing landscape

Obviously, the pandemic means brands need to be agile and adaptive if planning experiential events. But for those looking to create last-minute experiential events, Neil says, “Brands have to create Christmas experiences that are entertaining and engaging first. They also have to be authentic experiences, local, and entirely relevant to what’s going on at that moment.”

The result can be selfies shared on social media, pushing awareness and possibly conversions, and a range of content available for brands to use in further activations and amplifications.

Given how disappointing last Christmas was both for the public and brands, there can be few not excited by the prospect.