How experiential will become a new form of market research

Will Northover, Client Services Manager, Blackjack Promotions argues that customer data collection should be easy when using brand experiences

Everyone loves a freebie. It doesn’t matter how old you are, how wealthy you are. Whatever your job title, if there’s a freebie up for grabs then you’re automatically interested. For this reason, I’m baffled why many brands are still struggling when it comes to customer data.

The solution is simple: it’s a two-way exchange so you’ve got to give customers something valuable in return for their data – something like an experience, a prize or a voucher. This is why experiential and data collection are perfect partners; experiential creates numerous opportunities for live market research. Also, experiential is not always a sales tactic so it’s even more important for brands to capture data “in the moment” and grow their database.

If the customer is interacting with a brand ambassador face-to-face, it’s easy to gather more information and to offer them something in exchange for that information.

The value exchange

It could be something as simple as a personalised gift that the customer can take away with them.

We recently worked on a campaign with First Great Western inviting passengers travelling through Paddington and Reading train stations over the festive period to drop by First Great Western’s giant branded snowglobe and have their photo taken inside. The photo was then printed on-site and straight away the customer could take it away with them in exchange for a piece of their data. It was so simple, but it turned out to be highly effective.

Another great example comes from British Airways and JCDecaux, which involved five flight simulators linked up with live boards at Victoria train station. Every 15 minutes, BA gave away a free flight to the person who got the best time during that time slot. It was incredible – people were queuing up to give away their data, all just so that they could sit in front of the machine. And of course, brand ambassadors were there on-site to present tickets to the lucky winners there and then.

The activity was amplified by a digital strategy with a strong focus on social media – people would share their experience with friends and before you knew it, it turned out to be a successful marketing tactic.

The opportunities for capturing customer data capture are endless when it comes to experiential. You just have to think creatively. We’re currently looking at ideas like bespoke vending machines in train stations and airports. But there’s no currency; the currency is the customer’s email address, which they can enter in return for a list of items they can select – this could be anything from a can of Coke or a Kit-Kat, to an amazing prize like a flight or even a motorbike (depending on the brand, of course).

It’s worth a gamble

As a community, consumers are thinking: “wow, all I have to do is put in my details – and of course it’s a total gamble – but I could end up with a motorbike”. Perhaps there’s one big prize up for grabs once a day over a week-long period but it might say ‘item currently not available’ in some cases. However, if something is up for grabs, consumers are more likely to take that chance – it’s all about the experience, after all. You could even add a mobile element to it. Today, almost everyone has a smartphone – perhaps they could download an app which gives them a code. They go to the vending machine, enter their code and watch as the spiral dispenser whirls around. Again, it’s a complete gamble and 99% of customers might get a boring item but 1% will get something really exciting. Either way, it’s a value exchange, and one people will actively want to enter into.

It’s time for brands to try something different and explore different ways to try and get data in a way that’s fun, exciting and experiential. The opportunities for creativity here are endless as long as it’s well thought-out. So, be creative and grow your database at the same time, give away an experience and people will happily hand over their details. The crux of the matter is that customers are willing to trade personal data, as long as they get something in return.

Of course this is only the first step in the data capture process. What to do next with all the good data you collect? Well that’s a whole other story…

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