One pandemic year on, it looks like brands (and corporate event planners) all agree on one thing: live events will return, but hybrid formats will leave a lasting impression going forward.
According to a recent survey conducted by brand experience agency, Pico Group, 71% of brands are prioritising virtual/online events more highly than last year — an increase of 26 percentage points from 2020 survey results.
More than 90% have held or are considering hybrid events, while a downward trend appeared for marketers planning offline or live events (32%), falling 13 percentage points. Instead, social media (78%) and virtual/online (71%) events will be top of mind when it comes to marketing tactics in the future.
Paid online tactics (48%) have also risen 14 percentage points from last year, underscoring the significance of digital collaborations.
That is not to say it has been an easy onboarding process.
On top of slashed budgets, marketers face new challenges in understanding and applying today's technology push, understanding customer behavioural changes, and keeping up with the latest trends.
A hybrid future
Despite this, Pico VP strategy, global activation, Tyronne O’Callaghan, believes that once infection risk to staff and audiences is low enough, that a lot more offline activity will return in 2022.
"We believe the perceived value of offline events is still strong because of the uniqueness of what they offer to audiences. Their intimacy, sensory stimulation and emotion are hard to recreate digitally.
"The heightened level of tactical importance for virtual and hybrid events revealed by the 2021 survey makes it obvious that those formats will further establish themselves as the norm in the short term. Indeed, considering the pace of economic recovery and vaccination in much of the world, physical events are almost certain to remain the exception rather than the rule for many markets."
To that end, Pico has executed several offline-to-online events with a twist, going for a more experience-led approach when it comes to virtual activities.
These included SHARP's 2020 Dealers Convention, which integrated a ‘place order’ function for attendees; HP Malaysia's 2020 annual product launch which combined gamification, AR and 3D animation; and JD Discovery, the fourth annual conference by one of China's biggest e-commerce giants, JD Group.
What has Pico learned?
- For each element of a virtual, ensure that you have a clear vision of what interactivity you would like to create. This way you can map out the ideal UX in advance and better evaluate different solutions and approaches.
- Explore using interactive polls or profiles to drive recommendations or use chatbot concierges to help visitors navigate their way to the
- Consider how the offline-online intersection works from an
experiential perspective. E.g gamification, avatars, mixed reality, meeting automation tools, digital assets for education etc
- Hire a data planner to help track virtual/hybrid effectiveness.
The latest Pico Group industry research was conducted from February to March 2021, spanning Asia Pacific (65%), Europe (19%), North America (13%) and the Middle East/North Africa (3%). The 78 respondents included executives (11%), directors (31%), managers (46%) and other titles (12%).