5 Ways Brands Can Deliver on the Promise of Return on Experience

By Stefan Tauber, Experience Strategist, New York

The original version of this article has been published on Adweek on March 1, 2019

Unique activations and events drive buzz around what a company is working on

Our solution has been ROE, which stands for Return on Experience. Like ROI, it provides a way to quantify the direct impact of a brand experience on a consumer, measuring when a human actively participates and engages with that experience. It also shows why these experiences are such effective forms of marketing.

We’ve seen million dollar experiences that attract a physical attendance of 2000 people during the time it's open, which admittedly looks wasteful when you can reach the same amount of people through a targeted keyword ad for less than $500. But calculating ROE, word of mouth, online sharing and earned media demonstrates that an on-site audience of 2000 people can reach a multi-million global audience. If experiences are exciting, meaningful, and different enough, they evoke the true potential of consumers.

But how do you create an experience that can deliver on the promise of ROE? It takes identifying and infusing several key ingredients that will help marketers bring a quantitative approach to a medium that’s been historically qualitative.

Choose the “world” that meets your needs

In measuring ROE, different spatial flows create different outcomes, so brands creating experiences need to carefully analyze the cost and benefit that’s inherent in the type of world they decide these experiences should inhabit - guided, open, or programmatic.

Similar to the meandering path inside an IKEA store, guided consumer worlds lead attendees on a one-way journey with a defined entry and exit. This experience duration is highly predictable and happens like clockwork. It takes less effort to be completed and also guarantees that consumers touch and hopefully share all experiences throughout.

Open world experiences invite self-discovery and build an overall higher experience IQ because they are less prescriptive and more adventurous. While these take more effort from the consumer to explore, the overall experience feels more natural and less forced. Levels of engagement and interactivity and overall time spent are less predictable and depend heavily on the consumer’s desire to explore the space, which can be increased by elements such as comfortable seating possibilities, workshops and food vendors.

Lastly, programmatic worlds are scheduled performances, classes, workshops and experiences that  provide brands with a great tool to control attendance and the time spent during the brand experience.

Engage all of the audience’s senses

Physical experiences need to be everything that digital is not. While digital is all about volume, commoditization and sales, physical experiences should be about authentic storytelling, forming connections, and adding weight and texture to any brand.

When making an immersive experience, it’s crucial to engage all senses, especially the ones that can’t be reached through devices. This means everything from sounds associated with the brand experiences, and the temperature in the space, to the smells of the flowers.

Ensure shareability

Shareable experiences are already in every experiential marketer’s toolkit. As consumers post pictures, the reward is likes and comments from their audience which then brings awareness to the brand. However, brands have to jump off the Instagram bandwagon and stop underestimating the experience IQ of consumers. A pretty design or colored backdrop alone will no longer trigger sharing.

With this in mind, the question remains: how we can grow experiences to be more interactive and truly immersive beyond a snap? The answer, as always, is a creative idea. A truly thought-provoking, barrier-breaking idea is still the best way to encourage sharing which then amplifies organically online.

Think less pragmatically, more emotionally

While marketers are used to looking at data through the very rational, pragmatic lens of online ROI, they have to understand that a consumer interacting in a physical space is far more complex than a simple banner click. Experiences trigger an intricate network of peer-to-peer interactions that, because of a robust ROE, can contribute to the organic growth and reach of the brand.

As marketers learn to address the qualitative, emotional aspects of experiences that ROE communicates, their intuition will become invaluable in building meaningful, compelling, full-sensory activations and events that drive significantly higher shareability and unleash the true potential of consumers. After all, they’re the ones who are willing to share their experience on their platforms. Through tracking how they express their connection to a brand, we can create a metric of success that a subjective assessment simply can’t provide.

ThoughtsHannah Eigeman