Research: 15 Data Points on the State of Experiential and Where It’s Headed – Event Marketer

Research: 15 Data Points on the State of Experiential and Where It’s Headed – Event Marketer
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Research: 15 Data Points on the State of Experiential and Where It’s Headed

The following insights were derived from the Event Marketer x Mosaic EventTrack 2021 industry forecast, AnyRoad’s Experiential Trends 2021 report, Northstar Meetings Group’s May 2021 Pulse Survey and Bizzabo’s Q2 2021 Virtual Events Benchmark Report.

If the data has anything to say about it, experiential marketing is back on track in a big way. A variety of 2021 studies on the state of experiential show that the industry is moving right along on the road to recovery as brands revive postponed in-person programs and fire up new ones. But the continued desire for virtual events can’t be downplayed. Virtual is here to stay, according to the research. So what can event marketers expect as the second half of 2021 unfolds? The following 15 data points offer some clues.


1. Post-pandemic, 81% of brands believe their event and experiential budgets will match or exceed their pre-virus levels

Post-pandemic budget expectations illustrate a pent-up demand for and growing confidence in in-person experiences. 61% of brands believe their in-person experiential marketing budgets will be reinstated to a level similar to pre-pandemic this year, and 20% expect their funding to increase above that level. Many of the investments event marketers plan to make are related to health and hygiene, event technology and new staffing roles. (Source: EventTrack)


2. 33% of consumers say their top life priorities and values have changed as a result of the challenges and opportunities faced in 2020

Consumers say their priorities and values have changed: They’re spending more time with family, focusing on health and wellness and saving money. And many are simply evaluating their core beliefs. The age groups that have changed their priorities and values the most are those between the ages of 25 and 35 as well as those between 56 and 65. (Source: EventTrack)

EventTrack Q2 2021 graph


3. Event marketing tactics and brand websites continue to lead other channels in terms of effectiveness and value to consumers, even amid the pandemic

The primary advertising and marketing channels that provide the most value, and best help consumers understand the benefits of a brand’s products or services, are brand websites (50%) and events and experiences (36%). To tip these statistics in favor of events and experiences, marketers should explore hybrid and digital activations as a potential bridge between experiential programs and websites/other digital media. (Source: EventTrack)

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4. Brands have made significant business shifts and developed new products and services as a direct result of challenges faced in 2020

Less than half, but a still meaningful 38%, of brands say they have shifted or pivoted what their business does in a significant way as a result of 2020’s obstacles. And 48% of brands say they’ve developed new products or services as a result of the pandemic and related issues. This level of corporate change, in less than one year, has simply never been seen before in the modern marketing era. (Source: EventTrack)


5. Inadequate staffing at venues and hotels is the No. 1 challenge for b-to-b event marketers

When asked, “If you are working with hotels and venues for future meetings or events, are you experiencing any of these difficulties? Select all that apply,” 39.69% of event marketers said a lack of adequate staffing at hotels and similar event venues is their top concern. Other challenges they’re facing include loss of supplier contacts, rigid contract terms and higher-than-expected hotel rates. (Source: Pulse Survey)


6. Nearly 90% of event marketers are now focused on in-person events

As of May 25, 2021, data shows that industry momentum is growing, with the number of event marketers booking new events nearly matching those who are rescheduling. Answer choices and responses included:

  • I am rescheduling or rebooking events (24.63%)
  • I am researching potential new events, but not ready to issue an RFP or lead (18.38%)
  • I am actively sourcing for new events (issuing RFPs or leads) (22.43%)
  • I am booking new events (23.53%)
  • I am not currently focused on in-person events (11.03%)

(Source: Pulse Survey)

Northstar pulse survey_2021 data


7. The majority of event marketers expect to be producing in-person events by October

When asked what the earliest date they expect to hold their next in-person or hybrid event is, event marketers had the following responses:

  • Q2 2021 (25.37%)
  • Q3 2021 (31.25%)
  • Q4 2021 (25.37%)
  • 2022 or later (18.01%)

Translation: 82% of event marketers expect their next in-person event to be produced this year. (Source: Pulse Survey)


8. 68% of experiences in May 2021 were held in person, up from 4% in May 2020

In May, for the first time in over a year, in-person event and experience attendance outpaced virtual events. (Source: Experiential Trends)


9. Consumers are booking experiences further ahead and spending more per visit

The average event booking window has increased from 11 to 15 days and spend per visit has increased by 4.5x year-to-date as more experiences open up. For context, in 2019, in-person experiences were booked an average of 11 days in advance. (Source: Experiential Trends)


10. Consumers are now 10-15% more likely to upgrade or personalize their experiences

Brands have an opportunity to more effectively engage consumers post-COVID by offering add-ons and personalized experiences. For example, a brand that offers a distillery tour might generate a sales lift by offering a limited-edition bottle at checkout. (Source: Experiential Trends)


11. Post-experience Net Promoter Scores for virtual (80 NPS) and in-person (82 NPS) experiences have narrowed over the past year

Digital experiences currently have a similar impact on brand perception as in-person experiences, as of May 2021. That’s good news for event marketers who haven’t returned to in-person programming yet. (Source: Experiential Trends)



12. One in three consumers shows up to a virtual experience, whether it is paid or free

Zoom fatigue is real—67% of consumers don’t show up for low-cost or free virtual events. But it’s not all doom and gloom. Rather, it means that offering compelling content at virtual events is critical. Brands that offer exceptional content can double attendance rates for online experiences, as top performers saw attendance rates of 65%. (Source: Experiential Trends)


13. Conferences remain the most popular virtual event type

Conferences that provide educational opportunities will be well aligned with attendee objectives. Attendees cite learning and development as their top goal for virtual events, while networking takes a back seat. In Q1 2021, conferences accounted for 34% of all online events (although that number is down from 43% in 2020). Next in line are meeting and networking experiences, which account for 24% of virtual events, followed by internal events (19%) and classes/workshops (11%). (Source: Benchmark Report)

Bizzabo virtual events data 2021 graph


14. Virtual events feature an average of 15 sessions

In 2020 the average virtual event included 20 sessions, but in Q1 2021, that number dropped to an average of 15 sessions—a 25% decrease. Meanwhile, 42 percent of attendees watch the entirety of a virtual session (a completed view refers to any attendee that watches more than 90% of a session). (Source: Benchmark Report)


15. 36% percent of event marketers are currently planning hybrid events

36% of event professionals are planning hybrid events with both in-person and virtual audiences, which is up from 21% in January of this year. The rest of the pie goes to those who are not planning hybrid events (27%), those who are not sure but considering hybrid events (22%) and those who haven’t planned one yet but intend to host a hybrid event (15%). (Source: Pulse Survey)

Kait Shea
Posted by Kait Shea

Kait joined EM in 2015 and today enjoys her role as senior editor. When she’s not in reporter mode, rocking mermaid pants at Comic-Con or running laps at MWC Barcelona, you can find her at home listening to music and doting on her fur baby.
View all articles by Kait Shea →

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