You hear the term user experience (or UX) a lot these days. While the term is typically applied to websites, we think it can be applied to experiential marketing (or EX) events as well.

UX has become so important that even the U.S. government is weighing in. The Department of Health and Human Services says user experience “focuses on having a deep understanding of users, what they need, what they value, their abilities and their limitations. It also takes into account the business goals and objectives of the group managing the project.”

That sounds about right to us. And it sounds a lot like what you need for a successful event marketing or engagement marketing activations too. So how can you use basic principles of improving UX to make EX campaigns better? We took several pieces of advice from an article titled 20 things you can do this year to improve your user’s experience and looked at them through an experiential marketing lens.

Define the UX/EX vision

Having goals for any experiential marketing campaign is vitally important. If you’re a spirit brand, how many samples of your product do you want to hand out? If you’re a bank or financial institution, how many new checking accounts do you want to open? If you’re an airline, how many customers do you want to visit your virtual reality flight simulator every day?

You should also set out expected outcomes for your EX campaign. How many consumers should follow up with a coupon code or other benefit to be redeemed after the event? How many should post to social media or follow/like/friend/connect with you?

In addition, part of your experiential marketing vision is thinking about what kind of experience you want consumers to have. Of course you want it to be awesome, but do you want consumers to leave feeling more educated? More like saving the world? More convinced that your brand is cool? Having a clear idea about this will also help shape your activation.

Describe your primary user

Understanding your ideal user (or target demographic) will help you define your vision. Dr. David Travis, author of the above-mentioned article, said something I really liked. It applies to both UX and EX:

“Quick, describe the main user of the system you’re working on right now. Who said something like, “Urban male, mid-30s, owns an iPhone”? Demographic descriptions like these are useful in marketing but have very little value when designing or evaluating products. Instead, you should be able to describe your users’ goals, needs and behaviors since these provide specific ideas to design around.”

Enough said.

Take your user’s perspective

Again, this will help you understand what will appeal to the consumer you wish to target. But there’s another important reason to put yourself in the consumer’s shoes when planning an event: it will help you avoid doing anything that will annoy, offend or just not interest them.

If you’re planning an event on a college campus, the last thing you want to do is talk down to your consumers. If you’re planning a multicultural marketing campaign, you should have a deep-enough understanding of the culture to understand what will and will not appeal to the people you’re hoping to target. If another company is sponsoring your activation, is there any chance what you’re doing might alienate their staff or other stakeholders?

Asking yourself these types of questions can save you a lot of headaches in the long run. They will also make your EX event stronger and better suited for the consumers you wish to target.

Improve your navigation

That’s obviously important for the UX of a website, but it makes sense for EX as well. How easy is it to find your booth? Are you directing consumers to you by using social media updates or signs?

Once consumers arrive at your experiential marketing activation, do they have to stand in line to participate in your awesome interactive activity? If they do, does someone at least come over and greet them and make them feel welcome? If there are multiple activities, is there a clear explanation of what people will find or what they can do?

No one wants to wait forever for a website to load, and no one wants to linger in a booth waiting for something to happen. Make sure people can easily navigate your activities from the moment they step into your space.

Review your mobile channel

For UX, this has more to do with having a well-designed mobile site. For EX, this gives us an opportunity to remind you that:

A) Your brand’s mobile site should be spot-on before you launch an experiential marketing campaign.

B) Nearly everyone who visits your activation will have their mobile phone. Make sure they use it to your advantage.

One of the most important parts of any experiential marketing campaign is engaging with consumers on social media. Make sure you communicate with customers about how they can share information on their social media accounts, and give them multiple ways and reasons to do so. Have a hashtag they can include in Twitter posts. Create an ideal backdrop or prop for Instagram and Snapchat photos. Give them a fun phrase to repeat or activity to do so they can make a video. You get the idea.

Run a cognitive walkthrough

Or a real walkthrough! This one is fun. It can also be quite important if your activation involves technology, toys or small animals.

Set up your experiential marketing exhibit as it will appear at a fair, festival, store or wherever you plan to be. Then have co-workers, family or friends visit and try things out. Does your 4D experience really function like it’s supposed to? If you’re asking people to drive model cars around a makeshift track, do they actually stay on the track or do they immediately fly off? Is your music too quiet or too loud?

Ask people for feedback on everything and make adjustments as needed. It’s better to make changes now than scrambling to do it once your first consumer shows up.

Evaluate your error messages

Never mind. That one really is just for UX.

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