2015 was a big year for experiential marketing, and 2016 is poised to be even bigger. Event marketing or engagement marketing, as the tactic is sometimes called, allows consumers to create a positive association with a product and experience a brand with all five senses. Small businesses, large business, start-ups, even nonprofits and government agencies have seen that experiential marketing delivers results. That’s why more and more of them are planning events at things like fairs, college festivals and pop-up stores.

So what will experiential marketing look like six months or a year from now? Here are three predictions for what 2016 holds for experiential marketing.

More creativity

Any well-done sampling event or promotion can be memorable if it’s done well. But to help a brand truly stick out in consumers’ minds, an experiential marketing activation needs to be something new and exciting. It needs to be something consumers have never seen before.

In 2016, we’re confident that experiential marketing agencies will get more creative and pull off really amazing types of events. Here at Factory 360, more and more of our clients are telling us they want to do something really different for their experiential marketing campaigns. Even big brands, which tend to be conservative, are starting to get a little braver and allow us to execute ideas that are outside of the box.

As campaigns get more creative, our biggest challenge is coming up with something new while staying true to a brand’s history and culture. While we want to attract new generations of spirit or beer drinkers to our clients’ products, for example, we don’t want to isolate or offend the people who have been enjoying those products for years. It takes careful thought and experience to walk that fine line. Those who do it well will see big successes in 2016.

Better use of technology

Technology is already an integral part of experiential marketing. Getting consumers to share pictures and brand information on social media is one of the most important ways to expand the reach of your activation. Videos and video games can make booths and displays more fun and visually interesting.

But there is a lot of new technology coming that will change the face of experiential marketing in 2016 and beyond. Factory 360 uses a technology called geo fencing that gives us a real-time view of who is attending our events.

Geo fencing works by allowing us to connect with consumer’s smartphones and connect to their social media accounts. When we do that, we can find out what interests them and how many followers they have. If they are social influencers, we can ping them and invite them to drop by our booth for a special gift or exclusive access to our people and products. Geo fencing allows us to be even more responsive and influential at events.

Wearables are another technology making a big difference in the experiential marketing universe. What if you could use wearables to better understand what a consumer was thinking or feeling, and customize a message just for them? What if you could use wearables to send push notifications or follow-up emails at just the right time to catch someone’s attention and direct them to your activation at an event?

Sounds a bit like science fiction, but the author of this post on Medium.com thinks that is coming in the not-too-distant future. Devices like Google Glasses will be able to help marketers improve their messaging with things like face recognition technology and retina readers.

We’re also seeing experiential marketing events feature more 3D activities, holograms and other forms of immersive technology. During a recent activation, BelVita used a 3D printer to print trophies and certificates for people who tweeted them as part of their #MorningWin campaign. Marriott Hotels took guests on virtual adventures to warm beaches or beautiful major cities using 4D technology. An Australian shoe company called Wittner recently took their window displays to the next level by featuring a hologram of a model in white lingerie and shoes strutting her stuff.

As technology makes more amazing sensory experiences possible, expect to see brands incorporating it into all their marketing efforts, including experiential marketing.

Evolving thoughts about data

One of the great things about technology is that we can do a better job of tracking data on the consumers we actually reach and those we want to reach. But that poses a challenge for marketers. Even with all the data that’s available, how do you translate it into something meaningful? How do you make the case that what you’re doing really has an impact on the company’s bottom line?

The great thing about experiential marketing – and the thing more and more companies are starting to realize – is that tracking metrics at events is easier than tracking it for other types of marketing methods. You can count things such as the number of people who attended an activation, what they consumed or took while they were there and how many times they posted to social media using your hashtag. That give you some solid numbers to take back to your boss.

Marketers’ thoughts about data is also changing. Rather than return on investment, or ROI, marketers are encouraging their bosses and co-workers to spend more time looking at return on engagement, or ROE. Return on engagement is a measure on how well you’re engaging and building relationships with consumers, not simply how much you’re selling them. Businesses recognize that interacting with consumers and building brand loyalty has a huge impact on their bottom lines, even if they don’t see the return right away.

As metrics and measurement techniques continue to evolve, they will also continue to make the experiential marketing movement stronger.

What are your thoughts about what’s in store for experiential marketing in 2016? Do any of these resonate with you? Do you have other observations about what will happen in the industry next year? Share a comment below. We’d love to hear from you.

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