2021 Experiential Marketing Trends Shaping the Industry’s Future

April 21, 2021 | Experiential Marketing


What does the experiential industry landscape look like in 2021 and how is it shifting? For event and trade show professionals, the answer may not be completely straightforward, but looking back at everything we’ve learned in the past year, there’s much to draw from that can inform the future of experiential marketing.

And if one thing is certain, it’s that the global COVID-19 pandemic ushered in an entirely new wave of innovations across the event and trade show industry, with brands finding reimagined ways to connect with audiences and tell their stories. Now, as we journey on the road forward to live experiences, we’re paying close attention to a range of 2021 experiential marketing trends that are likely to have a significant impact across the industry.

Join us for a closer look at what’s shaping the next era in experiential and what to keep in mind as we look ahead.

Don’t Expect Virtual to Completely Disappear

Despite a rise in vaccine distribution, it’s likely that there may be varying degrees of personal comfort levels among attendees when it comes to large indoor gatherings or in-person trade shows, events, and conventions. Another thing to consider? Corporate travel budgets may be lower than they were pre-pandemic, which may hinder how many people are actually able to attend live shows.

And when we look at recent data insights, we see that as of February 2021, only 41% of adults feel comfortable engaging with each other in public places. What this tells us, and what event and trade show professionals should keep in mind when building out their future programs, is that incorporating virtual components will still be essential to fully reaching audiences and show an understanding of their needs.

“Meeting organizers need to understand that some attendees may not want to return to in-person conferences, and that even if 80 percent do return, organizers will lose 20 percent of their potential audience—unless they include a virtual component in their plan,” notes Smart Meetings. “What’s more, the digital aspect of a hybrid event is expected to continue to provide opportunities to reach a much larger audience than in person.”

The key takeaway in examining these kinds of 2021 experiential marketing trends is that in our current climate, digital and/or online elements are not likely to go away anytime soon and will continue to play a key role in helping attendees stay connected.

Outdoor Experiences Will Continue to Grow

As spring ushers in warmer weather, we anticipate a rise in the number of events providing open air environments. In fact, the upcoming September 2021 Motor Bella event, which is replacing the traditional indoor Detroit Auto Show, is set to be held completely outdoors this year, delivering a new, reinvented experience to automotive enthusiasts.

This is all part of a larger movement we’re seeing in 2021 towards outdoor socially-distanced experiences, which can provide a greater level of security in a post-pandemic landscape, while still allowing people to come together and safely connect, albeit six feet apart.

Take New York City for example, which plans to serve as host to multiple outdoor performances this spring and summer as part of a new Lincoln Center “Restart Stages” program aimed at bringing the arts back to life in the city. The Center’s 16 acres of space will be utilized for a range of creative activities.

“What we really wanted to do was use the outdoor space. So that was the genesis of the restart stage project. And also Lincoln Center, we're a very proud New York institution, and we really wanted to play our part in bringing New York back," Henry Timms, President and CEO at Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, tells CNN. “There's so much focus on the economic recovery, which, of course, is essential, but tied to that, there has to be this human recovery, which is how do we all as human beings start to come out with this period where we've been kept away from each other, we've been disconnected.”

For event and trade show professionals, the top takeaway here is that incorporating outdoor elements and/or taking experiences outside is likely to be a key way to reach audiences as we slowly re-emerge from the other side of the pandemic, and be an important part of 2021 experiential marketing trends.

Technology Will Play an Important Role in Keeping Events Safe

When in-person experiences do fully re-emerge on a large scale, technology is going to play an important role in enhancing onsite health and safety measures. And to that end, we’re already seeing a range of innovations, such as masks that include microphones, health trackers like the BioButton that can provide assistance in monitoring attendee vitals, air filtering, various kinds of touchless technologies, and so much more.

“As in-person gatherings plan their return, new tech tools are being developed to help keep attendees safe before, during, and after the event,” notes BizBash in a roundup on the latest technology being developed. “These innovative new tools range from comprehensive planning platforms to solutions for virtual queuing and contact tracing, from social distancing-enforcing wristbands to robots (yes, you read that right).”

Looking through the lens of 2021 experiential marketing trends, expect to see technology play a major role in on-site health and safety for attendees and staff.

What else should experiential industry professionals keep in mind as they build out their programs and strategies? Download The Trend for a complete look at the road forward and the 2021 experiential marketing considerations you need to know.

Posted by Dyan Cornacchio | Request as a Speaker

Social media and creative writing connoisseur. Obsessed with my golden retriever, pop culture, and pizza. Nothing makes me happier than being home on LI, relaxing at the beach with my family.