Emerging technology trends are driving a big surge in digital innovation in the events industry. Some events companies are striding ahead, with seamless digital processes and immersive visitor experiences, using new technologies like virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) to set them apart.


While in the retail industry, we are seeing a polarisation between digital innovators achieving growth and success, any many traditional brands that haven’t invested in digital and have failed as a result. Woolworths, Borders, BHS, Toys R Us, Poundland, Maplin… the list of brands disappearing from the high street continues to grow.


What can we learn from all this?


My digital career began in retail. I managed a chain of retail stores and set up the UK’s leading designer sunglasses ecommerce site. I see huge opportunities for the events industry to learn from the successes and failures of retailers. Innovative in-store technologies have the potential to revolutionise the events experience too.


Here are just a few examples:

(1) Physical exhibit interaction and immersion

Way back in 2011, The Gucci Immersive Retail Experience introduced interactive in-store displays that enabled customers to rewind, pause and browse through content using simple hand gestures. The technology also sent images of chosen items to a customer’s mobile phone so they could consult with friends, then notify their usual sales assistant to reserve the item for them.


When people engage physically, as well as just visually, they are much more likely to remember that engagement. The physical movements require a deeper cognitive response. And exhibits like this are great fun – they always get people talking!


(2) Analysing footfall, behaviour and experiences

Digital allows accurate tracking and data collection, to help you plan better and make more profitable business decisions. AI startup Hoxton Analytics can accurately measure footfall and provide rich behavioural data. Already popular with retailers, this technology has big potential for events too. It could help with planning events, venue layouts, effective and profitable use of space, and signage – among many other things.


(3) Improving the online customer experience

The online experience is just as important for physical events as it is for online events. From building momentum beforehand and creating booking sales funnels, to keeping in touch afterwards and encouraging social shares, the online experience should be seamless, simple to navigate and easy to share with others.


The Decibel Insight digital intelligence platform helps measure, benchmark, and improve online customer experiences. Decibel helped River Island increase its conversion rate by 6.5% in just 35 days (equating to an almost 24% ROI) – impressive!


(4) Improving event visitor experience

Zara has invested in in-store technology to improve its shopper experience.

Along with self-service checkouts and click and collect, Zara has given retail customers some rather nifty surprises. Fitting rooms in some stores include radio frequency identification technology (RFID), enabling customers to search for recommended matching items by scanning the items they have tried on.

Zara have now taken this a step further by being one of the first high street retailers to launch an augmented reality (AR) app. The app brings clothes to life by generating virtual fashion models who strut around modelling the clothes, when a customer points their camera at a sensor in the wall or window. This is a simple example of AR in action – but there are many more that I’d love to share with you.

If you’re interested in finding out more, come see my talk on digital transformation in events at The Conference and Hospitality Show in Leeds on 30 April this year. Tickets available from www.chs19.co.uk.


Jonny Ross is the digital strategy brain behind Fleek Marketing – digital campaigns, training and consultancy, deeply rooted by SEO. Twitter @jonnyross



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