The expectations of the modern customer

For many people visiting a consumer event is a considerable investment, not just financially but also in time, one of their most valuable assets.  That’s time spent planning, time travelling, and time at the show (most consumer events have dwell time of between 4 and 5 hours on average).

Financially, the entrance ticket can be the tip of the iceberg – parking, fuel or other travel costs, food and drinks – widely criticised for their pricing at events & exhibitions and even accessing money, again cash machine charges are widely criticised.

It’s unsurprising then, that the visitor comes to the event with a certain level of expectation.

We’ve talked about the importance of innovation and creating a wow factor for visitors in a previous blog post.  We know that typically around half of all visitors attending a consumer event will be returning, having previously visited.  So how much of a visitors experience is influenced by what they expect to get for their ‘investment’ and how much onus should be on event organisers to help each visitor to wholly experience their event?

While many event websites now have a ‘plan your day’ tool, how many of the visitors actually use this? Half? One in every four? One in ten? And importantly, do those who use the tools provided and plan their visit have a better time?

I think most organisers appreciate that for many visitors ‘planning’ is actually ad-hoc, at the show so the visit is more serendipitous than anticipated.  This makes it even more essential to ensure there are easy navigation and content engagement tools onsite, on arrival.  Maps, apps, theatre programmes, signage, show guides, etc. all help show visitors ‘plan’ as they go.

We know that visitors who see and experience more of the show, have a longer dwell, time, leading to a better overall experience and higher likelihood of advocacy.  So it’s in the organisers best interests to encourage this, right?  So why then do some organisers put barriers in the way of engagement by way of a paid-for show guide?  Don’t get us wrong, we’re not against paid-for show guides, except when this becomes the only way for visitors to access important information onsite as is sometimes the case.  Of course, the intent is that this will encourage show guide purchase, the reality is that many visitors will still not purchase a show guide and therefore, will not achieve the best visiting experience the event can deliver.

When was the last time you visited a show as a visitor?  If you’re an organiser I mean without your organisers hat on?  It’s virtually impossible for an event organiser to be objective about a visiting experience, which is why it can be invaluable to gain a first-hand visitor perspective.

Mystery shoppers, diners or guests are used widely in other sectors to assess the quality of the customer experience.  Zing have employed this technique really successfully using secret visitors across a number of trade and consumer events, to provide feedback on the visitor experience.

A secret visitor can deliver the organiser with a different viewpoint, ‘A Day in the Life of….’, assessing everything from registration/ticket purchase, travel, parking, venue facilities e.g. toilets, cleanliness, seating, catering, etc.  They can be tasked to experience and report back on specific aspects of an event e.g. features, event staff, etc.  Secret visitors are carefully recruited to ensure they represent ‘real’ visitors.  We ask them to record their visit visually using photos and/or video to highlight the positives and negatives of their experience and this imagery is used in feeding back their experiences.

In the studies we’ve undertaken, secret shoppers have delivered organisers with understanding that has led to improvements which otherwise, using traditional post-show online surveys, would not have been considered.   Should you be putting yourself in your visitors’ shoes via secret visitors at your event?

Posted by Jonathan

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