In our ultra-connected age, it is perhaps surprising that a low-tech event with a history spanning over 210 years as the largest beer festival in the world continues to pull in the crowds. Oktoberfest's popularity endures and this year the two-week festival is expected to attract over six million people to Munich. Many brands seek to attract similar levels of consumer engagement, footfall and spend, so what can they learn from the traditional festival and what can replicate thanks to next-generation technologies?
To stand out against the competition, build brand loyalty and engage with the customer, digitising the customer experience is essential. Brands need to enhance the customer experience if they want to seriously capitalise on the popular 'pop-up' or festival opportunity - it is about getting people back for repeat visits, week-on-week or year-on-year, tempting them into the flagship store and, most importantly, driving profits, all while ensuring a cost-effective yet convenient approach to 'taking a chance' on setting up stall at a short-term location.
Oktoberfest is unique in that it has an advantage over other brands because of its heritage, prestige and an almost cult-like following. Interestingly, the adoption of new technologies in the beer halls is fairly limited from a modern brand perspective - the festival itself has an app but it is purely a useful source of information for getting around. There are no loyalty points or deals to garner repeat visits; the app does not sync with social media platforms; there are no additional promotional content from brands and also no speedy contactless payments as the bars are cash only - which the beer festival can afford to miss out on due to having offered the same experience for over 200 years.
However, while Oktoberfest has been able to rely on this no frills approach, part of the overall customer experience, other brands, particularly in the events and food festival industries, need to consider how to apply existing and emerging technologies to drive consumer engagement, footfall and spend.
We work with many brands to help digitise aspects of the customer journey and augment engagement points, whether creating an app that gives frequent visitors special offers and discounts, allowing a 'click and collect' order service or providing contactless payment points on tables and at the stalls, all underpinned by next-generation IT. Brands today also need to analyse consumer purchasing habits and interactions on social platforms through likes and hashtags, using this level of customer insight to tailor their products and services even more in order to increase customer loyalty and differentiate the experience, all the while supporting their profit and growth.
Delivering a superior customer service is critical for all brands amid heightened consumer expectations. It is very easy for potential customers to abandon sales at the first sign of a long queue or a difficult purchase process and, if a business's approach is not first-rate, it is not hard for consumers to search for a competitor whose is.
Oktoberfest is one of a kind, attracting customers - even those who are not necessarily beer enthusiasts - from all over the world to partake in the traditions and the experience. Other (more recent) brands cannot rely on the prestige and heritage that Oktoberfest enjoys, nor should they. However, with pop-ups and street festivals 'on trend' right now, brands have an opportunity to use digital technology to improve the customer experience, drive loyalty to ensure consumers come back for repeat visits and ensure that brand engagement continues, even after the festival has finished - and in preparation for the next one. In order to maintain seamless contact and ongoing contact with customers, it is essential for brands today to apply next generation technology to their own customer experience.