5 Consumer Trends Having an Impact on Business Events

A recent survey of 25,000 consumers in 22 countries by professional services company Accenture reveals that the pandemic has caused consumers to reevaluate how and what they buy. Here’s what that means for events.

Author: Michelle Russell       

CL22 registration desk

Changing consumer buying habits will affect business events in myriad ways, including attendee expectations for both in-person and digital events. (Jacob Slaton Photography)

Accenture starts its recent Insights report with a dramatic statement: “The pandemic compelled consumers — en masse — to shift their expectations more rapidly and completely than we’ve seen at any other time in history [italics added]. People looked inward, elevating concepts of relationships and responsibility and re-evaluating their priorities.”

Those are not sweeping assumptions made by the Ireland-based multinational professional services and IT company in its report, “Life Reimagined: Mapping the Motivations that Matter for Today’s Consumers.” They are based on the responses of 25,000 consumers from around the world who participated in Accenture’s survey as well as feedback from additional follow-up focus groups the company convened in five countries.

Half of consumers said the pandemic caused them to rethink their personal purpose and re-evaluate what’s important to them and one-third said they are in the process of changing their mindset. Forty-two percent said it has made them realize that they need to focus on others more than themselves.

Accenture calls these “Reimagined” consumers and found that they are changing their buying habits across 14 industries. Nearly three-quarters of the Reimagined consumers said they expect companies they are doing business with to understand and address how their needs and objectives have changed during this time of disruption — and half said that many companies have disappointed them by not providing enough support or understanding their needs.

Among the Reimagined, 66 percent said they expect brands to take more responsibility in motivating them to live by their values and to make them feel more relevant in the world. Accenture identified five purchasing motivations that map to consumers’ desire to feel better and have greater confidence in the products, services, and companies they patronize.

How does this relate to business events?

When you consider that consumers are potential participants and the decision to attend an event is akin to purchasing a product or service, you can view the five motivations identified by Accenture through the lens of a potential — let’s say Reimagined — registrant:

Health and safety — Consumers are asking: Are you keeping me and my neighbors safe? What about your employees?

For in-person events, that means making safety protocols a priority and enforcing best practices such as social distancing, vaccine mandates, negative COVID testing, and masking to ensure you are doing everything possible on site to avoid spread of the virus.

Service and personal care — Do you remember me? Are you making my experience with your brand as personal as it can be? Are you there for me when I need you?

Are your communications with potential attendees for events across platforms customized? Do they sound like they come from a human and convey empathy and interest?

Ease and convenience — Are you meeting me where I am, in the digital world, the physical world, and through a blend of the two? And are you able to deliver what I need, when I need it across all channels?

This has obvious relevance for organizations seeking to create a community around their events. Even when COVID recedes, there will be attendees who want to learn and connect digitally — and not just once a year, but throughout the year. Are you offering such digital and hybrid events and year-round engagement experiences?

Product origin — What about the environment, and societal and corporate responsibility? Can you help me make sustainable choices? Can you help me support my local community?

Does your physical event bake sustainability into its design? Do you address your carbon footprint? Do you recycle and mitigate or eliminate food waste and other material waste? Do you offer CSR activities that give back to the host destination?

In recent articles in Chemistry World and other publications, scientists have shared how the pandemic has made them re-evaluate whether traveling to attend events from a sustainability perspective is justifiable. How are you acknowledging and addressing those concerns?

In terms of societal responsibility, a recent Business Travel News Europe (BTNE) article highlighted that “a small but influential segment of travel managers” is putting companies that prioritize social good at the top of their preferred supplier lists. Siemens UK travel commodity manager Emma Eaton is among a growing number of travel and meetings managers who are buying “social,” which Eaton told BTNE describes “the opportunity for corporates to use their purchasing power to do good. Instead of just using our purchasing volume through traditional routes, it’s looking at buying from the many wonderful organizations which exist to improve the lives of people who may need help.”

Trust and reputation — Can I trust you to do the right thing for me and not just for your business? Can I trust you to be who you say you are and stand for the things you say you stand for?

Digital and in-person events showcase what your organization prioritizes in myriad ways. Do your events embody your principles and mission statement? After a pause on in-person events, as much as many of your attendees will be happy to reunite face to face, they will likely be looking for you to write a fresh page in the event playbook, and to help them connect the event to a larger purpose.

Customers have never been more open to embracing new experiences, Accenture says. Now is the time to experiment.

Michelle Russell is editor in chief of Convene.