Jeroen van GlabbeekJeroen van GlabbeekSeptember 23, 2019


Recent studies have found that over a third of the UK’s population have attended a festival since 2016, proving there’s always a fanbase ready to trade home comforts for a weekend of music, food, and drink in a field.

Yet while the demand from music-lovers continues to grow and organisers remain eager to meet these demands, it’s surprising that the outreach and sales process is still rather old-fashioned.

Festivals are big business, but margins are getting squeezed all the time. Glastonbury is the UK’s largest festival with a turnover of £37 million, but this only translates into profits of £86,000 – under 50p a ticket.

When looking forward to 2020 planning, event organisers should be looking for new opportunities to ensure they remain relevant and profitable.

With today’s technological solutions, event managers are not only able to get to know their customers better but also deliver the best, most satisfying fan experience possible through ‘conversational commerce’. When fans are having a good time they’re more likely to spend at festivals and continue to return for years to come. By rethinking how to approach and interact with fans directly – through bypassing costly and rather generic display social media ads and simplifying how payments are  processed before, during and even after the festivities – organisers can achieve the ultimate fan experience.

The personal touch

Festivals are renowned for retaining loyal fanbases, with festival-goers opting to return to the same festival year after year for a guaranteed good time. However, with so much choice on offer, it’s proving increasingly difficult to ensure that your event remains top of mind when sales open for 2020 festival season. How you approach fans in the build-up is critical to whether they chose your event or a competitor’s.   

Fortunately, by utilising the previously unused data collected the first-time round, you can create highly personalised and relevant content for the future. The true value of data is how it helps you get to know your customers on a personal level; what artists did they favourite on your festival app last year, and what drinks did they order? By collecting all of this data in a Customer Data Platform (CDP), it can help to determine which fans are the most likely to become frequent attendees for your upcoming events. Useful data – such as contact details, which tickets they bought and when – can be put to good use in building a loyal, recurrent fanbase.

Every customer is unique and so it makes sense that the way they like to be approached differs drastically. By using each customer’s unique data from the CDP, the fan’s preferred messaging channel established, and be used as the default route for engagement. Nowadays generic emails will likely end up deleted or in a customer’s junk folder, but by proactively approaching the fan on the messaging channel of their choice, that is tailored to the customer, you greatly increase the chance for engagement and conversion. 

As the smartphone grows in importance as a basis for ticketing and customer engagement, channels like SMS – that still enjoy a 98 percent open rate – will remain important, but festival organisers also need to think of the future. There is a growing trend of a move towards Rich Communications Services (RCS), Apple Business Chat and Over-The-Top (OTT) messaging services like WhatsApp as customers seek greater convenience and the ability to transmit in-call media.

By catering to these rising services, organisers are futureproofing communication and engagement with customers by talking to them on their preferred platforms and ensuring that all personal data is collected, used and stored in GDPR-compliant manner. 

Far too many event organisers make the mistake of completing their ticket sales and then dropping any form of customer engagement in the weeks and, sometimes, months between the point-of-sale and the festival kick-off. This period of time is an invaluable opportunity to build excitement in the fan leading up to the event.

Between the ticket sale and festival date, more information becomes known as bands are confirmed and merchandising and supplier deals are signed. Proactively communicating these updates via the customer’s messaging channel of choice will build their excitement for the event and help them plan their time for maximum enjoyment. What’s more, informing them of special deals and merchandise ahead of time will only maximise revenue opportunities once they get there. 

Fan club: Keeping fans informed on events can be done via their chosen channel

Taking the stress out of payments

During the build-up to ticket release, most festivals will release teasers a few weeks prior and a couple of reminders a few days before. For the most popular festivals, hardcore fans will often queue up online hours before the ticket sales page comes online, constantly refreshing in the hope of getting ahead in the virtual queue.

This is an unfair and unnecessarily stressful process for the customer. The person with the fastest processor on their machine almost always gets their ticket first. As a result, the customers experiencing frequent disappointment, are left dissatisfied with the festival, increasing the likelihood of them giving up on ever trying to go again.

Fortunately, there are many ways to overcome these pitfalls. Once you have proactively reached out to festival fans, you can offer a preregistration by asking them how many tickets he or she wishes to receive and what kind. This way a fair drawing can be organised where everyone who preregistered gets the first opportunity to reserve tickets and a notification telling them whether they were successful. Additionally, new fan profiles can be created and added to the existing ones on the festival organisers customer data platform – all enriched and updated in real time based on customer preferences and purchase history, allowing for highly personalised engagement.

Fans will then receive a payment link on the same messaging channel they were first contacted on – or a different one based on their preference. You can set the system up so that if they don’t pay within a set amount of time the tickets are offered to another preregistered fan. Once payment is complete, the tickets can be sent directly to the customer or made accessible through a festival app or an OTT app of their choice. Organised and efficient solutions such as these are already being deployed by the likes of Formula 1.

The same app-based approach can be applied to customer payment solutions during and even after the event. By linking their account to the festival app, a customer can open a festival ‘tab’ to order refreshments and merchandise in-app, enjoy the festival experience and settle the bill automatically after the festivities are over.

This means no more standing in line to order, losing cash or having to shout over the music for a bartender’s attention. All fans need to do is show the QR-code automatically generated after making their order. As a result, fans have more time to enjoy their festival experience without the hassle of payments. This solution was pioneered by the organisers of Lowlands Festival in the Netherlands this year.

When payments is an effortless part of the fan’s festival experience, you’ve achieved true conversational commerce. When you cater to all communication channels and ensure payments processes are embedded in each, the customer can contact and do business with you the way they want. They have both the optimal Customer Experience and the incentive to come back to you again and again. 

The new communication age

Personalised contact and conversational commerce are only the first step. If you want to understand your audience to their core, imagine all the other platforms your audience use and link them to their festival account. With the consent and approval of the fans, all relevant social media accounts could be linked to a single customer data platform. This way, you could analyse their favourite artists and make relevant suggestions to the customer in real time, such as which stage to visit and when to get the best views.

In order to deliver this next level communication experience, event organisers need one platform that ticks all the boxes – from data collection to messaging and processing payments. With the right tools and data infrastructure, however, the truly customised fan experience of the future is there for the taking.

Alan PerksAlan PerksSeptember 23, 2019


In an age of digital disruption, creating powerful experiences has never been more important.

Marketers know this – 84 percent of Vice President and C-Suite level executives believe in-person events are a critical component of their company’s success.

Designing with a human focus should be at the core of any experience marketing and brand activation. By layering insight with human behaviour, rather than focusing solely on product alone, brands can create authentic and intuitive experiences that ease their audience into embracing new technologies.

Here are some of the most important experience marketing lessons we’ve learned over the last 21 years of producing Cisco Live events worldwide, the tech provider’s education, advocacy, and sales event for Network Engineers, IT Managers, CIO’s, customers, prospects, and industry influencers. Each element plays a key role in ensuring brands craft experiences with a human focus.

Stay fresh

As with any annual conference, where you see repeat attendees year after year, ensuring the Cisco Live experience feels new and relevant every year is always a top priority.

The theme for 2019, Imagine Intuitive, was based on Cisco’s brand campaign, The Network. Intuitive. We began with the floor planning and layout, taking into account what worked from the year before and adding new spaces to further improve the ease with which delegates navigate and explore the event.

Next, we refreshed the creative. Every year we have a new campaign and creative playbook as the primary source of inspiration, thanks to Cisco. This year, we brought the Imagine Intuitive message and visual identity to life by translating the strategic insights around the proposition into a series of major physical interventions in the experiential environment.

All of these identity landmarks throughout the 75,000 sqm of Cisco Live were created to enable wayfinding and locations for interaction, networking and learning. Each individually remarkable, the installations followed our developed design principles to provide a consistent and coherent brand experience.

Be customer-centric

The refreshed creative drew delegate attention to new opportunities, reflecting the changing needs of the event whilst providing a lively yet effective context to the client content.

At Cisco Live 2019, we also enhanced the presentation experience for speakers by creating a text message alert system that allowed them to book bespoke appointments with presentation designers. From crafting the look and feel of the deck to working on overall creative direction, every possible effort was made to enhance their experience of the event.

To make our speakers feel welcome, we also created an enhanced catering service and airport style lounge where speakers could relax, rehearse and connect with other attendees. It’s important to keep both attendee and participant needs front of mind.

Engage multiple senses

Designing with a human focus means engaging all five senses. The beauty of live experiences means you have a unique opportunity to tap into human behaviour and emotion.

For Cisco Live, we reinvented the look, feel, layout and content in order to create something visually and sensually striking. This ensured we could capture attendees’ attention and constantly provide new elements of surprise and delight.

The pinnacle of this strategy came to life in Cisco’s ‘Playground’, a vibrant interactive space that harnessed the power of imagination to help visitors solve problems and learn.

Games and challenges can help bring ideas to life in a very human way. The Cisco and Domino’s Pizza challenge is prime example. In this tactile experience, we showcased how Cisco supports Domino’s digital transformation and ensures customer needs are always met by asking visitors to match Cisco services to their correct functions in the fastest time possible. By creating a challenge that needs to be solved, you can drive brand recall and generate stronger memories among attendees.

Integrate technology

While physical experiences tap into an entirely different world of emotion and engagement, brands shouldn’t be afraid to leverage the capabilities of modern technology at the same time. Let’s face it, designing with a human focus in 2019 means brands must account for both. Today’s customers are using technology day-in-and-day-out in countless ways, including in order to engage with them, therefore brands inevitably need to integrate tech into live experiences.

As a tech brand Cisco understands this better than most. For Cisco Live this year we created a virtual reality (VR) experience that enabled thousands of attendees to go on a captivating journey across the Golden Gate Bridge, the icon at the heart of the Cisco logo. As guests travelled across the bridge, the letters I-M-A-G-I-N-E converged, with a view to inspiring them to make the most out of their week at Cisco Live.

As digital sits at the heart of Cisco’s brand, our digital team prototyped and created an activation that showcased the power of Cisco’s facial recognition technology. To really draw the human element out, we created a mural of participants’ photos  to make the experience more personalised and bespoke to this year’s attendees.

Blend social and physical

The omnipresence of social media in today’s world means that you must account for shifting customer behaviours across channels when designing experiences with a human focus.

At Cisco Live 2019, we used social media to attract delegates and showcase all the elements to the event’s followers. This meant users could explore the event and engage with our range of activities and Cisco experts.

On-site, we created a sense of FOMO by sharing behind the scenes footage of the build as well as the different activations. In these ways we were able to bring together the physical and digital worlds of the event in a variety of engaging ways for both attendees and wider audiences.

Make a difference

Today’s consumers are increasingly discerning about where they spend their money, and most would prefer to work with or buy from brands that show ethical and moral sensibilities. But you don’t have to be a non-profit or a charity to make a difference.

Cisco takes its CSR seriously, and where possible likes to engage with communities local to where it’s operating. That’s why we asked attendees to help us customise 150 skateboards, creating an installation during the event to promote three local children’s charities in Barcelona. The skateboards were donated to the charities post-event, to be used by children to connect with others and learn new skills.

This element allowed attendees to directly participate in a fun activity that had a positive impact on the local community. We had to ramp it up on site as engagement levels were so high.

Creating powerful experiences requires designing with a human focus; as these lessons show there are countless ways to take that approach in your own activations.

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