Consumers are now more willing to share their data, so what can organisers do to make their event experience better? Caroline McGuckian, CEO of Meshh, talks customer satisfaction, data collection, and err, carrots…

As the live events industry emerges from the carnage wreaked by the pandemic, let’s not sugar coat things, it was a terrible time for everyone whose businesses orientated towards live. We now need to be aware that as far as the public and collecting personal data is concerned, there is a “new normal” and we cannot revert back.

So, let’s unpack that statement. Before the pandemic, we had a population partially tuned in to how data is collected, stored, and used – the rest remained unaware or disengaged with the process. Something this quote from a Which? survey, prior to the introduction of GDPR in May 2018 highlights: “Data-dependent technology has become fully integrated into society and has a transformative effect on people’s lives. However, whilst technology is at the forefront of people’s minds, consumer data is not”. Data awareness was dependent upon several factors but largely it was of less importance to consumers.

Enter COVID-19 and the need for the public to participate in the mass sharing of data for the greater good. Suddenly, more people became aware of data collection because we were interacting with various apps and systems daily – checking in and out of buildings, logging, and reporting test results. Data collection and reporting was seldom out of the media spotlight. We became accustomed to sharing data and using QR codes through the NHS app because there was a societal need. The pandemic provided validation because we could see a clear and obvious benefit. This triggered a greater degree of awareness and interest in who was collecting data, why, and what they could do with it as the implications moved up the consumers’ agenda.

Before the pandemic, brands collected data for their own purposes: To better understand consumer behaviour, to look for market trends and to identify potential customers to market their products and services. The benefit sat almost entirely with the brands. It could be argued that the consumer benefitted from access to targeted products, but it was the brands that had the advantage.

Post-pandemic, we have a more tech and data-savvy public. We also have a public that, for the moment, remains willing to share their data if there is an obvious benefit. Let’s be clear, no one ever woke up in the morning and thought, “I need to share my data with someone so they can send me more marketing bumf!” Whatever the benefit may be, it needs to be an enhanced experience for the consumer. This means that when we are collecting data, passively or actively, personalised, or anonymous, we must be clear that the result will be a better experience for the individual/consumer involved.

But what does that mean for the live events industry in 2022 and beyond? It means that we need to be completely honest and open with consumers about why we are collecting their data and, most importantly, we need to clearly demonstrate the benefit of sharing that information as an improvement to their experience. We need to find a new and relevant “greater good”. It could be something as simple as the easing of the flow of an audience by measuring crowd dynamics, delaying the start of sessions until people have gained entry, increasing staffing to reduce queues at concessions, anything that improves the experience of the individual. With improved experience comes improved satisfaction and that can have a positive effect on behaviours such as participation, spending, engagement with sponsors and the list rolls on.

We must not forget the lessons learned and build data collection using carrots not sticks, putting an end to “no tick, no get”, and by using good quality carrots. And by carrots, I mean experiences.