How Retailers Are Engaging the Experience Driven Consumer

Posted by Jocelyn Schoolsky on May 9, 2018 10:52:16 PM
Jocelyn Schoolsky

As I sit down to write this post, Coachella has just come to a close. It’s safe to say that one weekend at Coachella can easily set you back $2-$3k, maybe even more. Yet rising ticket prices and area lodging averaging ~140% higher than any other peak time haven’t curbed attendance at all. In fact, Goldenvoice, the group that operates Coachella, added forty acres to this year’s festival site, allowing attendance to skyrocket from 99,000 to 125,000.

The bottom line is that experience and event spending habits that were once reserved for the wealthy have become commonplace amongst Millennials and Gen Zer’s alike. Plus, with continuing consolidation in retail, it’s not a big stretch to infer that discretionary income once used for aspirational tangible goods has shifted to aspirational experiences.

Forever 21 Festival Shop

Some savvy retailers have found new success by aligning with these spending habits and joining forces with large-scale events and festivals, keeping them at the forefront of retail innovation.


Festivals like Coachella, Stagecoach and Bonnaroo have become an ideal way for fashion brands to connect with both Millennial and Gen Z consumers. In fact, more than 100+ well-known retailers and brands have created and marketed some type of “Festival Shop” on their eCommerce sites. In addition to these curated shops, brands like Dior, Urban Decay, House of Harlow, Forever 21, Revolve, Levi’s, Puma and Lucky Brand also spent tremendous marketing dollars on events and influencer parties.  

Some of our favorite Festival Shops:

Forbes reports that Coachella and, more broadly, festivals have become the new fashion week for Millennials. Revolve’s CEO, Michael Mente said, “We’re targeting Millennials seeking an elevated product and an aspirational lifestyle.” The billion-dollar privately-owned retailer attributes their massive success to its network of influencers and marketing tactics at events like Coachella. In addition to festivals, Revolve has also become the leader in satisfying the younger generation of experience-driven consumers. Between strong ties to influencers and experiential marketing strategies like ‘Revolve Around the World,’ ‘Revolve in the Hamptons’ and a highly successful pop-up shop, the pure play retailer reportedly generated 4.4 billion social impressions in 2017 alone.

Revolve Clothing Festival Shop

Aside from Coachella, other large festivals and events like SXSW, Governors Ball, Stagecoach and Beautycon have also seen an increase in marketing spend from retailers and brands alike. When brands sponsor events, the event will heavily market the brand through email, Instagram, Facebook and Snapchat. In addition to the social media route, we’re also seeing retailers run contests that are built around such festivals. Just last month, retailer Boot Barn raffled off a pair of 3-day passes to Stagecoach at its Temecula store – a great way to encourage additional foot traffic. In fact, Nielsen’s Music 360 Report states that 49% of American consumers would view a company more favorably if it offered a free giveaway for a music event. This year, brands like Estee Lauder, Maui Jim, True Religion and Williams Sonoma are all main sponsors of the Stagecoach music festival. Not only is sponsorship great for brand recognition and loyalty, but it’s also an innovative approach to interacting with customers in a non-traditional environment. As for sold out Beautycon, the remarkable talent line-up and sponsor list alone tend to sell the festival. Its guest speakers have utilized social media channels to promote ticket sales, meet and greets and free beauty products. Choosing the right public figures and influencers is paramount. 

Tillys Festival Shop

In a study conducted by AEG and Momentum Worldwide, 93% of respondents stated that they like brands that sponsor live events, and 8 in 10 admitted that a live music event is the best way to reach them. Additionally, when comparing festivalgoers to others surveyed, the results were shockingly clear. A whopping 83% of event attendees leave with a greater trust for the brands that sponsored the event and 80% buy a product from one of the sponsoring brands.

Featured Shops

If you’re reading this and saying, ‘sure it would be nice to sponsor a festival or throw our own six-figure Coachella party, but we just don’t have the budget’ – not to worry, we’ve got you covered. Whether your customer is going on vacation, getting married or prepping for a festival, shoppers are always seeking guidance and a unique customer experience when spending for their adventures and exciting life events. Featured Shops (also known as “Trend”), beautiful imagery and leveraging key influencers are three things to keep in mind when positioning your products. Featured Shops are an excellent way to market your products because it saves your customer time and offers inspiration retailers have typically only been able to offer in-store. Brands like Tillys have Featured Shops including Festival, Tropical, Shades of Spring, Retro Sport, Florals and more. Revolve services a slightly different consumer but also has Featured Shops which include Festival, Wedding and Collections. Both retailers have created these curated trend shops to best identify with the needs and wants of their target demographic.


Influencer marketing has also become an essential part of marketing at festivals. When it comes to influencers, as a Millennial, I tend to identify with my peers more than an airbrushed model on a website or even a Hollywood celebrity. As I’ve stated in the past, a very large percentage of everything I buy is influenced by public figures like Olivia Culpo, Marianna Hewitt and Cara Van Brocklin. Coincidentally, almost 80% of the influencers I follow either attended Coachella or will be attending Beautycon. After all, Coachella is said to be the unofficial kickoff to summer fashion. And while a large percentage of us are unable to attend the festival, avid fashion watchers like myself rely on Instagram and hashtags to peep the newest trends and take cues from our favorite bloggers and brands. If you are a retailer and have a strong digital content strategy, not only will you reach the thousands of people who came to your event, but also the thousands of both new and existing customers who follow the influencers who came to the event.

The Business Impact

Brand spend in the festival space is significant and consistent, with brands spending $878M in North America in 2016. While festival related activations can be hard to evaluate, success is often measured by:

  1. Social Media Visibility and Engagement
  2. Photography and Video Content
  3. The number of attendees that sample your products 

For example, Revolve’s hashtag #REVOLVEfestival was used 20,686 times. Among the 20,000+ shares on Instagram, I totaled more than 30 prominent influencers (see list below) in the first 300 posts with a total combined following of approximately 72 Million people. H&M also saw major usage of their festival hashtag with over 11,000 shares of #hmlovescoachella


Highly successful influencers who tagged #REVOLVEfestival:


While social visibility is extremely important, here are some other important stats to consider:             

  • Roughly 32 million people attend at least one U.S. musical festival a year, with almost half between ages 18 and 34.
  • 80% of Coachella attendees purchase something to prepare for the festival.
  • 55% of festivalgoers say they are more likely to purchase a product from a brand they’ve encountered at a festival.
  • A study conducted by Momentum Worldwide found that 93% of festivalgoers regard sponsoring brands positively, and 80% feel they are more likely to recommend a brand on social media after seeing it at a festival.

Whether you’re a startup sneaker brand or multi-billion-dollar retailer, it’s important to remember that consumer behaviors have and always will continue to evolve. Regardless of industry, the most successful brands have always evolved with their customers. Consumer desire for fashion is tremendous and social media has made keeping up with trends more important than ever. Buyers are demanding that you come to them, and technology has made this easier than ever. The brands that will grow and prosper in this new landscape are those that will not only embrace these trends, but make them inherent to their DNA.

Topics: Retail Industry Research, Omnichannel Retail

About GPShopper

GPShopper is a mobile commerce platform and app developer for retailers, using technology to transform the total retail experience.  GPShopper is a Synchrony solution. 
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