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Embracing experiential marketing is key to reaching today’s consumer

As consumers spend less time shopping in-store, experiential marketing is emerging as a powerful way to influence purchase decisions and create consumer loyalty.

7 min read


Embracing experiential marketing is key to reaching today’s consumer

(Image: Pixabay)

This post is sponsored by Acosta.

Changing shopper habits and unpredictable paths to purchase are creating new challenges for manufacturers and retailers when it comes to getting their products in front of consumers. Engaging with shoppers is essential, but brands must get creative to reach consumers where they are as they spend less time shopping in brick-and-mortar retail locations. In this Q&A, Lee Esmond, vice president of experiential and retail marketing at Acosta’s marketing division, Mosaic, discusses why engagement-focused marketing is key to reaching consumers, the role that social media plays and how Mosaic develops and implements branded experiences that drive sales for Acosta and Mosaic clients.


Advances in technology and shifts in the way consumers shop have caused a major shift in marketing. Why is an experiential- or engagement-focused approach so important to marketing to today’s consumer?

Today’s shopper has more options, channels and avenues to purchase than ever – i.e. power at her fingertips via her smartphone. She can purchase anytime, anywhere, meaning she is always a shopper. Engagement is the new center of the marketing Venn diagram. If you aren’t starting with how to engage shoppers and branching out from there, you are missing how the current marketplace and future marketplace works. Mosaic starts at engagement and moves out, understanding that we must focus on engaging with her where, when and how she wants – which is no longer exclusively inside the four walls of a retailer. Starting with engagement allows us to influence her purchase decision and unlock her purchase power much sooner and in more creative, sticky ways to create loyalty, conversion and relevancy. However, when we do activate in-store, our partnership with our parent company Acosta ensures we have the shelf, replenishment and incremental display component covered, thereby increasing the ROI and success of the program. Ensuring that we always have the shelf and the shopper covered is key to our unique approach to retail.

Why do current shopping habits make it harder than ever to get new products in front of shoppers? What types of experiences can marketers create to drive brand awareness and get new products in front of consumers? 

I think one of the most challenging jobs in marketing right now is being a brand manager for a traditional brand/category who is in charge of launching a new product. I haven’t bought dish soap in a store in 36 months. I have it marked as a favorite in my online basket and with auto-replenishment it automatically shows up on my porch every five weeks. Same goes for toothpaste, dog food, laundry detergent et al.  On top of that, I do 98% of my weekly shop via online grocery pick-up, so I rarely walk into a store. 

It is because of this addition to the marketplace that driving a 1:1 engagement and sampling solution outside the store is vital. This could be at a festival – similar to the work we’ve done with Nestle Fit Kitchen in a partnership with Tough Mudder, creating a sampling occasion targeted at the brand segmentation in an environment they are passionate about. Or the Starbucks mobile tour we are currently planning for the second year during the fall and holiday season designed to inspire and influence shoppers as they enter the store with relevant entertaining coffee solutions during this key buying season. It doesn’t have to be complicated to be impactful and effective.

What role does social media play in engagement marketing?

Doing an engagement marketing campaign without social media reminds me of the saying, “If a tree falls in the forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?” Social media is a MUST when running engagement marketing.

As engagement marketing continues to grow, the need for social becomes more important. Social allows consumers to engage with the experience and the brand – from Instagrammable moments and story takeovers to paid amplification. An added bonus to social is that consumers who are not able to attend an event can feel as if they were there and can connect with a brand in a truly authentic way.

A best-in-class example is an event that was created in partnership with Sephora and Mosaic – Sephoria. Sephoria checked off all the best practices when blending social media and engagement marketing. They promoted their event on key social channels, partnered with celebrity Chrissy Teigen and beauty influencers to create content before, during and after the event, and ultimately captured content throughout the event to continue to use throughout the entire year. Consumers who were not able to attend the event could watch live-stream tutorials, engage with influencers and experience the event in real-time via their social channels.

How can marketers create digital experiences that empower brands to connect with consumers?

In today’s world everything is a digital experience – we are living in a world where digital and the real world exist in tandem. You can see this through the number of people that walk by you or bump into you daily with their heads directed down at their phones. At Mosaic we focus on leveraging digital experiences to extend onsite experiences. We do this through amortizing the cost of our events through content. We ensure that the experience we are creating tells a story. We capture the event and through editing create multiple pieces of content that can be used on social, in earned media, for PR and in-store.  Therefore, we are connecting consumers with a brand long after the event is over.  

Mosaic hosted a Women in Events panel discussion at this year’s Experiential Marketing Summit. What insights can you share from the event?

The biggest insight is that we have some incredible women in our industry! Under Armour’s Head of Global Events Beth Malafa, ABC’s Executive Director-Strategic Partnerships & Events Laura Lovas and Nicola Kastner, SAP’s head of global event strategy, were just a few of the inspiring women on the panel.

What I really appreciated was the candor and transparency these women demonstrated when sharing the struggles and challenges they have had in their careers as well as the successes and the sharing of tips and tricks. There were so many head nods and laughter and “ahas” – you could see the energy of unity in the air as they shared their stories.  One thing that I always relish about working with women is the vulnerability and encouragement that is shared among peers. We all shine brighter when we all shine. I am excited to attend more of these panels throughout the year and applaud Event Marketer for championing women and encouraging collaboration as we grow the industry together. 

Lee Esmond is the vice president of experiential and retail marketing at Mosaic, the marketing division of Acosta. She joined Mosaic in 2012 and she now partners to lead the accomplished XM Client Service Team with a presence across the US. Her career achievements include award winning programs and teams, recognized by both the Effie and Reggie Awards, as well as Gold, Silver and Bronze Ex Awards from Event Marketer and a Progressive Grocer 2019 Top Women in Grocery Senior Executive Award.


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