The cautious generation: How brands can make events worthwhile for Gen Z post-Covid

This article was first published on WARC, written by Carina FilekGlobal Chief Operations Officer of Elevate 

Across the world, we’ve seen regions are opening up, as vaccination efforts kick in and people feel safer going out and about. In the UK, the vast majority of restrictions have been lifted and it is finally possible to hold and attend mass-scale events or experiences. This is especially exciting for those of us in the events industry because it means that brands can finally run events in a near-normal manner here, albeit with additional health and safety measures.

Although this might be exciting for brands looking to reconnect with their customers in a face-to-face setting, we have to consider the fact that many people are still very cautious about going out. Today, therefore, the main consideration for any event organiser is to ensure consumers both enjoy and feel safe while attending brand experiences. It’s this crucial element that needs to be executed by those on the front line: the event staff.

At Elevate, we conducted research via Censuswide, with over 4,000 consumers across the UK, USA, France and Germany, to understand their expectations for and attitudes to events and risk.

We found that respondents from the UK were generally keen to get back to normal life when it came to attending events. More than a third of Brits stated that the size of an outdoor event would have no effect on their attendance. However, in a surprise result, Gen Z have emerged as more nervous across the board around events – with just 29% of this younger generation comfortable with any sized outdoor event.

For indoor events, there was a near-even split between those with no worries about the size and those worried about even the smallest-scale events. Millennials were the most enthusiastic about attending indoor events with 37% happy to go to any size event. Once again Gen Z were more cautious than expected, showing the most reluctance of all age groups. In fact, whilst 37% of millennials will go to any size indoor event, 79% of Gen Z reported some degree of restraint depending on an event’s scale.

This unexpected insight gives brands an opportunity to re-evaluate how to attract Gen Z back to in-person events, as it is clear that this demographic needs reassurance when it comes to health and safety at events. In fact, 30% of Gen Z expressed concern over the vaccination status of staff and attendees at events, tying with the oldest age group in their worry.

Indications of how to allay the fears of Gen Z can be found in the research. The cohort will consider paying for extra safety measures at events, with 79% of 16- to 24-year-olds happy to pay more compared to just 47% of over 55s. For these younger age groups, separate seating (48%) was the most popular additional expense. In contrast, over half (53%) of over 55s would not pay more for enhanced safety measures.

All age groups seem to be most worried about close face-to-face interactions at events – with Gen Z at 39%, millennials at 52%, and over 45s at 62%. Meanwhile, over 55s seem to be more worried about queueing at events than any generation.

The role of staff at events was also a key highlight of the research. Thirty-six percent of Gen Z and over 35s believe that it is important for staff to have in-depth knowledge of the event space, while 55% of over 55s believe that it is the staff’s responsibility to check attendees for COVID compliance measures. Forty-nine percent of over 55s also believe that it is the role of the staff to ensure social distancing is being followed, in comparison to 39% of Gen Z.

Executing the very best event or experience requires understanding what your audience wants from it. The appetite to ‘get out there’ is clearly present but there are also concerns. When creating events targeted at Gen Z for example, it might be intuitive to assume they would be more relaxed about COVID security measures. However, our research shows this conscientious generation extends their concern to COVID risks.

Brands should consider the opportunity to upsell, given the huge appetite even among Gen Z to pay for enhanced safety measures. It’s also clear that Gen Z, and every generation, have big expectations around the role of staff at an event. Not only do they want service with a smile, but they also want to feel they are in safe, capable hands when there on the day. And most importantly brands must not forget that although box-ticking is important, it’s the emotional and human core that people want from an experience: if they can make it worthwhile, consumers will flock in droves.

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