The Experience Economy in a (post) Pandemic World
By Michael in Good To Know
Before Covid began, there was a distinct trend of experiences over material items. Movie theaters and arcades had been around forever, but we began to see what seemed like an endless array of activities: escape rooms, ax throwing, virtual reality, Lego playgrounds, karaoke, DIY workshops, paint-and-sip, the list goes on.
You may have read about this trend and what some of the key considerations are in opening and running an experiential business. Most of the advantages and challenges pre-pandemic still hold true today. Of course there are some new things to consider as we get to the other side of the pandemic, or deal with Covid as endemic in the short or long term.
As people were shut in for months on end, there was a reversal of the experiential trend, as most experiences were shut down. Everyone went online and had ‘things’ sent to their home, or watched NetFlix or played Fortnight from their couch. Well, times change quickly…and then they change yet again. NetFlix stock dropped 30% in two days recently when subscriber growth slowed considerably and Roblox is down over 50% from it’s high just 3 months ago. People want to get out again as they make up for lost time with friends and family.
The original local ‘experience’ was movies. But the movie industry may never recover from the pandemic as home streaming and a general unease with crowds makes the frequent movie visit near extinct. So what will thrive going forward? The local experiences that have the best chance for success will be smaller group settings where you know who you are with and can have a more private setting. This gives the customer a greater feeling of control over the environment, including the people and the specifics of the experience. Let’s talk about what is now valued above just a great activity.
People want their own space. Sharing a space with a bunch of strangers just isn’t as appealing as it once was. When Escape Rooms first started, it was not uncommon to get thrown in with others to solve the puzzle. That has disappeared and now you will always get your own room to escape from, regardless of your group size.
Karaoke in Asia has always been dominated by Box-style vs. the US-style of the bar environment. This private room approach now fits better in a post pandemic world. Look for more and more private room concepts either within bars or on their own here in the US. Paint-and-sip concepts are also moving more to the private party option vs. open engagement. If there are groups mixed together, they at least need to have plenty of room to spread out. Some experiences like trampoline parks and other similar indoor activities can adjust their space into stations that groups can move between rather than all being inter-mixed.
Cleaning between groups was always a recommended way of doing business, but now everyone is attuned to the importance of ongoing and more deep cleaning. Do you have HEPA filters or other air purification? Is everything wiped down frequently? In some cases you may want to use UV lights. Of course supplying wipes and hand sanitizer is a must. And just as important as doing these things is to communicate to the customer that all these actions are taking place.
Families want to get out together, but so do friends, whether adults or kids. DIY Workshops can be flexed within a group to appeal to multiple generations, interests and skills. Escape Rooms may work for a variety of skill levels even within the same room. And karaoke with a large song selection can appeal to all ages and different musical tastes. The broader the appeal, the more likely you can have longer experiences for which people will pay even more.
Customer In Control
Personalization is no longer a trendy buzzword, but giving the customer the ability to adjust the experience for their group is more important than ever. The beauty of private room karaoke, is that you can control ALL the songs played, and don’t have to listen to random songs and singing from people you don’t know as you would in the bar setting. Color schemes for events should have lots of flexibility for those customers with specific images of how they want their event to look. LED lighting makes this so much easier these days once you have them set up.
Advantages over Home
There must be a good reason for people to come out vs. just doing the stay-home version. Watching a movie at home with the family may have finally reached the point of superseding going to the movies after many false starts before (remember Beta/VHS, then DVDs – both failed to kill the theaters), but other experiences still have a lot to offer outside the home. Some places might focus on providing a luxurious feel as they preach the advantages of pre- and post-event services. Also important to remind at-home planners is they need to clean their houses before and after hosting an event…who likes that?
After lots of economic stimulus and with limited ways for some to spend their money the past two years, people are ready to get back out again. Now is a great time to add more experiences to your business and expand your customer base. All of the above areas can be covered with the right approach. Make sure your venue has the right stuff!
Coming soon, how to partner with the right providers to grow your business while lowering your risk!