Impact of Covid-19 on Experiences and how Virgin Experience Days Crafted a new Category

By Ellie Blumenthal - Partnership Manager & Innovation Lead, Virgin Experience Days

Pre Covid-19 the experiences industry relied on consumers going out and about, spending their time and money in public places trying new adventures and different experiences. However, this all changed earlier in the year as the pandemic had an immediate impact on culture and leisure providers as all venues ceased to operate and consumers restricted to their homes.

As the nation went into a lockdown and people started to spend more time at home, consumers were running out of new ways of keeping themselves and their families entertained, on a much tighter budget than before.

Virgin Experience Days recognised a gap in the marketplace and reacted to Covid-19 by developing and innovating a completely new “at-home” experience category for consumers to enjoy in the comforts of their homes. The Partnerships team and I worked to launch and develop this new range to ensure we could bring new experiences to market, and serve our consumers based on their new wants and needs.

We researched in-depth a variety of new experiences and activities which could prove entertaining within a home environment whilst making sure they were not too expensive to purchase – and could easily be gifted to loved ones, whom consumers were now unable to see.

This new category included 84 online experiences and 74 tangible gift experiences, with 98% of total experiences all under £100 and 67% under £50. We recognised that due to the economic shift and Covid-19 employment situation, consumers were going to have less disposable income to spend on leisure and gifting, so we ensured the range was affordable yet still exciting and the perfect gift to give.

The range itself included an array of exciting options such as gin tasting, escape rooms, arts & crafts, cookery classes, soap making classes, creating perfumes and much more, all types of experiences that Virgin Experience Days is typically known for, but now brought to the consumer’s front door to enjoy around loved ones, safely indoors. The new category proved popular to consumers and we saw a 14% uplift in sales during launch.

As people continue to choose to stay at home during these uncertain times, we will continue to innovate and grow the range as we head into Christmas trading. Alongside this, we recognise there are also customers who do still want to go out and enjoy their experiences when it is safe to do so. Accordingly, we’re offering our customers a free-of-charge 6 month extension on their vouchers’ validity so that they can still have the flexibility to enjoy their experiences at their leisure.

Whilst the real world experiences will remain preferable, and more than 85% of experiences are now open and fully operating, there’s still an appetite for consumers to discover experiences remotely, at home.

We think that this area of the industry will continue to be developed by all leisure and experience providers as they introduce either new products or supplementary to existing experiences. Thus, the Virgin Experience Days team will continue to be innovative and shape the range of experiences to cater for the new normal.

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