Selling an experience has always been more challenging than selling a product. With an experience, there is nothing to hold and feel, no way to try before you buy. But Virgin Holidays, with the help of design experience company, YourStudio, is reinventing the way that holidays are sold on the high street with a retail innovation. This productive partnership has created a fully immersive retail experience for consumers to offer a comprehensive and exciting try before you buy experience for holidays.
In the run up to the release of the 2019 Digital Innovation Report from Webloyalty, we’re taking a look at some of last year’s highlights. Here, we’ll revisit the way that Virgin Holidays is rethinking its brick-and-mortar retail locations for improved returns across its online and offline value chain.
Retail Innovation at the Centre
In the midst of a challenging retail environment, the high street is being hit hard. While online retail continues expanding at pace, the offline sector appears to be diminishing in growth and many retailers are struggling to link their online and offline sectors in a frictionless and enjoyable way for customers.
However, Virgin Holidays together with London-based retail design team, YourStudio, are taking a different tact that is helping the holidaymakers’ high street business bloom despite the difficult weather.
The Virgin Holidays Immersive Showroom, or the V-Room as the company has named it, places innovation at its centre to offer consumers a rich experience holiday taster experience.
Dan Buckingham, Head of Retail at Virgin Holidays explained that the store’s intention is to offer consumers a glimpse into what the experience they could buy and by “bringing our travel products to life.”
Among the innovative methods employed to do this are an eye-catching virtual reality rollercoaster, placed at the entrance to the store to attract customers, a Taste Your Holiday bar where customers can enjoy drinks and nibbles inspired by their potential holiday destinations and a Virgin Clubhouse Spa to give customers an understanding of the luxury Virgin Holidays offers. This novel approach uses all the senses to make sure customers are given the ‘holiday ready’ feel.
According to YourStudio Co-founder Howard Sullivan, innovation is crucial to building the immersive experience that offers real value to customers. “The inspiration for V-Room came about as a way of bringing holidays to life in a theatrical and inspirational way for people coming into the store,” he explained.
But the immersive showroom is also about selling. At the end of the exhilarating series of experiences, the customer is offered a personal consultation with a Virgin Holidays expert, where they can discuss their own holiday destinations, flight options and hotels.
Differentiation and Seamless Integration
The innovations that go into making the Virgin Holidays showroom so unique are the major differentiator that Virgin leverages against its competitors.
“Innovation is absolutely key in the travel world. Sites like this bring our products to life on the high street and this makes a real difference to us compared to our competitors,” Dan explained.
Few holiday retailers match the richness of experience that the V-Room delivers. There are many major holiday companies that operate in both the online and offline space, TUI being a mainstay in the UK market, but the immersive experience that the V-Room gifts consumers truly sets Virgin Holidays apart.
Added to this is the store’s ability to seamlessly integrate into the company’s online channel to become a perfect brick-and-mortar compliment to Virgin Holiday’s digital development. The amalgamation of the online and offline sides of a company’s portfolio is a point of difficulty for many businesses. But with the showroom, Virgin uses the strengths of the physical location for the benefit of its entire value chain.
Just ten years ago Virgin Holidays had only one retail location on the UK high street. Now, there are 85 stores nationwide and, according to Dan, there are more to follow.
The innovations behind the success of the Virgin Holidays’ showroom are likely to be seen more widely on the high street as other brands in other retails sectors attempt to reintegrate their physical retail stores into their online/offline retail network and offer customers added value. Where others follow, Virgin Holidays leads. For the holiday retailer, the future is bright.
For more innovative and mould-breaking retail developments, be sure to check out the 2019 Digital Innovation report. The report, which is soon to be released, will showcase this year’s most exciting digital retail innovations.
Watch this space!