What do you do when your carefully constructed business strategy is undermined within the space of 24 hours?
When Covid-19 restrictions came into place, that’s what happened to countless businesses that usually relied upon in-person custom, and Virgin Incentives was no exception. We caught up with Riz Tarer, B2B Marketing Lead at Virgin Incentives, to get her advice on how to adapt quickly during times of uncertainty....
Yes, it has certainly been a challenge. Pre-Covid-19 the experiences industry relied on people going out and about, spending their time and money in public places trying new adventures and different experiences. However, this all changed almost overnight when consumers were forced to stay home. Obviously it was quite difficult to realise that our normal way of doing business was no longer feasible!
I think the only option we had was to accept where we were, and focus on making the most of it. We put our heads together and realised that during lockdown consumers were running out of new ways of keeping themselves and their families entertained, on a much tighter budget than before. We did some research and realised that people were still really craving the excitement and novelty that they normally got from our in-person experiences; corporate business, for example, were looking for ways to bring their teams together during lockdown, and families wanted something different to entertain the kids. Consequently, we recognised a gap in the marketplace and reacted to Covid-19 by developing and innovating a completely new “at-home” experience category for people to enjoy in the comforts of their homes. We researched in-depth a variety of new experiences and activities which could prove entertaining for employees within a home environment, whilst making sure they were not too expensive to purchase – and could easily be gifted through eVouchers and gift cards.
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, there was going to be less disposable budget to spend on leisure and gifting, so we ensured the range was affordable yet still exciting and the perfect gift to give.
Our new “at-home” category actually proved extremely popular, and we saw a 14% uplift in sales during the initial launch. As people continued to stay at home during lockdown and uncertain times, we continued to innovate and grow the at-home range as we headed into 2020 Christmas trading. Alongside this, we recognised people would still want to go out and enjoy real-life experiences when it would be safe to do so. Accordingly, we started offering a free-of-charge 6 month extension on experience vouchers’ validity so that customers could still have the flexibility to enjoy their experiences at their leisure.
We still continue to offer and innovate the at-home range and this continues to be a popular option for those companies who wish to reward and recognise their employees and clients with new experiences, this range is also perfect for companies operating a hybrid working model and choose to run online team gatherings through a fun team event such as a cocktail making class or a chocolate workshop.
I think the most important thing I would advise is to really analyse where you are as a business. Once you realise a former strategy is no longer possible, you need to innovate and start thinking of new alternatives with your team. The pandemic was obviously something we couldn’t control, but I think this approach is good in general.
The difficult circumstances we faced ultimately led to us creating a really popular new line of virtual and at-home experiences that we will continue to offer, even now that things are opening up again. Sometimes adversity can be a great driver of innovation within your business.
It’s highly important for us, we’re a B2B business so this is a key part of our strategy. During 2020 having access to the B2B revenue stream allowed us to go live digitally with a Leisure Voucher Gift Card - even with limited resources internally.
We were excited to be able to launch a digital solution during the pandemic as this enabled us to reach out to a new digital audience of clients, having instant awards sent to their inbox.