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Industry Insight – From Places to Spaces

Industry Insight - From Places to Spaces 1
Peter Vindevogel, CEO of The Park Playground

In this Industry Insight column, Peter Vindevogel, CEO of The Park Playground has taken some time out of his day job to explain to us how social entertainment demands are redefining retail venues, turning them from shopping places to social spaces.

The traditional shopping experience has changed. Following a recent surge in entertainment offerings at commercial shopping centres, these fun-fuelled venues have become commonplace, transforming retail spaces as we know them. With established trends like retailtainment and eatertainment proving successful, it’s become increasingly clear that there’s a climbing demand for shopping centres to adopt a multifaceted approach and offer new, innovative, entertainment-led experiences to attract audiences.

Gen Z and millennials are moving away from product prioritisation and driving the emerging ‘experience economy’. According to Eventbrite, 66 per cent of 18-36 year olds said they felt “more fulfilled by live experiences than purchasing an item of the same value”. The root behind this trend? The desire for social connection and shared experiences in an era where digital features elevate these meaningful encounters.

Initiating an age of experience innovation
As shopping centres face a store closure epidemic, with over 14,000 shops and outlets closing their doors in UK retail venues in 2023 alone, complex managers have fallen under pressure to reimagine ways to fill these empty spaces. As such, shopping venue owners have turned to non-retail offerings in an effort to boost the value of brick-and-mortar, increase footfall and keep customers coming back for more.

Non-retail ventures have proven to be reliable investments, offering less financial risk and more ROI opportunities. In search of the ‘next best thing’, centre property owners have started to adopt advanced technologies to address the modern customer demand for social-led entertainment experiences. But how effective are these efforts in meeting consumer expectations?
According to Mastercard’s research, 88 per cent of people planned to spend the same or more money on experiences in 2024, with family friendliness and social interaction being two considerable factors. Satisfaction rates back this sentiment, as approximately four out of five people say the money they spend on experiences is worth it. When merging the need to deliver unique social experiences that can’t be replicated at home with the integration of digital technology; virtual reality (VR) emerges as a stand-out example of digitally driven, family-friendly entertainment.

The role of VR in driving revenue
VR offers a vast range of immersive experiences that go beyond conventional activities. Shopping centres are increasingly adopting VR venues to draw customers in and provide a unique, memorable experience they can’t get at home. These digital, immersive experiences don’t just entertain; they also facilitate the social aspect that the experience generation is searching for.

But these VR venues aren’t just a one-and-done experience. There are a few ways in which VR drives returning customers:

Social Interaction: VR allows users to try new immersive experiences alongside friends in the same virtual world. This goes beyond traditional online gaming, as participants can embark on digital quests, interacting with objects, each other and virtual characters within the same physical space.

Gamification: Collaborative and competitive elements of VR motivate users to beat each other’s scores, progress through levels and unlock new content, making each visit a distinctive social event that enhances the overall appeal.

Personalisation: With team-oriented VR, no experience is the same. As different user perspectives and preferences make each visit feel like a new adventure altogether, the novelty of these unique experiences drives customers to return as they anticipate exciting variations each time.

What’s next for retail venues?
With new technologies like the Apple Vision Pro and spatial computing coming to the surface, we’re witnessing the beginning of a new world of possibilities. To understand the evolving industry landscape, retail venue owners must stay attuned to the latest industry shifts.
By embracing solutions that drive profit, keep other revenue streams open and offer personalised, ‘can’t-get-at-home’ experiences, retail venues will be able to offer a space that fosters community and social connection without incurring significant risk.

www.theparkplayground.com/en-gb

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