In LeisurUp’s on-demand session on Creating Retail Immersive Experiences, moderator Charles Read, CEO, Blooloop asked just how the leisure industry will bounce back once lockdowns are finally eased. He put those questions to a panel of immersive retail experience experts, including Boris Bielert, chief commercial officer, Zero Latency; Fri Forjindam, chief development officer, Mycotoo; Mehdi Mejri, immersive exhibitions director, Atlas V; and Marc-André Baril, director of business development – Europe, Moment Factory.
The view of the panel during their debate on retail immersive experiences was that entertainment, like retail stores and the food & beverage industries, has been hard hit by the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. Yet, they argued, once public confidence begins to return with the anticipated easing of restrictions and national lockdowns, the public’s desire for social interaction and human engagement, with immersive customer experiences, could well prove to be stronger than ever.
To achieve this, operators and leisure destinations need to be clear about what they wish to achieve and also whether they need to adapt their current retail experiences to meet both regulations and also new desires from an audience largely starved of physical interaction and interactive experiences during lockdown. They also discussed how to engage effectively with visitors and why all immersive experiences should be about story telling.
Hunger for retail immersive experiences
“What is fantastic to see is the hunger of people to go out again and have these social experiences with each other,” said Boris Bielert, chief commercial officer, Zero Latency of Australian entertainment after the country largely eradicated COVID-19. Although Australia has had to implement some temporary lockdowns and restrictions to curb local outbreaks, it has largely been able to return to normal and his insights gave some indications of the way forward for immersive retail experiences in Europe and the US.
He stressed that it was vital to provide something unique and compelling, that could also be refreshed and changed to continue to draw visitors back to the leisure or retail destination. He also emphasised the importance of creating events and attractions that could bring families and friends together to enjoy the immersive experience.
And the whole panel were adamant that, although leisure destinations will inevitably have to adjust when they first open to the public, they must not lose sight of what they offer and how they engage with visitors.
Large or small, the element that connects all good immersive schemes is the “notion of storytelling” said Fri Forjindam, chief development officer, Mycotoo. “So when you look at immersive as one way of entertainment, one angle of entertainment, that is still ultimately about marketing and getting people to your location.” She added that it is only recently that immersive experiences have been seen as integral to leisure and retail destinations:
“To me now it is more integral than ever, it’s more necessary than ever, to be able to redefine your space, tell an authentic story and then use entertainment not just as a seasonal attraction but as an anchor marketing tool to get people to visit year round.”
Interactive experiences and retail stores
Marc-André Baril, director of business development – Europe, Moment Factory, also stressed the need to keep the experiences natural and not simply to pivot towards screens. Quizzed about the next generation of entertainment, he said: “The big question is what do we want? I don’t think we want to transport a person from a screen to another one in a public space.”
He said of the future of immersive entertainment that “I just see opportunities” and pointed towards technologies such as projection mapping, which became quite architectural elements of public spaces. Technology can transform spaces in an immersive and ever-changing way, he said.
That was a point taken up by Mehdi Mejri, immersive exhibitions director for virtual reality studio, Atlas V, who said that leisure destinations need to consider how best to approach ongoing and upcoming restrictions, especially around capacities.
“When you can change the experience, you can change your audience, you can change the visit duration, you can change your throughput, you can switch from interactive to less interactive,” he said.
Charles Read, CEO, Blooloop; Boris Bielert, chief commercial officer, Zero Latency; Fri Forjindam, chief development officer, Mycotoo; Mehdi Mejri, immersive exhibitions director, Atlas V; and Marc-André Baril, director of business development – Europe, Moment Factory were speaking at a special session called Creating Immersive Experiences, broadcast during MAPIC & LeisurUp Digital 2020, which brought the core retail and leisure industry trends together across a series of insightful live and on-demand sessions.
Watch the session in full below:
Read more on the subject and how new technology in the retail industry is key to safe shopping, on the future of leisure, retail and tourism post Covid 19, and on how the leisure industry has changed.