Virgin Holidays new digital stores
Virgin Holidays has opened the first of it's new paperless ‘holiday laboratories’, putting technology right at the heart of the high street travel retailing experience. The UK sites, a concession space within the House of Fraser in Bluewater and a standalone outlet at Meadowhall in Sheffield a week later. Customers will be free to conduct their research using iPads. Customers will be able to buy or to take away details of any holidays they’ve looked at in a convenient digital format. In both locations, tablets will be complemented by giant screens inside and outside of the shop that will enable customers to ‘pull’ together the elements of their perfect holiday using motion capture, while inspiring messages will ‘follow’ passers-by. Customers will be able to pull up destination and resort films to the big screens to check out their options in more detail. A great deal of effort has been put in to creating a ‘multi-sensory’ environment that will put customers in the holiday mood: Flooring - will be textured so they move from grass to water, which will ripple as you walk on it. There will also be a mini putting green, and a ‘sand’ area. Lighting will change throughout the day to reflect morning through to evening, intended to evoke the transition from bright sunshine to ‘sundowner time’. Both stores will also have unique aromas unobtrusively pumped in to them that again will evoke the feeling of being on holiday. Each store will also boast an innovate ‘Green Screen Area’ allowing customers who have booked to enter and have a photos taken against a backdrop of that location, creating an image that can then be emailed to the customer for them to share socially and, ultimately, used on a real time basis onscreen instore/across the network to inspire other potential customers. This link between the high street and the social community is a first for the sector. The Bluewater store will also have an area dedicated to Walt Disney World in Florida and Disney Cruise Line, which is the first ever trial like this with a third party. It will include dedicated digital space and content plus interactive branding, and a dressing up box of Disney outfits for the kids to be entertained whilst the parents research/book. Staff at both stores have also been retrained and will be presented to customers as ‘concierges’ or ‘technicians’, primarily Virgin Holidays Customer and Sales Director, Mark Anderson said, “Our ‘holiday laboratories’ have been designed with one purpose - to harness the latest technology and the increasingly powerful influence of social media to create something really different on the high street. As our retail network has grown, we’ve increasingly seen the need to put ‘play’ at the heart of the buying experience and these two stores are the logical conclusion of that process. Customers can come in here and be inspired by the surroundings, the video content and the imagery, discuss their options and preferences with our technicians and then literally experiment with the huge variety of holidays we sell, based on their specific needs, before taking it home in a convenient digital format, or have it emailed, for further consideration at their own convenience. And when they book, our Green Screen Area will give them a unique memento that they can keep or share as they count down to departure - which is far more exciting than a till receipt. “For us, it’s always about innovation, and being the first to market with new ideas. We’re delighted with what we’ve created here and can’t wait to see the reaction of our customers.” Hugh Wood, Vice President & Managing Director, Disney Destinations International said, “We are always looking for new and exciting ways to interact with our customers and this new offering from Virgin Holidays will bring the Walt Disney World and Disney Cruise Line brands to life in a magical way that enriches the customer booking experience”