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What do you get for the person who has everything?
This question has long dominated the gifting sector and remains one of the key internet searches which pops up around every global and national holiday and celebration. For those individuals who have everything they need already – and, more crucially, those who buy whatever they want when they want it rather than adding it to a gift life – the growth of the experience days industry provides their loved ones with a revelation and a gifting concept which is both fun and completely unique.
The idea of spending money on experiences rather than things is one which is steadily gaining traction and growing in popularity, particularly among younger generations who are able to enjoy global travel opportunities like never before. These are the generations and the individuals for whom travel around the world is not only possible but it is expected – they spend money on annual holidays and trips abroad, and they create entire blogs, vlogs and social media profiles which focus on their travel experiences.
More than anything else, these are the generations for whom experiences trump physical items, and so are a captive audience for the ever-growing industry of experience days.
And it’s not just next generation demand which has become a driving force for the experience days industry. With a wide variety of retailers and ecommerce sites now pooling together both global and local experience day lists targeted to different demographics, different gifting occasions and different budgets, matching the gift recipient with their perfect experience day has never been easier – with many of these sites offering third party offers and deals designed to entice consumers in and urge them to buy through the experience day site rather than directly with the provider.
Days out have long been the pinnacle of family celebrations and experienced remembered with friends and family. However as the attractions industry has expanded and grown with so many new concepts and ideas, many of which draw on local attractions and stories and which design experiences based on various interests and hobbies, it seems no longer enough to simply celebrate an occasion with a trip to the park. The attractions industry has grown to include new and exciting things – and with it, our expectations as consumers have also grown.
The fact is that as the gifting industry expands and shifts in line with consumer demand and available resource, standing out in the growing industry has never been more challenging. Marketplace sites and smaller businesses are popping up all over the world with unique and innovative gift ideas and creations, while large retailers are making gifting easier with their simple gift wrapping provisions and the huge rise in availability of gift cards which put the gift buying itself into the hands of the recipient. And yet, despite this huge rise in choice across the gifting industry, a trend is rising – the idea that memories are becoming the most prized and valuable products, and that gifts which provide a window to these memories are the ones most effective and most popular with modern consumers.
One of the biggest pinch points in the experience days industry is the simple idea that the entire industry is created from the provision of a service which draws together and subsequently relies on another service provider to actually deliver the experience. By this, we mean that while the retail provider can channel resource and effort into delivering a high end browsing and booking experience for the consumer, at the end of the day they have little impact or influence over how the experience day itself is run. This bit comes from the service provider – and can sometimes mean, in the most unfortunate cases, that what is promised on the experience day site is not delivered through the experience.
Due to this, one of the main areas that operators and retailers in the experience day industry must focus on is their legal contracts and the obligations that both they and their experience providers agree to. Consumers can also access much of this information through the small print on booking websites, though many choose to bypass this and instead put their faith into the booking site that the experience day will deliver – placing even more of a spotlight focus on the retailer booking site as the party responsible for how the experience is delivered.
Not only does this impact the experience in itself, but the removal between the consumer, the organising site and the experience provider means that a streamlined and seamless chain of communication is difficult to achieve – with the organising provider and experience provider having to rely on a close working relationship to establish available dates, times and the details required. For the most part, the inclusion of a third party organiser means that the consumer actually benefits from lower commercial prices rather than the direct prices advertised by the experience themselves – however, this does come with its challenges and the consumer must be prepared for the longer chain of communication if they wish to benefit from the third part package prices and deals.
As we have already touched on, the top brands operating within the experience days industry as a whole break down into two main categories – those brands and retailers which own and operate the booking sites and which are responsible for the consumer-facing advertising and sales, and the brands and attractions which actually run and own the experiences themselves.
For the most part, the union between the two is seamless and consumers have little trouble in identifying the ideal solution for their gifting queries – using the various filters offered by retail operators which allow buyers to narrow the experiences down by location, gift recipient type, experience type, and price. The most successful experience day sites and operators are those which provide consumers with a wide variety of options according to what they are looking for – including single person experience and multi-person experiences, the same experiences but at different price levels with additional features available for extra cost, and similar experiences which can be found across the country to allow for local travel.
The most popular experience categories tend to be:
The best operators provide the above gifting categories and solutions across various suppliers – with each supplier offering their own style of experience day, at their own cost and with their own additional features.
Some of the most popular and successful experience day industry sites and operators include:
What makes each of these operators stand out? Not only the variety and breadth of experience days they offer, but also the ways in which they market their various offers, the deals and discounts which they apply to experience days, and the customer service and feedback that they receive from previous users. After all, word of mouth recommendations and online testimonials remain one of the most effective means of standing out among competitors – provided the reviews are good!
So that’s the retail operators – but how about the experience providers themselves; how do they stand out?
One of the main ways that experience days are marketed and sold to potential consumers is through imagery and video footage – with real life experience day footage acting as one of the best ways of enticing buyers in and showing them exactly what they will receive with their purchase. Making sure that the terms and conditions are really clear is key to ensuring that consumers are completely aware of what they are getting (and what they are not), with the industry relying heavily on consistent information being provided by both the experience operators and the third party booking sites.
One of the major trends driving forward the experience days industry, is the power of social media and consumer advertising – with various experiences able to capitalise on the idea that consumers who experience their attractions will take photos and share them on their Instagram feeds and social platforms. What this gives the experience provider is free advertising and a chance to engage with their captive audience – particularly if they make moves towards encouraging this kind of interaction, for example creating their experience attraction as a location on Instagram and Facebook which consumers can then check into and tag in their posts. Another way that experience providers can use social platforms is through targeted advertising, creating campaigns which attract the local community, and which introduce their offering as the perfect experience for the target demographic in a certain area.
Another overarching trend which affects the industry as a whole is in fact the various trends which impact each experience category – with new theme park attractions, new restaurants, new spas and new days out all driving forward momentum for their specific sector in the experience day market, thus creating consumer demand through the provision of something new and exciting. What this means for the experience days industry is that the offerings available for consumers are consistently changing and being updated, and so providers and retailers within the industry must commit to keeping on top of all the new attractions which open in their target area in order to be able to give consumers what they want – deals and discounts which can be redeemed against the very newest experiences on offer.
Another trend which is steadily growing across all demographics and age groups is the idea that people want to learn new things and want to be given a chance to explore their personal creativity and imagination. This has led to a vast increase in the number of small operators which are entering the experience days industry with their own unique talents and teachings – appealing to local and wider audiences thanks to their expertise and knowledge, and the demand for experiences which are fun and educational. Some great examples include baking days, crochet days, painting and artistry days and pottery days – many of which can be found both on the major sites like Virgin Experience Days and Red Letter Days, and also on location-targeted sites like Airbnb which present the experiences on offer as consumers browse various areas to go on holiday.
And finally, a growing trend in the industry which is helping to increase awareness of experience days and smaller businesses and experience providers – the inclusion of experience days as a category on marketplace sites like NotOnTheHighstreet. This may not be the biggest driver of business, and it may not be a site that consumers tend to associate with booking experiences, but by expanding the breadth of marketing and using marketplace sites as another platform to drive forward the experience days industry, small businesses have a better chance of being seen.
When you look at the experience days industry in full, it becomes clear that this is an industry where discounts and rife and package deals are what drive the momentum of the industry forward every year. Experience day sites and providers have become renowned for the deals which they present to consumers, with discounts and extra features required in order to retain consumer loyalty with the experience day site rather than allowing them to go direct to the experience provider and buy tickets through them. In short, the experience day industry is one which is served by a select number of operators which create demand through their websites and offerings – giving consumers a wide choice of experiences and attractions designed to entice and delight various demographics and various gift recipients. One of the major drivers of this industry is the convenience it presents to buyers who can browse all the available local experiences from one central space – before selecting the best and receiving all the information they need through a reliable third party operator.
The rest is up to the experience provider to deliver.
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