Take off! The future of the experience economy

As consumer data reveals spending on entertainment rose by 7.1% in April, it looks like Brits are increasingly spending their hard-earned cash on experiences rather than shopping trips.

The experience economy has evolved to become one of the biggest global trends, redefining value for consumers looking for long-lasting memories rather than the ephemeral excitement of, say, a new pair of trainers. 

Barclaycard Entertainment

The growth of the experience trend hasn’t passed us by here at Barclaycard. The recent launch of Barclaycard Entertainment has allowed us to interact with customers in exciting new ways, narrowing the gap between the way people spend and the things they love spending on.

With no real limits on what can be achieved in the premium entertainment sphere, brands are committing to pushing boundaries, delivering ever more slick and sophisticated immersive experiences. 

Premium experience economy

From high-tech, high-concept venues like the MSG Sphere to the Ubers that get us there, technology is driving the experience economy. Tech plays a major role in how the experience unfolds and powers how we live and relive it online. Like our favourite artists and our preferred travel destinations, how we spend our free time says a lot about who we are.

To be truly disruptive, brands need to innovate and react to emerging trends quickly. It’s all about making sure someone else doesn’t get there first. Nowhere does this sentiment hold truer than in the race for space tourism. 

Space travel

As experiences go, the concept of space tourism is as exciting as it gets. Virgin Galactic and Blue Origin are neck-and-neck in trying to get us there first – both companies have completed successful test flights recently. As it stands, Richard Branson says he is months away from becoming an astronaut, while Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos hopes he can offer us suborbital space tourism flights by 2019.

The cost of a flight with Virgin Galactic is a snip at $250,000. Stars like Brad Pitt, Angelina Jolie, Leonardo DiCaprio and Justin Bieber are first in line when launch day rolls around.

If your budget isn’t quite there yet, there are some pretty cool things you can do here on Earth too. As a compromise, why not go virtual? Immersive content studio Rewind and space industry experts have joined forces to launch SpaceTime Enterprises, where users can plug into real-time immersive video of the entire Earth. 

Earthly experiences

Great experiences don’t always require big budgets. Escape rooms are a basic, but phenomenally popular example of the experience trend. In 2013, you could count the number of UK versions on one hand. Today there are more than 850 themed and premium games like The Crystal Maze Live.

Whether you’re into The Great Gatsby or The Great British Bake Off, London boasts hundreds of immersive experiences. Those with the inclination can drink cocktails in prison-themed bar Alcotraz, disappear down the rabbit hole at Alice Underground, dodge soggy bottoms in a consumer-facing version of Bake Off solve or attend a roaring party at Jay Gatsby’s West Egg pad.

Advances in technology are also changing the performance art playing field. Legendary artists past and present have ‘performed’ as holograms – Tupac Shakur, Michael Jackson and now ABBA. Roy Orbison, who died in 1988, recently completed a ‘tour’ of the UK, accompanied by the (non-holographic) Royal Philharmonic Concert Orchestra.

Then there’s film. ‘Live’ cinema is a powerful concept, combining some of the best-loved films across the decades (think Jurassic Park, Blade Runner, Indiana Jones and Jaws) with the raw authenticity of a live orchestra, or the excitement of costume and role play.

Where does it end? It’s conceivable that at some point in the future, we may be watching the classic Borg vs. McEnroe clash in 3D holographic form, or reliving England’s World Cup victory from the stands at Wembley.  

How we spend

Recent years have seen our taste for IRL experiences reflected in our spending habits. As well as the healthy increase in entertainment spending, our latest consumer data reveals a boost in spending in pubs (7.6%) and restaurants (7.2%).

Investing in the experience economy means giving serious thought, not just to what people want to spend on, but how they want to spend.

The people interested in premium events and the latest and greatest technology probably don’t want to run into problems when paying for their experiences. Customers expect ecommerce and digital channels to be perfectly in sync, with fast and frictionless payments. 

Future trends

The ongoing evolution of consumer technology will only make the experience economy more exciting, with brands making use of things like AR and smart assistants like Siri and Alexa to smooth the experience and differentiate their offering.

Expect to see more payments folded into booking and on-site payments – think the kind of experience found in Domino’s ‘easy order’ app or Amazon’s one-click ordering. We’ll also be seeing more two-factor authentication, where customers will be asked for their fingerprint à la Apple’s Touch ID.

With recent innovations in contactless, mobile wallets and invisible payments, Barclaycard is looking to improve the payment experience for merchants, shoppers and corporate clients. In 2018 we’ll be trialling our new grab+go platform in the retail space, allowing customers to simply take what they want from a store and leave, confident that their purchases are being made and stored in the app. This could certainly be useful in the events space in the future, reducing ticket and payment queues and making the whole experience smoother for customers. 

Get out more

Polished, premium experiences continue to be one of the biggest trends across all consumer sectors. While technology will only become more crucial in how we experience entertainment, brands only have the opportunity to gain a foothold in this emerging market if they react quickly, bringing new and exciting experiences to the table to satisfy the demands of an audience who have virtually seen it all.