Mary Portas says ‘age of insperience’ is here to stay: Barclaycard Payments research

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The ‘insperience economy’ is giving new hope to retailers post-coronavirus, as demand for in-home products and services is set to increase even further after retailers reopen to the public.

New research from Barclaycard Payments, which processes nearly half of the nation’s credit and debit card transactions, reveals that a third (33%) of retailers launched innovative products and services designed specifically to be used at home during the months of lockdown.

Dubbed the ‘insperience economy’, almost nine in 10 (88%) retailers saw increased demand for in-home experiences over the last three months. Of retailers who do offer at-home services, 88% have seen insperience sales increase as a result.

Nearly two thirds (63%) of UK adults have either tried one or plan to do so, with virtual gym classes (30%), virtual pub quizzes (28%) and DIY meal kits (20%) the most popular.

Despite over half (56%) of retailers initially planning their insperience product lines to be temporary, over a third (35%) of shoppers intend to continue investing in insperiences even after lockdown ends.

Following this shift in consumer spending, retailers predict the insperience economy to be worth £168 million over the next 12 months, an increase in value of 32%.

The opportunity to provide hyper-personalised products for their customers (71% of retailers) and to recreate the spontaneity of the high street at home (67%) were seen by retailers as key benefits of insperiences.

Top reasons Brits plan to continue investing in this trend include that insperiences are fun (27%) and novel (26%), and that they help consumers manage their time more efficiently (31%). As such, 39% now intend to work out at home more even after gyms have reopened, and over a quarter say they will continue having digital drinks (28%) even once pubs and bars return.

A boost for business and industry

The financial boost for businesses who have been quick to adapt also benefits the workforce, with over two in five retailers (43%) reinstating furloughed staff to fill insperience-based roles. What’s more, retailers that offer insperiences have created an average of 15 new job roles each since the beginning of lockdown. 

In addition to a new and exciting revenue stream, retailers cite increasing brand awareness (75%), creating a new point of contact with consumers (73%), and establishing themselves as trusted partners in their sector (70%) as key motivations for continuing to develop their insperience offering. Shoppers are in agreement, with two fifths (39%) more likely to remember a brand once they have participated in an insperience, and over a third (35%) feeling insperiences help them to form a more personal brand relationship. 

Partnerships and personalised insperiences

Of those insperiences already launched, half (50%) saw retailers team up to offer more rounded, ‘one stop shop’ services for shoppers, with 78% currently considering partnerships with brands from other sectors to improve their insperience offering.

In addition, seven in 10 (70%) retailers predict insperiences will pave the way for a new era of personalised retail experiences, believing that they provide greater scope to tailor products and services to individual consumers. 

There could be a marked impact on business supply chains too, as more than two thirds (675) of agile retailers look to localised strategies to reduce delivery times and recreate the spontaneity of the traditional experience.

Kirsty Morris, managing director for account development at Barclaycard Payments, said: “Lockdown has undoubtedly been challenging for retailers, but it’s promising to see how many have been quick to cater their product lines to consumers looking for entertainment and personalised products while at home.

“Over the past few months we’ve helped many of our merchant customers transition to take advantage of the insperience economy by setting them up to start taking online payments, which is testament to their agility as they’ve adapted to the ‘new normal’.  With more businesses now online, we expect the demand for insperiences to continue even as lockdown restrictions ease.”

Mary Portas, retail expert and campaign spokesperson, said: “The coronavirus pandemic has accelerated a new era of shopping and living. Now more than ever, people want to enjoy the experiences they’ve always been given, but from the comfort of their own homes. Retailers that enable ‘insperiences’ will continue to thrive, even as we emerge from lockdown and enter the ‘new normal’. 

There’s no escaping the fact that we’re facing the biggest economic challenge in living memory and experiencing a recession more serious than we’ve seen before. If businesses can celebrate anything from the past three months, it’s their ingenuity, adaptability and creativity, which have created a much-needed lifeline as they navigate these challenges.” 

Will Condliffe, spokesperson for Chester Zoo, said:“The closing of all zoos naturally posed a real challenge for how we would continue to engage with new and existing visitors, so we had to get creative. Once we’d thought of the virtual zoo we were hopeful it would be popular though didn’t expect it to be as big as it was! 

“The video streams of our keepers and animals have now had almost 20 million views and counting, our Facebook following shot up by 46% in the 24 hours after we announced our first live day, and were trending on Twitter around the world – the reaction has been phenomenal. 

“By adapting quickly to offer a new way of ‘visiting’ Chester Zoo we were able to keep animal-lovers engaged and put smiles on people’s faces during lockdown. We’re confident that the interest in our virtual offering will continue as we beam animals to thousands of new fans across the world.”