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The Best Guest Experience Trends of 2018

Hindsight is a wonderful thing, and never more so than when we are trendspotting! We’ve taken a look back over the year of guest experience design and have hand-picked our top trends of 2018.

Trend #1 – Retailment or retailtainment

Retailers and estate owners are seeing this trend speed up with iconic retail locations like Westfield Stratford City hosting the sell out Star Wars The Void.

Iceland, the food retailer, installed an ice rink in it’s London store to make food shopping more fun.

Make the most of this trend by creating opportunities for your shoppers to interact with your brand in new ways. Leave the store/website mentality behind and think about experiences that put your product slap-bang in the consumer’s lifestyle.

Trend #2 – Physical & Digital

Consumers don’t care about what kit we use, they just want a fully immersed and sensory experience. Guests want to react in the moment and explore on their own terms – technology is just the gateway to that.

Efteling launched a VR enabled version of their Droomvlucht dark ride, the tech not only allowed disabled guests to experience the ride but connected them to their family & friends on the ride to experience it together.

You can utilise this trend by focusing on what your guests want to experience and seeing tech as part of the solution, instead of thinking “we must have VR”.

Trend #3 – Unexpected surprises

Fancy a silent disco in the Science Museum? Or watching Jaws floating on a rubber ring?

People are turning to places and brands to create new and exciting ways to enjoy themselves.

From Google’s curiosity rooms to L’Occitane’s cafe lounge, from Make Shift transforming neglected London spaces to the new dementia treatment of Memory Villages, new types of experiences from all types of organisations are popping up everywhere.

If you want to reach a new audience then think about how you can create an experience that surprises your audience or enables them in surprising ways.

Trend #4 – The rise of the FEC

We have seen the midway and FEC market boom in this last year. People want to spend more time having fun and that means shorter trips to smaller, closer venues.

Big concepts have been launched like the new Cirque du Soleil CREACTIVE FEC planned for Canada, and Merlin Entertainments opened the Bear Grylls Adventure in the UK.

Two of our Clients, Clip ‘n Climb and Mr Mulligan’s have continued to open new sites throughout the year, a testimony to this rising trend.

Do you have a brand that can be distilled into a smaller venue and still wow audiences?

Trend #5 – Superpower of the IPs

Whilst the independent attractions continue to pull in the crowds, we all love a memorable IP. The IPs we know and love give us an immediate entry point to any experience. Secret Cinema’s latest offering is James Bond Casino Royale.

We already mentioned Merlin’s Bear Grylls, but they enjoyed a fantastic success this summer with the Thorpe Park/Love Island IP collaboration. For more on how to work with an IP read the blog.

The eagerly anticipated Star Wars Galaxy’s Edge takes Disney’s IP into a whole new realm.  Who knows where the success of this IP will end – maybe in a galaxy far, far away?

Which IP’s would resonate with your audience? Talk to the rights holders, who knows they may be looking to broaden their appeal too.

Into 2019…

The experience economy will roar into 2019 like a front seat ticket to The Lion King. Our insights are clear, people want more experience and less stuff and looking at the profile of the millennials and centennials this theme will only grow stronger.

We know that tech will only get bigger and better so we expect to see more disruption and even more personalisation.

The convergence of retail and entertainment will only speed up, taking hospitality with it, watch out for new trends in themed restaurants as casual dining tries to recover from its recent hard times.

Our message to you is to switch on to guest experience, do it well and do it quickly. FOMO is real and not just for your guests… If in doubt talk to our team at Katapult.

About the author: Kelly is the Strategy & Development Director at Katapult – A Creative England, Top 50 Company that creates physical and digital guest experiences that amaze and engage your visitors.

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