Photogenic, Inc. (PGI) and Cherry Hill Programs (CHP) joined forces in 2018, creating a partnership that is committed to Customer Experience, innovative technology and influential content. As the world transformed during the pandemic, PGI and CHP were able to navigate the new challenges by following a strong philosophy: Pause. Pivot. Plan.
Under the leadership of CEO Steve Craig, the two companies continue to dominate the photography industry, thanks to their strong history and quality products.
COVID-19 caused many to turn to the digital world for experiences, and Cherry Hill Programs was able to lead in this field, launching an intimate new virtual holiday experience in October 2020, called “Create Holiday Magic”.
This B2C brand gave people a chance to experience a live Zoom call with Santa himself, as well as a pre-recorded Story Time. It also featured the innovative photography platforms My Photo with Santa and My Pet Photo with Santa.
Much of what happened in 2020 was unprecedented, meaning it was not easy to anticipate consumer behaviour. Ahead of the Christmas period, a shift in demand from onsite Santa visits to virtual experiences was expected, but this happened at a slower rate. Search engine and web traffic data showed that consumers still preferred onsite Santa photography to virtual experiences by a ratio of over 2:1.
Surveys also show that while some guests will plan a virtual experience for the holiday season in 2021, most see a return to in-person experiences, or would expect a hybrid with opportunities to see Santa in person and to interact virtually for a more intimate experience.
CHP noted that its users spent nearly twice as long on its reservation platfrom than in 2019, most likely due to customers taking the time to read COVID-19 safety precautions and procedures before their Santa visit. Once there in person, visitors said they appreciated the chance for some holiday ‘normalcy’ after a difficult year, and they spent an average of 20% more on Santa photography than in the previous year.
A post-COVID world
2020 also saw a noticeable shift in consumer dynamics, with a large increase in money spent on photo and retail items, with more demand for physical products. CHP and PGI also saw an increase in social sharing, particular with digital imagery. Capacity management in the wake of the pandemic allowed consumers to enjoy an intimate experience. Average transaction values rose and, in some areas, conversion rates doubled.
Many in the attractions industry are now wondering how to continue this trend for high per caps and spending in 2021. One lesson to take away from the past year is the value that consumers put on experience and quality above all.
“We have been fortunate to use a large part of 2020 investing in technologies, partnerships and people to make our Divisions stronger than ever”, says John Barbieri, Chief Strategy Officer of Cherry Hill and Photogenic.“We have worked with our partners to redesign workflow, add cutting-edge technology into the Guest Journey, and embed superior talent development into our philosophy so we can ensure higher Guest spending stays long-term.”
Looking ahead to holidays in 2021, Cherry Hill is investing in key areas of the business, including operational and marketing enhancements, training and recruiting programs, technology and consumer insight integrations, and an entirely new Guest Journey.
Steve Craig, Cherry Hill’s Chief Executive Officer says, “2021 will be a whole new experience! It’s a very exciting process to take the age-old traditions like visiting Santa and adapting it to the digital world in a way that makes each holiday even more magical and engaging for today’s generation.
“As the industry leader, Cherry Hill Programs is honoured to take on the enjoyable role of honouring holiday traditions with new, exciting technology.”
Best practices for 2021
Following the lessons learned last year, CHP and PGI are invested in the future of the industry by leveraging 2020 consumer trends to build 2021 strategy. The companies will be focusing on some specific elements to drive their continued success:
- Enhanced content marketing. Content Marketing is proven to increase brand awareness and generate qualified leads. The companies will generate UGC to increase brand awareness and strengthen brand identity. Video marketing can increase conversions up to 1200%, so the pair will produce more animated content as well.
- Improved Collaborative Marketing. Strategic partnerships reduce costs and increase productivity. In addition to this, co-marketing increases trust amongst consumers. CHP and PGI see themselves as a day-to-day partner with their B2B clients, providing content and support in all operational and marketing areas.
- Optimized Product Development. CHP will continue to stay current with emerging technology and to track trends, allowing it to develop industry-leading products.
- Prioritized Customer Experience. The companies will also continue to put the end-user first, meaning that the customer experience is their key focus.
- Increased Holiday Engagements. CHP will also be creating new multi-holiday experiences to help people celebrate around the world, such as My Photo with Bunny and more.
As well as the Virtual Santa experience, CHP and PGI also presented new Zero Green Screen technology last year.