DNA VR: London's First VR Arcade


October 9, 2020 | 7 min read

DNA VR in the United Kingdom, like many VR Arcades around the world, has had to adapt throughout the year as regulations change.

Thanks to various tweaks to their business, along with doubling down on their already stellar customer service, they are doing well, all things considered.

Even though 2020 has been rough, especially for small business owners, savvy VR Arcade operators have been making smart decisions throughout the year to keep their locations open.

CEO and Co-Founder at DNA VR, Alexander Tsyurupa, said this year has been tricky for them and that in general, COVID-19 has had a definite impact on their business and business in general in the UK leisure industry.

Like many other VR Arcade operators, as lockdowns were put in place, Tsyurupa and his team had to deal with numerous refunds.

While this was detrimental to some VR Arcades, Operations Manager at DNA VR Matt Mair said his team was able to turn a bad situation into a manageable one.

“Before we were forced to close in March, we sent out an email to all customers that would be refunding them all with in-store credit to be used at a later date when we re-opened,” Mair said. “We called every single one to confirm that this was OK in the week afterward. About 90 percent of customers accepted this and the rest asked for refunds which we promptly gave.”

Mair added that while handing out refunds was difficult in the short-term, these swift refunds helped us reinforce customers’ trust and already led to multiple smaller bookings from the same people.

Mair and his team’s effort didn’t stop there as they still had to tackle re-opening and bringing in business.

With reports painting LBE VR as "dead", the DNA VR team started seeing that this was anything but true.

According to an October report by SpringboardVR CBO Michael Festa, open arcades are, on average, consuming 96 percent of the content they did in January and about 80 percent of what they did in February - the best month on record for many VR Arcades.

According to Tsyurupa, many people are realizing that LBEVR (with all the necessary precautions of course) might be much safer than many other forms of entertainment available to them.

“We are seeing a healthy pick up in the recent weeks and while the media are focusing their attention on other things, we are making sure customers are safe, happy, and returning,” Tsyurupa said.

In the UK, current guidelines state that you can meet up as a group of 6 from 6 different households, so Mair and his team have made sure their location was ready to accommodate.

“We have a lot of 2-6 player escape rooms which we have pushed extensively on social media adverts as well the VR Arcade session,” Mair said.“We also made a very cool launch video for our Hammersmith venue which has been included in a lot of our adverts and has gained a good amount of traction.”

Mair said they also slightly dropped their prices, which helped bring in more business, and they also made sure to find the correct tone of voice for social media regarding the pandemic.

“While we do not avoid mentioning the safety measures altogether, we do not focus our attention on it either,” Maid said. “The reason is rather simple: while the customers want to feel safe the safety measures alone won’t sell the experience. They need to be excited about the experience first.”

For other VR Arcade operators, Tsyurupa suggested they first and foremost, think about the clients in their area.

“We quickly came to realize that while our loyal customer base is here to stay, the new customers might have changed significantly,” Tsyurupa said. “There has been a huge shift in terms of the audiences we were targeting on Facebook ads and we had to focus our attention on certain points we normally wouldn’t.”

During the pandemic, the team at DNA VR analyzed every single email and comment on social media to understand what customers are now talking about and how they can best serve them.

Promotional pricing is also a tactic Mair’s team uses to help bring business in during the weekdays. Like most LBE VR locations, weekdays are generally less busy than the weekends.

“When we have a customer but it is a quiet day we will offer to extend their session at a lower rate or for them to have a full second session and a reduced rate,” Mair said.

But, as before the health crisis, DNA VR’s go-to for providing a top-level experience and creating repeat customers goes back to its team's customer service, something his team takes an extreme amount of pride in.

“The repeat business typically comes from our customer service and having an excellent team of VR Masters,” Mair said. “We often receive reviews with staff names and their positive impact on customers’ time at DNA VR. We even sometimes receive special requests for particular members of staff to be hosting their second or third session!”

Customer service aside, Mair said their team has focused on ensuring their business model provides as many ways as possible to give their customers the best VR experience possible, no matter who the customer is.

“We also have a lot of different games, session types, and price points,” Mair said. “Sometimes customers come as part of a group event (for a work event or birthday party for example) and then want to come back with their family, friends, partner, etc.

“Additionally, we have a loyalty system for repeat business, where you collect stamps to receive discounted sessions.”

Like many businesses, creating repeat customers is key for DNA VR and VR Arcades around the world. 

While providing superb customer service and a top-level experience are essential in creating repeat users, so is knowing your customer.

“Customers that like to go on activity dates and wealthier customers that have children who want to play frequently are our biggest types of repeat customers,” Mair said.

Content can also play a big part in creating and maintaining repeat customers. Mair said his team is always looking for new content and that selecting new content for the location, in general, a team effort.

“We have more than 20 VR Escape rooms and find some of our customers are enthusiasts and excellent at them,” Mair said. They always come back to try the newer and more challenging ones.

“We have Slack channels dedicated to suggestions/new games and content. Once we have tested it thoroughly and as a team agrees we should offer it, we add it to all the relevant systems and begin promoting via our website and social media adverts & posts.”

When it comes down to the health of the VR LBE industry - Simply put: Players are coming back, and locations like DNA VR are one of numerous SpringboardVR locations spearheading the revitalization of the VR Arcade industry.

And with amazing operators like the ones at DNA VR in the ring, the LBE VR industry is coming out of 2020 swinging for the fences, poised to not only survive, but thrive.

Thanks to the DNA VR team for sitting down with us to chat more about their location and all the amazing things they do to provide London's best VR Arcade experience!

As always thanks for tuning in and follow us on Twitter, Instagram and Youtube to keep up with everything SpringboardVR!

Hunter Lane
Marketing & Community Lead | SpringboardVR

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