What do you do when your entire business is built around parties and celebrations, but people can’t actually get together?
That’s the question faced by Party City during the COVID-19 pandemic. But instead of slowing down as social distancing severely limits gatherings, Party City is taking the opportunity to pivot and introduce new services to customers.
After its stores closed in mid-March, Party City quickly pivoted to buy online, pickup in store and same-day delivery. According to CEO Brad Weston, the company already had these services on its omnichannel roadmap but had to quickly implement them in a few days instead of months or years as originally planned. Party City partnered with a leading digital fulfilment and delivery platform to enhance the delivery experience from start to finish. Delivery has been a huge boost for the company, especially for balloons. A common frustration for customers used to be going to the store to have balloons filled, only to find they didn’t all fit in their car. But with balloons being delivered, customers aren’t limited by the size of their trunk space.
Even in a pandemic, celebrations still happen. Birthdays, graduations, weddings, new babies, holidays and a host of other things give people a reason to celebrate, just in a different way. COVID-19 has forced the store to pivot many of its products and experiences, especially around virtual events. It now offers kits for easy virtual and at-home celebrations, including a DIY movie night in a box, beach day in a box, graduation in a box and many more. Party City also expanded its online resources to help customers plan and host virtual parties with step-by-step guides. In many cases, customers didn’t need tons of supplies for a virtual celebration, but the resources helped build the experience and push Party City to its new experiential focus.
Party City is in the business of helping people find and celebrate joy. Much of that starts online. Weston believes that to get customers’ attention, retailers need to provide aspirational and inspirational experiences to start customers down the journey instead of just making products available. In the case of Party City, that means providing inspiration for the entire party experience including entertainment, décor and food, instead of simply selling party supplies. Customers want a one-stop shop where they can plan amazing celebrations and be inspired.
Party City’s pivot to experiential customer service starts online by providing ideas and planning services. The company is making the big shift towards adding a marketplace of services that customers might want, including balloon artists, caterers, musicians and more. The goal is to help customers with every step of the party process, from brainstorming and big-picture ideas down to the little details and vendors.
Celebrations don’t stop because of COVID-19. Today’s customers are celebrating together while remaining apart. Party City’s pivot during the pandemic provides new resources and ideas for customers while also putting the company on the path to a more holistic, experience-based approach to celebrations of the future.