Digitising the experience economy: The story of Easol, the all-in-one experience commerce platform

Founded by husband and wife duo Lisa and Ben Simpson, Easol is described as an experience commerce platform, supporting actors in the experience market globally. The platform can help drive more direct sales, retain revenues, help operators take ownership of data and give insights and analysis. Essentially, it’s an all-in-one platform for the experience market. 

Born out of frustration with existing systems, the pair developed the platform after their experience running a snowsports and music festival – Rise. In the process, they found a lack of tools to manage the website, bookings and payments. So, they set up Easol in 2018 – a SaaS company exclusively for the experience economy – including events, festivals and tour operators. 

In 2021, the London-based startup multiplied the number of creators it works with by more than 10 and grew its customer base by 913%. Given the uniqueness of Easol, it’s no surprise it’s enjoyed such success in a short time, and we were curious to find out more about their secrets to success.

Firstly, what’s the vision behind Easol?

The founders explained: 

“The way the experience economy operates is outdated for creators today. The technology and software solutions that experience businesses must stitch together to be able to offer a variety of different booking, payment and activity options develops a working environment for creators that is complex, inflexible, and expensive.  Creators lose control of the customer journey by having to hand over customers to third parties, valuable data is lost and ultimately the vision of a passionate creator ends up being compromised.

The mission for Easol is to show experience businesses what is possible when you work with technology that was developed specifically with their needs in mind. We call this Experience Commerce, and it refers to an ecommerce environment where creators can fully realise their passions and deliver experiences for their customers that are authentic, good value, bespoke and how they intended them to be.” 

Easol, therefore, is giving much-needed control to players in the experience market. It’s an industry inherently marked by being present, being in the moment, but it’s inherently scattered. Experiences are always more popular the more tailored they can be. Therefore, digitizing has been a daunting task for most operators. But digitizing, as pointed out by the pair, is crucial for the industry to keep growing and providing the best experiences for travellers, guests and customers. 

Not only can digitisation open the door for more personalisation, but, in 2022, virtually every industry has gone digital.

The digital transformation has accelerated at an incredible pace, and was further pushed forward by the pandemic –  it’s left no ma(n)rket behind. 

“The pandemic caused a shift in consumer buying behaviours – we know that consumers now expect greater flexibility and want to have full control over their options. We’ve also seen a rapid wave of digitalisation, with consumers now expecting instant and easy service.

The rise of technology, and specifically the internet, has taken the travel industry by storm – gone are the times when travellers relied on travel agents to craft the perfect holiday. Processes such as planning trips, making bookings, taking payments and organising accommodation can now all be done online at the click of a button. 

The next step that we would expect to see in the travel industry is that these processes become more intuitive and integrated to make the customer experience more seamless – at present, travellers have to use several platforms and interfaces to book one trip.”

We wanted to find out more about the core benefits of taking experiences digital.

Ben and Lisa shared their thoughts:

“There are several really important reasons for digitising experiences and bringing them onto one integrated platform: 

  • Creators can be confident that all changes to a booking follow through and are made on the front and the back end seamlessly.  When flights are cancelled or people change their plans, making adjustments is accurate, quick and easy.  Without this integrated platform, most creators find themselves having to update several systems which is time-consuming and an opportunity for costly errors to occur
  • With multiple systems at play, if a potential customer is taken to another portal to complete their booking, for example, to pay for the booking, and then doesn’t complete it for any reason, the creator has no way of connecting with that customer or retargeted them.  All elements of the trip booking taking place on one platform means that the customer, and their data, all stay in one place for the creator to manage which has huge implications for their ability to run and build their business. 
  • For the end customer, the whole experience of booking is much smoother, there are no third-party websites and optional extras can be presented at the right time for the trip being offered.  Ultimately, taking this approach means that people are empowered to create totally unique, personalised experiences based on their interests and what they enjoy.”

Now, in 2022, the travel industry and experience economy are back up and running. Prices for hotels, activities, travel options, and so forth, have all skyrocketed this year in a firm statement that Europe’s appetite for travel is back.

While the appetite for travel is back, tastes may have changed. 

“People’s priorities have shifted, and personalisation is taking centre stage – we’re seeing more and more people seeking authentic, unique experiences. From destinations and accommodation to activities and food, people want to tailor every aspect of their experience to their preferences. 

Experiential travel is emerging as an antidote to mass packaged tourism – people want to broaden their minds, challenge themselves outside our comfort zones, meet people from different backgrounds and achieve a sense of personal transformation. Similarly, in an increasingly digitised world, people are seeking authenticity and real connection with like-minded people. 

Easol empowers experience creators to offer highly personalised experiences with the degree of seamlessness and flexibility that today’s customers have come to expect and value.”

Easol’s platform is a pioneering product. Bringing the ability for experienced operators to pull together the full spectrum of operations and processes into one place is providing an innovative and hotly-demanded tool to the market and it’s certainly shaking things up. It’s offering that much-needed personalisation to cater to new expectations and demands, and it’s helping experience providers capitalise on renewed interest in getting out and exploring the world.

The core takeaways from their experience? 

Know your audience – what are they looking for in an experience? What do they value? What motivates them to travel or spend money on an experience? Experience creators are experts in what they do, and often cater to niche audiences – it’s important to establish yourself as a specialist in this area, so customers seek you out.

Offer flexibility in booking and payments – this has become a must-have rather than a nice-to-have, even more so since the pandemic. People’s plans are constantly changing, and in the current uncertainty, people are drawn to providers who offer low-commitment options such as deposit schemes and refunds. Equally, it’s important to offer a streamlined, seamless booking experience, and have a well-designed website and consistent social media presence that reflects your brand accurately.”

Finally, we wanted to hear some words of wisdom from Ben and Lisa.

They shared that:

“In the beginning, the most important thing is to be focused on the problem that you’re solving. Before you spend any money or start building anything, just really try and understand the challenges or issues that you’re looking to change. The first step of any founder’s journey is identifying the problem, and who you’re solving it for – there’s no point building out your idea if there isn’t a market for it.

Once you’ve figured out your audience, it’s time to double down and really work out how you’re going to achieve success, and this means working with the people you’re trying to solve the problem for. Immerse yourself in their worlds as much as you can and talk to them as much as you can to figure out the best way to help them out. 

Finally, be frugal – super, super frugal – and try to remember to have fun along the way!