The future of nightclubs

COVID-19 has put nightclubs out of action for most of 2020. 754,000 jobs are at risk and the headlines are filled with the latest nightclub closure. 

Where financial assistance has been offered to restaurants and pubs, including the popular Eat Out To Help Out scheme, nightclubs are being left with two choices: remain closed and hope for the best, or diversify.

The nightclub industry has experienced a sharp decline in recent years, with over half of clubs closing down within a decade. 

There are two main questions around the future of nightclubs: why is the popularity of nightclubs declining, and what can we do to save the industry? 

Responding to COVID-19 safety measures

Let’s get this one out of the way. COVID-19 has undoubtedly been the instigator for procedural and policy changes across pretty much every sector. 

Nightclubs are having to consider implementing a number of new safety measures to keep customers safe – including temperature checks on entry, social distancing, face masks and much more. The NTIA commissioned a report from the Institute of Occupational Medicine to evaluate exactly how nightlife venues could reduce the risk of transmission. 

There are preconceptions that nightclubs are breeding grounds for coronavirus. A dark, poorly-ventilated social hub for large groups of strangers to mingle. That’s simply not the case. Nightclubs are invariably very well-ventilated and, by reducing capacity numbers and implementing the same social distancing measures as found elsewhere, there’s no reason people should view clubs as a bigger risk. It’s true that alcohol reduces our inhibitions – but pubs, bars and restaurants are all perfectly able to manage this. Nightclub owners and their team will be able to also. 

Certainly temporarily, the way we listen to music in nightclubs will change. Venues are offering headphones and shared playlists as an alternative to loud background music or live music. It has the effect of a silent disco, but still allows clubbers to enjoy a unique experience. 

The upcoming generation want different experiences

There are thousands of articles and studies worldwide exploring why millennials and Generation Z are no longer frequenting nightclubs as a staple weekend activity. These reasons include:

  • Health

We are more aware of living a healthy lifestyle, which includes lower alcohol consumption and generally healthy eating and drinking habits

  • Online dating

Nightclubs are no longer the number one way to meet a partner. Meeting through friends and family, or via online dating apps, is often preferable 

  • Lack of loyalty

Consumers flit between brands often these days. Customers who return to your club time and again out of loyalty and habit are few and far between 

  • Home is where the heart is

Millenials are enjoying experiences from home, including takeaways and luxury drink offerings (think wine clubs, gin experiences and craft beers delivered straight to your door) 

  • Financial concern

The younger generation are more concerned about saving money, rather than splurging it 

  • The rise of social media

Basically, nightclubs aren’t photogenic. How can people prove they’re having fun online if they can’t take a decent photograph? 

  • Human connections

We’re all so reliant on technology so, when the opportunity comes up to meet friends, we want to do it properly. That means a catch up and a nice conversation. Nightclubs don’t provide the right atmosphere for this 

  • We’re competitive

The modern way of life is competitive. Everyone is concerned about doing their best and getting ahead. Spending an evening (and the day after) getting drunk, then being exhausted or having a hangover doesn’t seem worth it for many 

Our expectations are changing

The days of waiting until the weekend to let our hair down on the dance floor are long gone for many. 

The future of nightclubs depends on them finding out what their own, local audience expects from the experience and diversifies to meet those needs. 

For example, some club goers are interested in the live music scene. To cater for music lovers, a resident DJ and live acts scheduled each weekend would help to bring in consumers. Other areas, perhaps in locations where there isn’t a large variety of eating options, would do well to consider offering snacks or light bites.

There are some key consumer trends that nightclubs should take into account:

  • Instant gratification

Drinks offers, loyalty rewards, VIP experiences… provide an experience that customers can enjoy instantly without having to work too hard for it 

  • Value for money 

It’s no good running a happy hour if the drinks on offer aren’t spectacular. Go the extra mile and deliver a great product or service that’s affordable too

  • Convenience

Long queues, booking in advance, complex entry criteria… club goers want easy, instant access to a great experience

  • Go premium

Consumers are happy to pay more for a top notch experience. Extra special cocktails, VIP lounges and fast-track entry are just some ways to impress 

  • Stick to straight-laced activities

Experiment with putting on new types of events that will appeal to a health-conscious demographic. Juice crawls are becoming ever-popular, allowing consumers to try a range of new and exciting drinks (without the impending hangover)

  • Spice up your soft drinks

Generally, UK citizens are drinking alcohol less. And, if they are, they’re drinking it at home. Provide an exciting, premium range of soft drinks to appeal to those who don’t want to consume too much alcohol 

  • Polish your USP

Whether you have room for a games room or shuffleboard table or have the capacity to run silent discos or other unique events, find your USP that will bring people to your club time and again 

  • Pump up your playlist

Live music is one of the main reasons people frequent modern nightclubs. Choose exceptional DJs and live musicians with a strong following to draw people in 

Does the future of nightclubs depend on the digital generation?

In today’s technology-focussed world, many consumers are expecting businesses to keep up with the latest innovation. 

Restaurants and bars have already adapted, offering the opportunity for consumers to download and order via an app. But coordinating a drinks order in a nightclub via an app could become chaotic and difficult to manage if not set up correctly. 

Nightclubs could keep a separate area of the bar clear for ‘click and collect’ style orders, allowing clubbers to order and pay for drinks via an app. The customer could then receive a notification when their order is ready to collect. Nightclubs could use the app to monitor excessive alcohol consumption also, capping the number of orders an individual can make via the app. 

Other nightclubs are adding tables to their layout, offering table service to customers who order via an app. Whilst this is a big difference to a completely open dancefloor space, it does allow customers the opportunity to sit down and relax while waiting for a drink. 

Nightclubs must also use technology to better promote their services. Flyering is great but, particularly in the wake of coronavirus, people are more tentative about being approached by strangers. Paid social ads, PPC and push notifications are a great way to shout about events and new club nights instead. 

The digital experience goes beyond utilising technology 

Consumers want to feel completely transported when they enter a nightclub, giving them a unique and exciting experience from the moment they walk in. 

Using LED lights and state-of-the-art projection technology, some clubs are able to transform into jungles, ancient ruins and royal castles. This exciting theming gives consumers a reason to venture out and enjoy a completely unique experience. 

It really is all about experience, providing something clubbers can’t get from a local restaurant or bar. Quiet zones or VIP premium seating areas are a good way to get bookings weeks in advance. Consumers want the opportunity to relax and chat to friends, whilst still being able to dance and listen to music. 

Clubbers want it all, and they want it now. It’s our job to give it to them. The future of nightclubs depends on it.