zombie businessmanMany startups suffered in the recent economy crash. It wasn’t a good time to start a business, and unfortunately, many entrepreneurs didn’t know that until they were in the midst of a financial drought.

Despite all the odds, however, one company started to flourish thanks to zombies, helicopter flights, and other larger-than-life experiences.

Capitalizing on the fun has never been so profitable for Wish.co.uk. One of their most popular activities is a customer favorite: shooting up zombies in an abandoned shopping mall, manor house, or another creepy area.

The popularity of zombies can’t be understated. Some of the top TV shows, including The Walking Dead, now feature zombies. Comic books and other pop culture phenomena are capitalizing on the trend, and so is Wish.co.uk. Customers are let into an abandoned area, then given weapons and training, along with a briefing on the zombie situation. They then have to fight their way through the hordes using any tactics they deem fit from posting sentries to rushing the zombies headlong.

Even skeptics end up having fun when they try it, which is perfect for Wish.co.uk’s business. People can buy these experiences as gifts or bring friends or partners along. As soon as a customer tries the experience and loves it, they will probably brag about it to all of their friends, who will then want to go and try it for themselves. The viral interest generated by happy customers can’t be overvalued.

The founders of Wish.co.uk – Richard Kershaw and Stephen Pavlovich – have a background in affiliate marketing and conversion rate optimization, which is ideal for starting such a popular business and helps explain how it grew so quickly. Affiliate marketing experience helped them get the website seen by more people, and conversion rate optimization turns people from lukewarm prospects into ones who can’t wait to buy.

Of course, though Kershaw and Pavlovich sometimes compare the website to Groupon, it’s difficult to make a direct comparison. Groupon and similar deal-sharing websites rely on customers trying out a restaurant for the first time, then returning over and over; customers of Wish.co.uk might only try out a zombie shooting experience once.

These two entrepreneurs are very aware of the importance of unique products offered in an interesting way; that’s how Wish.co.uk took off. If they had offered zombie experiences without selling it as well, their business might never have taken off. Yet as important as their product offerings are to their success, customer service can’t be underestimated, either. Kershaw and Pavlovich use a customer support center that helps them provide consistently great service through bulk support responses, pre-written help center answers, and more.

Another aspect of conversion rate optimization and a way to build fans of the business who support and recommend the experiences to others is to include social proof elements. For example, individual product pages have Facebook like buttons, and potential customers can see whether their friends have liked the page – and if so, who has. Subtle, powerful, personalized social proof has definitely helped the company succeed online.

So, just how successful have Kershaw and Pavlovich been in launching the ultimate experience shopping website? Within six months, they were making profits, and within a year, they made £1m in revenue, from many experiences sold at prices like £79 (for zombie bootcamp). They sell 95% of the UK’s zombie experience tickets, and they have basically created their own market for new zombie experiences in other areas – recently, London residents were overjoyed to discover a new zombie experience coming to town.
We can all take a lesson from the success of Wish.co.uk. The entrepreneurs behind it use techniques as varied as human social psychology and down-to-earth business basics like good customer service. The trend of experience-giving – prioritizing things like great memories over physical “stuff” and clutter – bodes well for Kershaw, Pavlovich, and their growing company.

Jack Harding likes researching upstarts and the entrepreneurs that make them successful. He enjoys sharing his findings and insights on entrepreneur blogs. VisitWish.co.uk to find out more about their business model.