What my team learned in a virtual escape room 

Lockdown orders around the world have forced businesses that rely on face-to-face exchanges to think deeply about what they’re selling, if only to figure out how to capture the essence of the experience in a new, virtual form. Why do people go out for a meal, anyway? What are you seeking when you buy a ticket for a magic show? How easily will customers accept remote versions of things they’ve only ever done in person?

When the pandemic erupted, Nate Martin, founder and CEO of Puzzle Break, a Seattle company behind several escape rooms in the US, was among those left to ponder such questions about his own brand.

Washington state was the first Covid-19 hotspot in the US, reporting community transmission and deaths from the novel coronavirus in late February. Puzzle Break’s sales slowed to a trickle even before non-essential businesses were closed. Financially speaking, Martin found himself in “a slow-motion nightmare,” he says. He would soon be furloughing most of his staff.

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