1. On-Line ticket sales:
The real advantages of on-line tickets sales are two-fold;
a) The visitor pays upfront and you have the money irrespective of whether they attend or not!
b) Psychologically, as they have paid in advance, they still have the entry money in their pockets!
In the case of a) it is very easy to add on-line ticket sales to an existing website and be selling tickets 24 hours a day 7- days a week. The cost of this is negligible and can be covered very easy by a small on-line booking fee if required. Many venues make no charge for on-line booking as the cash-flow advantages and the reduction in staffing intervention is worth the small fees charged. In addition, if you link merchandise to ticket sales as part of your on-line offering this will also increase sales of existing products. For example if they are attending a special event there may be specific merchandise linked to that event which can be bought at the same time as the tickets. ‘Dinosaur Live’ attracted 10,000 visitors and parents could buy their children self assembly models of a variety of dinosaurs both before and during their visit. Shop sales rocketed during that exhibition as even if they hadn’t bought on-line they knew these products were available on their visit.
You can use some basic psychology here too as, having paid for tickets on-line, the visitor often sees their visit as a ‘freebie’ as they haven’t had to pay out money on the day so still have money in their pockets. Data gleaned from existing users of on-line tickets sales show an increase in secondary spend of up to 24%. Clearly this is a fantastic opportunity for you to increase your revenues in the shop and café/restaurant. To tap into this lucrative market you need to be creative in your product offerings and ensure they can take something away that links them to the visit. Using the example of the dinosaurs I mentioned earlier, how about looking for local products such as paintings, craftwork, ceramics, even jams, cakes, etc.
Food and drink are very profitable lines and it’s worth ensuring that you have plenty of variety on offer, especially if you can have products not found easily elsewhere – locally made pies, buns and cakes for example. ‘Own brand’ biscuits, flap-jack toffee, fudge etc. There are plenty of suppliers that will brand items up for you. However, don’t fall into the trap of being too expensive as this gets more negative reviews on Tripadvsior than almost anything else. The fact that you have a ‘captive market’ doesn’t give you the right to rip them off! Just ask yourself how many times people have visited a venue or event and when asked about their experience have commented along the lines of “great day out but the food was really expensive”. I’m not suggesting that you try to compete with Greggs or Subway or the like but do be sensible in your pricing structure.
2. Retail Merchandising:
One area that is sadly neglected in many venues is the retail offering. I’m aware that you’re not all high street retailers but you do need to be aware of the opportunities available from good quality products and merchandising.
Back to that comment of ‘captive audience’ where here it can be a real advantage. They have visited your attraction and many of them want to take away a souvenir of their visit. All too often this means rummaging around the same stuff they can buy on most market stalls. In some cases badly presented and even dusty. In some attractions the dusty environment can be a real problem but this has to be contained so that your product offering is always being displayed in the most attractive and appealing way. First of all try and see your retail offering as a visitor would see it. This can be an issue as it is often difficult to see faults with what we have created. If necessary get a friend you trust to give you their opinion. This will assess both the visual effectiveness and also the staff’s attitude to customers.
When creating displays look at providing the ‘wow’ factor. What is the ‘wow’ factor? It’s that little bit extra we get when we choose something, especially if it makes us remember our purchase in a more positive way. This can be done by the use of clever lighting or décor or even sound. TV screens are very cheap but they can be used to show dynamic displays in a particularly effective setting.
Ensure all your staff are also part of the ‘wow’ you have on offer. Are they all familiar with your product lines and the history of your venue. Often when in the shop visitors will ask questions they forgot to ask inside.
Picking up again on the Dinosaur Live exhibition make sure you have enough products which reflect the theme and content of what they have just seen. If you sell models have one or two already assembled and painted to show what the finished product will look like.
Don’t ignore the till point either as this is the place where they will have to stand for a few minutes at least. I don’t mean clutter it up with those cheap tacky goods from the Far East either. Use the space wisely and effectively either to add value to what they have already bought or as a way of advertising forthcoming events and experiences. Remember the two-third rule – two-third space and one-third products, that way it ensures the eye is drawn to what you actually want them to see.
When laying out your retail space always take a picture of the finished product and then view it the day after. Often a picture will identify issues you missed when you were setting it all up. There are also lots of ways you can spruce up displays very cheaply and effectively – I call it the Blue Peter effect! Think back to how they made some very magical things out of fairly ordinary objects with the addition of coloured paper, stars and decals and even sticky back plastic. If creativity is not your speciality I’m sure the local art college would be more than willing to get involved, especially if they get a mention on the displays. In addition, if you sell models always have one or two already assembled and painted to show what the finished product will look like.