November 10, 2020

Pricing Strategies for Cultural Attractions in the New Tomorrow

Visitor attractions earn revenue through a variety of channels, yet one reigns supreme over all others: the front gate. No other channel—not food service, retail, paid experiences, nor special events—is equal in potential and potency to the front gate. Look at your per caps: I’ll bet you a breakfast burrito that gate spending per visitor is at least five times (if not many more) greater than any other area. Gate pricing strategy is the first place you need to look to chart your path towards recovery and growth.

Last week we took a look at how cultural attractions can leverage recent changes in the consumer buying landscape to maximize gate returns. Here are our takeaways:

Treat Visits as Perishable Goods: Like many other products that don’t sit on shelves (hotel rooms, airline flights, sporting events tickets, etc.), an admission to a cultural attraction is perishable. If you don’t sell today’s ticket today, you cannot sell it tomorrow. The concept of a zoo visit as a perishable good is a great way to contextualize how we price it. If your organization uses a standard, static pricing system (i.e. an admission is a certain price all year or all season), it is difficult to be agile in aligning supply to demand. Like so much broccoli at the back of your vegetable drawer, an unsold admission spoils immediately.

The Big Shift to Online: The overwhelming percentage of our visitors are now buying tickets online and in advance. Covid-19 has quickened e-commerce growth by five years in just the past nine months. One of the biggest implications is that we now have an easy way to gather information about general admissions visitors, a group who has in the past been notoriously difficult to leverage for greater engagement. When a visitor purchases their tickets online, you get a lot of hugely valuable information about them: their address, email, and phone number. But what do you do with it?


Looking for More Financial Planning Resources?

Check out Zoo Advisors’ New Tomorrow Financial Toolkit for strategy briefs on admissions pricing, membership fee optimization, and economic impact research.


The Top 10 Strategies for Leveraging Ticket-Buyer Data: Congratulations, you’re rolling in new visitor data. You are capturing that, right? Here are some ideas on how to leverage it, courtesy of panelist Jessica Harrington from the Harrington Agency:

  1. Either during the ticket buying process or in future communications, request the buyer’s mobile phone number. Text messages have significantly higher open and engagement rates than emails and can be used for upsells, last-minute sales, engagement, and event tickets.

  2. Shortly before their visit, email or text coupons or special marketing communications to drive traffic to your retail and food outlets.

  3. Configure your ticket confirmation emails to upsell add-on experiences.

  4. Add all ticket buyers to your newsletter lists to keep your organization top-of-mind.

  5. The day before their visit, send them a “visitor packet” of materials that is optimized for their electronic device—maps, schedules of events, etc. This will cut down on the number of paper maps you’ll need to print and answers their questions in advance, reducing staff time.

  6. Deploy a simple post-visit survey via email or text (no more than three questions) to collect information about the guest experience.

  7. Take advantage of geolocation to target visitors with marketing at specific locations in your facility (e.g. if they’re nearby a restaurant around lunchtime, text them about today’s special).

  8. Based on attendance trend data, email recent ticket buyers strategically to visit again, or when a special event is coming up. Use the email to drive additional visits.

  9. Pre-market your memberships. Email visitors before their visit and offer to apply the cost of their tickets to upgrade to a membership.

  10. Upload emails to social, search, and display advertising platforms to retarget ticket buyers with additional offers, such as membership, paid events, ticket sales, and fundraising asks.

Think Dynamically: While it’s not perfect for every facility, dynamic pricing has a lot of upside for many of them. Many other industries have already fully embraced dynamic pricing—hotels and airlines in particular. It’s no coincidence that these are the two industries we mentioned before. Dynamic pricing is a fantastic strategy to address the issue of perishability. At a minimum, every facility should look at some sort of a variable pricing model to match supply and demand.

These are just a few of the great takeaways from our last webinar. If you missed it, make sure to check out the recording here, and visit our New Tomorrow Community Conversations Series page for information on upcoming sessions.

Special thanks to our panelists from our November 5th, 2020 New Tomorrow Community Conversations webinar on pricing strategy:

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