It’s never been more important for cultural organisations to maximise visitor income, whether that’s through retail, catering, donations or other revenue streams. Here’s a timely reminder from our new Associate Member, Merlinsoft, about doing some simple things right to capture and capitalise on that all important secondary spend.

The Online Ticketing Effect

If you didn’t start selling tickets online during the pandemic, now might be the time to offer this as an option. Not only does it secure the admission fee upfront, it can also have a significant psychological impact on the customer – as they’ve already paid in advance, they still have the entry money in their pockets, ready to spend in the shop and café!

Data from existing users of online tickets sales shows an increase in secondary spend of up to 24%, so this is a fantastic opportunity for you to increase your revenue in the shop and café.

It’s very easy to add online ticket sales to your existing website and start selling tickets 24 hours a day, seven days a week. There are many digital tools available to support with this and the cost is negligible (and can be covered very easily by a small online booking fee if required). You can also link merchandise to ticket sales as part of your online offer. Even if customers don’t buy the products there and then, they’ll be aware of them and may purchase them on the day instead.

Capitalise on Catering

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, ‘own brand’ biscuits, flapjacks, toffee, fudge etc. There are plenty of suppliers that will brand items up for you.

Make sure you don’t fall into the trap of being too expensive as this gets more negative reviews on Tripadvisor than almost anything else. 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 sandwiches were a ridiculous price”. Make sure your customers want to comment for all the right reasons!

Successful Retail

A captive audience offers a real advantage, but as most of us know, that doesn’t mean you can rest on your laurels when it comes to retail products. Make sure yours are not just relevant to your collection, reflecting the theme and content of what visitors have just seen, but also displayed in the most attractive and appealing way, with unique products that customers won’t find down the local high street.

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.

Ensure all your staff are also part of the ‘wow’ you have on offer. Are they all familiar with your product lines and the story of your venue? Often when in the shop visitors will ask questions they forgot to ask inside so staff need to be prepared to answer those, and even better if they can link products in the shop to items in the collection.

Don’t ignore the till point either as this is the place where customers will be standing for a couple of minutes at least. Don’t clutter it up – use the space wisely and effectively to add value and perhaps advertise upcoming events and experiences. Remember the ‘two thirds rule’ – two thirds space and one third product. This 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. Nothing like a fresh pair of eyes, and more often than not a photo will highlight issues you might have missed when you were setting it all up.

Merlinsoft provides on and off-line solutions for visitor attractions, event management, retail and the charitable sector. Find out more.

Joanne Whitworth
By Joanne Whitworth
Jo is Communications & Media Manager at the Association for Cultural Enterprises.
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