How theme parks can increase guest spending: Sell all park merchandise online, too
Published: August 25, 2009 at 7:44 AM
"I wanna stop in a store to see if they have this mug."
It was hardly an unusual request. Millions of theme park visitors make a last-minute purchase on their way of a park. That's why Disney built its largest store - the Emporium - right at the end of Main Street U.S.A. in its popular Magic Kingdoms. And Dollywood's taken it a step further. It's placed the exit of the park inside its Emporium, making it impossible for visitors to leave without one last look at thousands of park souvenirs.
Earlier in the day at SeaWorld, Laurie had seen a cute coffee mug with a shark on it, but she hadn't bought it. She didn't want to carry it around. She wasn't sure that she wouldn't find something she wanted more, later in the day. Many of us have made the decision, when browsing through the shops at a theme park.
But... (and you can see where this is going, can't you?), when we searched through the souvenir stores and stands at the SeaWorld's exit, we couldn't find the mug. And we weren't about to hike all the way back through the crowded park to buy it, not with everyone's feet dead tired and the family hungry for dinner.
So what did we do? What millions of other consumers do in the same situation: We walked out, without buying the mug. (Or any other souvenir, since we were so fixated on the mug.)
I've been writing about ways that theme parks can increase their per-guest spending, not by nickel-and-diming visitors, but by increasing the value of what they offer, so that visitors will want to spend more. Theme parks, collectively, are leaving millions of dollars of profit in consumers' wallets each year by not making it easier for those consumers to buy the merchandise that they've already decided they want.
Visitors should have one last chance to buy anything available in a park when they exit at day's end. SeaWorld's set-up, with a relatively small store and a few outdoor stands, wasn't anywhere near large enough to stock everything from park's entire product line.
But even if it were, that wouldn't be enough to capture every available visitor dollar. Parks need the ability to close sales with visitors even after they're returned home. Parks must stock their souvenir inventory online.
Disney is the master at this. Disney's created an online store of items from its theme parks. You can buy photos taken of you in the Disney theme parks even after you've returned home. No matter how long ago you last visited a Disney theme park, if you ever think, "Hmmm, I'd really like a pair of mouse ears" - boom! - you are no more than a few clicks away from having them delivered.
There are darned good reasons why Disney enjoys the highest per-guest spending in the theme park business. And this level of follow-through is one of them.
I looked around the SeaWorld website later that week, and if Shamu's selling stuff online, I couldn't find the link.
Again, I have no interest in buying cheap junk from theme and amusement parks. Nor do I want parks to spam me after my visit with offers to buy more stuff, if I gave up my e-mail address when I bought my ticket online. But if there is an item, from the back of the park, that I wished I'd bought but didn't, I do want the ability to go get it online or at the park exit, whichever is most convenient for me.
For the stuff I want, make it as convenient as possible for me to spend my money. Before my visit, let me buy print at home tickets online, whenever I want. And let me easily buy anything the park sells - before, during or after my visit, as well.