DESIGN 101: Six Steps to a Front Gate Design That Really Sells!

Whenever I visit a front gate complex, I simply can't help but to get a little critical and to apply my sales standard to how their operation is set up. While there are plenty of adjustments that can be made to an admissions operation after the fact, it helps when a facility has been designed to support sales success. For example, I cringe whenever I see a brand-new facility that has been designed with solid windows and electronic microphones-that is so over! Your guests appreciate face-to-face contact and engaging conversation. But I'm getting ahead of myself. Here are six steps you should always take when designing a ticket sales environment:

1.Promote What Matters! As guests are immediately arriving at your ticket counter, never promote experiences that are already included in the basic admission product. For most attractions, guests who approach your ticket counter have already decided to buy a ticket. Reminding them what they'll get with the basic admission product isn't the best used of your signage real estate. Instead, promote your upsells including special experiences, services, and other ancillaries that, if purchased with admission, will enhance their day at your attraction.
2.Don't make me have to choose. If you are at all interested in generating fantastic revenue returns, your guests should never be forced to choose whether to stand in the admission line or the membership (annual pass) line. Because every single one of your sellers must be a sales ambassador for all of your admission products and because you must believe that every single local area guest should be a member, your ticket counter must be set up to have the right conversation for every guest who approaches the counter. To do anything less leaves a tremendous amount of money on the table and fails to provide your arriving guests with the best possible experience.
3.Build in face-to-face engagement. As I stated above, physical ticket windows and electronic microphones stifle great sales. Studies have shown that consumers appreciate face-to-face interactions--they spend more on the sale and come back time and time again. The fast food industry is a perfect example of this evolution in design. In their drive thru lanes, many of the top operators have scrapped their intercom ordering systems in favor of a face-to-face engagement. As consumers, we appreciate a smiling face and a friendly interaction. Physical barriers inhibit our ability to communicate effectively. Face-to-face communication is the way to go.
4.Always promote the value of experience. Never post your offerings on traditional menu/price boards. Traditional ticket menu boards create price-bias. It's been my experience that most arriving guests tend to 'shop' for the lowest price listed on the menu board--their goal being just to get in the door. Our goal should always be for the guest to consider the best possible experience that is suited just for them. Every arriving guest needs to be reminded of the "value of experience". For example, if it's a hot day at a crowded park, wouldn't you rather have the package that included an option to bypass the regular ride lines? By removing the traditional menu boards from the equation and replacing them with experiential messaging, guests who intend to purchase tickets from you are forced to have a conversation with your well-trained Sales Ambassador.
5.Focus your message. Avoid posting signage that is unrelated to the admissions sales process. Doing so is just plain distracting. The POS counter is a special place and your messaging must be focused toward the purchase of your best offerings. At Universal Orlando, for example, hours of operation, while important, are not posted at the point of sale. Instead, they are posted just prior to the parking lot as well as after the point of sale and directly adjacent to the turnstiles. Park rules and other non-sales related information should be posted away from the point of sale. By managing your information this way, you eliminate unnecessary distractions during the purchase process in favor of a more focused product message.
6.Build your facility in anticipation of greatness. If given the choice, would you rather process more general admission sales or more membership sales at your ticket windows? It always amazes me how so many operators often DO end up choosing a faster transaction time (and lower revenue yield) over a longer transaction time with significantly higher revenue yields. But it's not always their fault--it's often a direct result of the design of the facility in which we operate. (Peak days and long lines make me nervous too!) But you can have your cake and eat it too if you plan your facility the right way. Designers aren't the experts in front gate operations--we are--and it's up to us to stand up for a more sophisticated way of selling.

Have a great week!

"Be thankful for what you have; you'll end up having more. If you concentrate on what you don't have, you will never, ever have enough. "

--Oprah Winfrey