Resorts and attractions are all about offering good, clean fun… except, sometimes, when it comes to pricing strategy. Here at Catalate, we talk a lot about pricing hygiene, which builds trust with customers and ultimately creates more revenue and stability for ticketed businesses, without sacrificing long-term marketing efficiency. Pricing hygiene means skipping the highs and lows of last-minute price drops for a more consistent approach that results in increased customer confidence, repeat visits, and increased revenue.
What Is Pricing Hygiene?
Pricing hygiene is the principle that states parks, attractions, and resorts can benefit by adhering to their dynamic pricing strategy instead of making reactive pricing decisions due to external factors.
Some of the external factors that could tempt resorts and attractions to deviate from a well-planned pricing strategy include:
- Lower than expected sales
- A bout of bad weather that leads to cancellations
- A new competitor enters the market
Pricing hygiene plays an integral role in a successful dynamic pricing strategy, which, when built with limited quantities of tickets at distinct price points each day, adjusts automatically in response to demand. A strategy that always moves up in price over time trains consumers to always “buy now” instead of waiting to purchase if they think the price might drop at the last minute.
If a business is constantly changing prices in a reactive manner through last-minute or unexpected discounts or coupons, it impacts consumers’ willingness to buy in advance. The business is essentially “untraining” customers from buying in advance and thus, they’re likely to wait for a new discount before purchasing.
By allowing demand to dictate the available price and its rise over time, consumers gain confidence and trust in purchasing tickets ahead of arrival, which improves online sales efficiency and maximizes revenue.
Reactive pricing occurs when businesses adjust prices last minute in an attempt to maximize revenue. The operators most at risk of falling into this dangerous habit are those who sell frequent entries to activities such as golfing, skiing, and water parks.
While a special anniversary concert (an event) by your favorite band might only occur once in a lifetime, a trip to the nearest water park (an activity) likely occurs every summer, if not more. This means consumers are making spending decisions based on a very different set of factors in each instance.
What is the Difference Between Events & Activities?
The difference between events and activities comes down to how frequently consumers have the opportunity to engage in the experience and how easily it could be replicated. The set of circumstances around the occasion is a primary factor when determining pricing strategy.
To put it simply, activities happen frequently and have a higher volume of inventory with a lower risk of selling out. Events occur infrequently and have a lower volume of inventory with a higher risk of selling out.
Characteristics of Events vs Activities
- Happens infrequently
- Single instance consumption or a one-time opportunity
- Narrow/reactive yield management can be employed with little long-term impact
- Revenue gains prioritized over long-term consumer confidence
- Happens frequently
- Consumers can engage as often as they’d like & circumstances remain similar from instance-to-instance
- Requires a long-term dynamic pricing strategy
- Maintaining consumer confidence, building trust paramount to long-term success
There are instances where reactive pricing is OK and does achieve higher revenue without impacting future purchasing behavior. The most common example of this would be an infrequent event such as a championship soccer game or reunion concert.
Why Is Pricing Hygiene Important?
For activities or attractions that consumers frequent regularly, a dynamic pricing strategy is not only about maximizing short-term revenue but also investing in future consumer confidence.
Let’s break this down.
Consumer confidence is directly tied to conversion rates. Pricing decisions that negatively impact current consumer confidence, such as a last-minute price drop, may negatively affect future conversion rates.
For example, let’s say an operator decides to launch a spontaneous discount the day before a ski day with a poor forecast and the sales come flooding in. The team is riding high on adrenaline as they watch sales climb and increase revenue for the upcoming day. But similar to a sugar high, the euphoria doesn’t last forever.
This reactive strategy comes with its share of risk. Soon consumers stop planning and purchasing tickets ahead of time. Instead, they wait, knowing there’s a potential discount between now and their time of visit. It doesn’t take long before the entire pricing strategy that the business worked so hard to build up becomes obsolete.
Without good pricing hygiene, businesses risk losing all the benefits of a dynamic pricing strategy. By driving early ticket purchases, operators are able to improve the guest experience by properly planning for accurate staffing levels, ensuring ample F&B stock, and expediting the entry process by reducing ticket lines.
Pricing hygiene is not unique to parks, tours, and attractions. It impacts consumer behavior in other industries as well. Take, for example, the home goods store Bed Bath and Beyond with their famous 20% off coupon. No one buys full-price items from this specific retailer because they can be certain that a discount coupon will arrive in the mail sooner than later. Last-minute hotel booking app Hotel Tonight also negatively impacted consumer behavior, teaching buyers to wait to buy because the best deals are available right before a stay.
Another common example is the Coca-Cola ‘BOGO’ discount employed by Six Flags Entertainment Corp. While the company, which has 18 parks in North America, implemented a form of variable pricing in 2012, it also promotes a long-standing discount for customers who bring an empty can of Coca-Cola brand soda to the ticket window. Customers can also purchase discount tickets online with a promo code and save up to 50% on full-price general admission, regardless of what they would have paid if purchased ahead of time online.
With such a popular discount, Six Flags would likely find it difficult to reap the full benefit of a dynamic pricing strategy.
Practicing good pricing hygiene
So how do ticketing businesses maintain pricing hygiene in a world full of sweet, but cheap, discount opportunities?
With dynamic pricing, of course. Dynamic ticket pricing builds consumer trust so they know that they’re getting the best price by buying now, which influences them to buy in advance.
For example, consumers can frequent water parks as often as they like and the experience will largely stay the same. There are also wide time slots, a high volume of tickets, and a low risk of selling out, so inventory is not usually limited.
The park can vary prices from day to day (Tuesday v Saturday) but it can also adjust the price depending on how far in advance the customer buys. In this way, the operator actually manufactures scarcity instead of relying on natural constraints/sell-out risks.
In a similar example, consumers have the opportunity to go golfing frequently; however, there are only a few slots available at any given tee time. The most effective pricing strategy will maximize the differences between time slots on the same day (8 am v 10 am) or the desirability of specific days (Tuesday v Saturday). As customers frequent golf courses regularly, it is important to use a consistent pricing strategy that reinforces advanced purchase buying behavior.
The pricing strategy, however, would shift for an event with a more unique, time-specific set of circumstances such as a championship soccer game. The value of the ticket is tied to the teams playing. Therefore, reactive pricing adjustments will not have a measurable impact on long-term consumer confidence. Attendees would happily pay $200 for a ticket to a game, but they might not pay even $50 for a game with a different set of competitors.
The effectiveness of a dynamic pricing strategy, when accurately implemented, is proven and provides operators with the confidence and plan they need to weather temporary hiccups in ticket sales. By focusing on a sustainable approach to entry fees and pricing, an entire venue’s operations can benefit, to deliver both financial goals and the best possible guest experience.
And that sounds like good, clean fun to us!