Getting found online – SEO for visitor attractions

How to get your attraction found online

Last month we looked at whether museums should charge for admission, and found by and large that while a small drop in visitor numbers can be expected when moving from free admission to paid, increasing charges surprisingly tended to have little effect on attendance.

But what if we’re looking not just to boost spend per visitor, but overall visitor numbers? The tourism sector is fraught with competition and the methods used to stand out have evolved over the years. In this guide, I’ll be giving you the rundown of the latest trends in being found online.

 

#1 Build and maintain an online identity

While a website will always be the richest and most informative source of information for your visitors, it’s unlikely to be the first they hear of you. Chances are, people will discover you through their friends   experiences, and when they do, it’s important to have an active presence on whatever platform that may be.

Popularity of social media platforms by share of visits. #1 Facebook, #2 Youtube, #3 Twitter #4 Reddit #5 Instagram #6 Pinterest

Facebook and Twitter are still the largest and most active social networks, and while pushing original contentcan often have very limited visibility, a consistent approach which drives engagement can be a powerful force for growth. Bodelwyddan Castle 

Ideally for these networks, you should be looking to maintain an active presence, engaging with visitors as they ‘check-in’ at the venue and use local hashtags to push any special offers or new features.

While Instagram has continued to rise past Pinterst since being bought out by Facebook in 2012, both are great tools to distribute some of the more scenic and unusual details of your venue. Bressingham’s Steam and Gardens Instagram profile is a great example of how varied imagery can set the scene of the experiences on offer, without saying a word.

 

#2 Demonstrate credibility and great service with testimonials

Being found online means utilising every tool at your disposal to create a consistent public profile for audiences of every kind. While a social media presence can target your visitors’ networks, how do you reach those who have never heard of you?

Search for any kind of attraction in any city in any country, and you’re likely to see Trip Advisor as one of the top results with their recommendations. Why? Because they’re a trusted authority who see millions of visits per year for their crowdsourced assessments of visitor attractions, restaurants and travel destinations.

Museums in England google search screenshot

Most searches involving tourist destinations will return Trip Advisor recommendations on the front page

Opening your venue and service up to public critique can be a decisive turning point in terms of success. Positive reviews and a high user rating can be an excellent indicator to local tourists; while on the other hand, a damning critique could potentially deter visitors who would have otherwise been happy to make the trip and find out.

While this may seem a risky move, the evolving trend of reading reviews before buying or visiting anywhere is not one to be ignored. Not only are your competitors benefiting from the exposure, but being unable to find any public reviews can often arouse suspicion in itself.

 

#3 Make sure your website is optimised

It’s estimated that around 85% of all searches are now done by mobile, which is the reason why last month, Google updated its search algorithms to ‘mobile first’. Today’s search engines can tell when you website was last updated, and will often penalise those who do not offer a user friendly experience.

Some common mistakes are:-

  • Site resolution does not scale to the device (do users have to scroll right and left to navigate your site?)
  • Page takes too long to load (do you have high resolution images or web-applications which cause pages to take longer than three seconds to load?)
  • Do visitors have to pinch and zoom to read text on your site?
Mobile friendly site guide

You can review whether your site is mobile optimised for free by clicking this link here.

Aside from mobile optimisation, there are many other factors that determine the quality of a web-page for the purpose of search rankings. A few questions to ask yourself might be:-

  • How relevant is my content to the people I want to attract?
  • Does my website look like a trusted source? (i.e, do I have a privacy policy, website terms of use, about us & contact details?)
  • Could my website potentially raise any ‘spam’ flags? (high advert to content ratio, excessive linking, duplicated content, excessive keyword concentration)

There are many numerous guides to read on SEO (search engine optimisation) which range from white-hat best practice, to black-hat algorithm exploitations. As a rule of thumb, try to make your website engaging, original, relevant and user friendly. Ultimately, this is the type of content that Google wants to reward with high search rankings.

 

#5 Build a network of backlinks

In SEO, a backlink is exactly what it sounds like. A backlink means another website has seen fit to link to your website as an affiliate, information source, or subject of their own content.

The most immediate benefit of having a strong network of backlinks is that it can be a source of direct traffic. For visitor attractions, some key places to be listed might be local travel reviews or ‘things to do’ directories. By speaking to journalists, travel bloggers and local businesses, you may be able to create a public listing that reaches a much more specific audience than you could achieve through social media.

The second benefit is a gradual one. The more links you have from trusted, relevant sources, the more trust and authority your own webpage is perceived to have, and the higher you will tend to position for your relevant search terms.

Google search snippet with Moz bar plugin

This is a snippet of front page results for Castles in Yorkshire, with the Moz browser plugin for Chrome.

While Google’s search algorithms are a tightly guarded secret, Moz have some great tools to assess how websites are likely to perform in search results. For this search of “Castles in Yorkshire”, our top 7 hits are all from travel sites including Trip Advisor; #8 is Wikipedia, which is a highly trusted source (with 97 Domain Authority or DA); and number 9, the first singular attraction listing, is Skipton Castle.

While Skipton Castle is nowhere near as authoritative a source as English Heritage, it has over 2000 backlinks referring to it’s website. Such links include Travel reviews from Foursquare (where it makes the list as the 69th wonder of the world), and listings with local hotels under things to do. These connections signal to Google that this is a trustworthy destination regarded by authorities in the sector.

 

Closing

In summary, being found online is about standing out against your competitors. To do it, you’ll need to look far afield for networking opportunities, while delivering a consistent social message and excellent customer service.

As technologies develop and both search engines and tourists are becoming smarter in their approaches. The only way to ultimately achieve market leading visibility, is to consistently and publicly deliver a market leading experience.

Have we missed anything? Comment below!

Should Museums Charge for Admission?

Should Museums charge for admission?

One of the most difficult challenges for museums is defining a charging structure that offers value for money, promotes long-term growth, meets fundraising objectives and encourages engagement from both local and tourist populations.

We were lucky enough to catch a seminar given by DC research on their AIM commissioned study at the Museums & Heritage show in May this year on the “Impact of Charging or Not for Admissions on Museums”. In this slightly longer than usual blog-post, I’ll be giving you an overview of their findings.

Association of Independent Museums Credit Credit to DC Research

Full credit to AIM & DC Research for their report “Impact of charging or not for Admissions on Museums.

The Study

Their research stems from interviews with over 300 museums across the UK, of which the majority were independent museums. They found most (67%) of independent museums charge some kind of admission, whereas the same percentage of local authorities did not.

percentage of museums who charge admission

Most of the respondents were Independent museums due to AIM’s existing connections with the sector

Interestingly, when questioned about the effect of charging or not charging, 55% of free museums felt their structure had a definite positive effect on visitor numbers, whereas of those who charged admission, only a small minority felt their fees had a negative impact.

Based on the testimony of venues who had recently changed their pricing structure, going from free to chargeable often meant a drop in visitor numbers, but increasing fees seemed to have little effect. Those who did charge admission generally felt there was an understanding with their guests that the fees were to a good cause and offered value for money.

It was noted that not all visits of free venues were necessarily of value, as a number of guests would use the venue simply for restroom facilities, as a meeting spot, or even respite from the rain. This belief is reinforced by the statistics that show that in general, visitors of paid attractions tended to stay longer, indicating a desire to get their money’s’ worth. Similarly, when free venues began charging, they found that local traffic saw the most significant drops.

effect of charging admissions on donations, secondary spend and dwell time

Respondents felt that charging admission generally had a positive impact on dwell time and secondary spend, while opinions were split on spontaneous donations

The findings became more interesting when looking at the effect of charging admission on donations in general. While a small majority viewed admissions as detrimental to receiving additional donations, 56% of respondents felt that charging admissions had a neutral or positive effect. In addition, those who charged admission also reported longer dwell times, though they were less confident than free museums of the impact of this on secondary spend.

Qualitative Observations

From DC Research’s qualitative assessment, the researchers found that in general, whether or not a venue charged had little to do with visitor spend. As they put it, if you want to buy a tea and cake, you won’t be put off because you’ve already spent £5 to enter. Instead, visitors were actually more likely to visit the shop or on-site catering as part of their paid-for experience.

In terms of creating a visitor experience, museums charging admissions generally had the edge over their free counterparts, in that they offered a formal welcome to the establishment. This forms an integral part of delivering value, and it was DC Research’s recommendation that otherwise free venues should still have an alternate welcoming process.

Who charges what?

Of the participants interviewed, the median price for a ticket was £5 for an adult, £2 for a child, £16 for a family and £4.05 for concessions. The mean was slightly higher, indicating a skew for ‘key attractions’ who charged up to £24 for an adult ticket.

trends for museum pricing

While independent museums charged more than local authorities, average prices had less to do with sector and more to do with significance of the attraction itself

The lowest price recorded was just £0.50, which raised concerns from the research team. Not only do such low priced attractions suffer from the footfall drop of charging, but they also don’t benefit from the otherwise flat price elasticity. As the speaker put it, such venues have “suspiciously low” pricing, wherein the value of the experience is downplayed to the point of being a deterrent.

While there was no real correlation between admission rates and the type of museum, the more expensive museums generally saw over 100,000 annual visits, and operated in the South-East & London.

How does charging admissions affect fundraising?

Of the participants who increased pricing in the last 3 years, 70% reported that it had no impact on spontaneous donations. For those who transitioned from free to charging, donations were commonly claimed to have decreased. In both instances, overall revenues were reported to have improved.

Despite the general trends, It’s important to know the local demographic when planning any price increases. The case study below highlights difficulties faced by Cannon Hall, which attempted to charge admission to its’ grounds after years of free admission for guests to its’ grounds.

Cannon hall admission fees case study

The cannon hall case study, a local attraction for us here at Merlinsoft is a great example of needing to understand your audience. In this case, Cannon Hall arguably forgot the colloquial Barnsley motto: “how much!?”

The general consensus was that admission charges were of minimal importance to the donations received. More critical factors were things such as how the donation boxes were presented, whereabouts in the museum they were positioned, and the messages associated with them.

Final word

After reading this article, it seems apparent there is much goodwill towards museums, and audiences are generally tolerant of price increases. It is worth noting that the majority of museums who increased prices, did so with the addition of a new offering, with full disclosure of the reasons for increasing charging, and/or with sound evidence about their audiences’ preferences.

In truth, good fundraising comes from understanding your audience and sharing a mutual vision which lets them share in your cause. For some, free admissions were a way to build a sense of community, while others flourished and grew their offerings year on year through paid admissions. Ultimately, it comes down to your museums identity, and that of your visitors.

Article source: https://www.aim-museums.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2017/04/Final-Report-Taking-Charge-%E2%80%93-Evaluating-the-Evidence-The-Impact-of-Charging-or-Not-for-Admissions-on-Museums.pdf

Merlin Tickets, Official Ticketing Partners

white label booking site

The booking site was designed with continuity in mind when navigating from the conferences’ main website.

As part of our commitment to improving our online ticketing system, we recently ran a live trial with Mid-Yorkshire Chamber of Commerce (MYCCI) to provide online booking, check-in and delegate badge printing for their largest annual event, the Kirklees Business Conference.

Our objective was to pilot some of our newly developed tools in a live setting, and demonstrate the overall effectiveness of managing larger events with the Merlin system. In order to get the most out of the event and be to be there at ‘the sharp end’, two of our team attended as the official ticketing partners and manned the registration desk.

wireless ticket redemption

Alex wirelessly scans a ticket, while volunteers prepare the delegate badge and hand out visitor packs

Starting with a branded and AA compliant booking site (select ‘Buy Tickets’ here), we took hundreds of advance bookings in the weeks and months leading up to the event. We also used the Merlin ‘Sessions’ Add-On feature to allow attendees to register for a limited number of seminar spaces as part of the booking process, and sent out automated e-tickets to all guests.

Armed with student volunteers on the day, we created a two-stage check-in process in order to minimise waiting time while producing delegate badges in real-time.

ticketing made simple

Alex (Left) spends a few minutes explaining our system to the volunteers while Owen (Right) assembles a delegate badge

On arrival, a typical guest would produce their ticket or confirmation email to be scanned by one of our greeters equipped with a tablet and 2D scanner, and asked to proceed to the next desk. Where guests did not have a ticket, a built-in search function could find bookings, or new registrations could be processed from our laptop, or by the attendee’s mobile phone.

By the time the delegates reached the welcome desk, a personalised lanyard had been printed and assembled together with an information pack for the day. Using this process we were able to personally greet all guests to the event by name.

Delegate badge printing

Badges were prepared in advance, with name badges printed and inserted on arrival

Overall, the day was an excellent opportunity for us at Merlin to appreciate the capabilities of our system first-hand. We successfully admitted hundreds of delegates with minimal delays, eventually honing the process to be managed by a single attendant. It was our honour to be the official ticketing partner of MYCCI for the day and we look forward to serving similar events in future.

GDPR – Your quintessential last minute panic guide

 

What is it?

GDPR stands for the General Data Protection Regulation; which will replace the standards set within the Data Protection Act. This new regulation sets guidelines for the responsible use of personal data of EU Inhabitants, and seeks to empower individual rights where private data is collected and used.

When does it take effect?

The regulations were adopted on 27th April 2016, with a two year transitional period before the changes become enforceable. By the 25th April 2018, all companies who hold and use personal data must be compliant to avoid potential penalties.

What penalties are involved?

For major breaches, maximum fines can total €20 Million or 4% of annual global turnover, whichever is greater.

How will it affect the data I hold?

Assuming you want to avoid the penalties, conforming to GDPR will require you to review the type of information held about your customers. Essentially, you may only hold information which the data subjects have unambiguously consented to you using, for the explicit purposes they have agreed to.

The exception to this rule is where the data controller has a lawful basis for processing, such as to fulfil a service agreement or contract, or where data is collected for an express purpose – such as for gift-aid claims.

How will it affect my customers?

As with the Data Protection Act, GDPR gives your customers the right to access the information held about them, in addition to the purposes for which the information was collected. Your customers will also have the right to be forgotten, meaning that any data records held must have the potential for deletion or total anonymisation or pseudonymisation..

What will be the benefits of GDPR?

As a result to the extra controls put in place, GDPR stands to improve the quality and relevance of marketing information each of us receive on a daily basis, as well as protecting our private information from unlawful collection and processing.

Do you have any questions about becoming GDPR compliant within your Merlin systems? Feel free to call our team on 01226 294413

The Need to Knows of Gift-Aid

Gift Aid Logo

The Need to Knows of Gift-Aid

Originally started in 1990, albeit with very different rules, Gift-Aid is a great opportunity for charities to increase their fundraising potential by up to 25%; all that it takes is an eligible donation and express consent from the donor. In this short article we’ll be looking at some of the common pitfalls and top tips to making the most of this initiative.

It must be a donation!

The rules for Gift-Aid are very specific in terms of what constitutes a donation, but in essence, a donation is a voluntary contribution given freely which is surplus to the value of benefits received. For example, a charity dinner charging £50 per head would be ineligible for gift-aid. You could, however claim gift-aid on a £20 suggested donation above a £30 ticket, provided that the £20 was not required, and did not entitle the donor to more than £5 of additional benefits.

When is a donation not a donation?

When is a donation not a donation?

What’s the deal with benefits?

Benefits are small gifts given by the charity in thanks to a donor, and these too have specific rules where Gift-Aid is concerned. For donations up to £100, these cannot exceed 25% of the donation. Up to £1000, they cannot exceed £25, and after £1000, they can’t exceed 5% of the donation, up to a maximum of £2,500.

By this rule, it is generally fine to give certificates detailing what a donation will be spent on, or a box of chocolates for a larger donation where RRP is less than 25% of the donation. The benefit rule excludes things such as school trips from gift-aid eligibility, where suggested donations are spent immediately on benefits such as admission and transport.

Receiving gifts as favours after a donation

Chocolates and certificates are fine, anything bigger could raise questions!

How do charity shops claim then?

In the charity shop scenario, the donation is in the form of items gifted, yet this isn’t eligible for Gift-Aid until the items are monetised. Once sold, charities must confirm with the benefactor that they are happy to donate all or a specific amount of the proceeds before Gift-Aid can be claimed on the remainder. After 3 weeks, if no response is received, it can be assumed that the donation is the full value of the goods sold.

Charities cant claim gift-aid on donated goods until they are sold

Charities cant claim gift-aid on donated goods until they are sold

What about collection boxes?

Collection boxes are a little different, not least because there is no formal declaration given with each donation. In these situations, donations are eligible for the Small Donations Scheme.

The Small Donations Scheme allows up to £2000 of donations not exceeding £20 each to be eligible for 25% gift-aid. For charities which operate a community building such as religious institutions, this figure increases to £8000, allowing a gift-aid claim of up to £2000! Donations claimed through the small donations scheme cannot exceed 10 x of donations which have been declared for.

How are declared donations different?

Declared donations must be from a UK taxpayer, who explicitly states they are happy for the charity to claim the 25% Gift-Aid from the tax they have paid that year. The evidence of these declarations must be kept on record by the charity to support a Gift-Aid claim.

Merlin Tickets booking site example with gift-aid

Your Gift-Aid process at point of sale should inform your customers and present them with the choice to opt-in. You also need to keep record of your customers declarations for audit purposes.

Crucially, the declaration must be on an opt-in basis, rather than opt-out; signifying that the beneficiary has willfully signalled their desire to Gift-Aid their donation. This rule also means that donations cannot be Gift-Aided on behalf of another, such as when donations are pooled from multiple people.

In addition to collecting the additional 25% from each donation for the charity, if the donor is a higher rate tax payer they can also claim back additional tax relief for themselves. Systems such as Merlin 8 can be used to collate statements for such donors to easily include in their tax return.

How does Gift-Aid apply to admissions?

Entry fees are ineligible for Gift-Aid, as these technically constitute a payment for a service. There are however, ways to qualify admission revenue as donations. Adding an optional donation of at least 10% on top of an admission cost can entitle the visitor to gift-aid the entire amount.

For example, if admission to a museum cost £8, but Mr Smith decided to add a 10% donation, he would then pay £8.80, and the museum would be able to claim an additional 25% Gift-Aid on the whole value with Mr Smith’s express consent, totaling £11.

Charity attractions should consider how Gift-Aid will fit into their fundraising strategy

Charity attractions should consider how Gift-Aid will fit into their fundraising strategy

The other method is to allow access for at least one year with an admission ticket. In this case, the entire initial payment can be classed as a donation. Entry must then be granted either at a reduced rate for the whole period, or for free with the exception of up to five days.

What about Memberships?

Memberships can also be used by charitable venues to claim gift-aid, but the memberships must meet certain criteria. As with admissions, the payment cannot be in exchange for services. To qualify, look into other ways to reward your members such as with newsletters and engagement in fundraising and governance activities.

Recap

  • Gift Aid must be opt-in, and declarations indicate that the benefactor is happy for the charity to claim 25% from their income tax payments for the current year.
  • The Small Donations Scheme can be used to process a limited number of claims for donations under £20.
  • For gift-aid to be claimed, the donation must be a voluntary contribution, which is not compensated for by way of goods or services.

For more information on Gift-Aid, take a look the Gov.uk website. For software solutions to help you claim Gift-Aid both online and on entry, Contact Merlin.

Digital Strategies for Attractions in 2018

In 2016 the UK soared past Mexico and Germany to become the 6th most visited tourist destination on the planet. Competition has never been fiercer among thousands of historic sites and visitor centres across the country to tap into the growing market of domestic and international visitors.

While national theme parks have always benefited from economies of scale in marketing from newspapers to cereal boxes, smaller less established venues have often had to be more creative in their outreach initiatives. For such attractions, the rise of digital media has been indispensable as a route to market.

Pictured: available offers could be a prerequisite or the last push that leads consumers to visit an attraction.

Evolving over the years from text to photo to virtual reality, digital media has continued to offer innovative means of engaging with an audience. In a 2014 report into the effect of high-quality listings on consumer perceptions, Google found that on average those sites which offered ‘rich’ media listings generated as much as twice the interest as those without.

As we enter 2018, some of the biggest names in tech are now primed to escort us to a new age of experiential marketing. Samsung, Google, Facebook, Playstation and HTC each have their own virtual reality headsets, with Apple rumoured for a 2018 announcement, and there is no shortage of content with bloggers, advertisers and TV shows keen to explore 360 video as a new medium.

Looking to the future, Mark Zuckerberg is aiming for 1 billion users of Facebook’s Oculus, with the intention to create a full virtual reality for users to experience concerts and galleries from the comfort of their own homes. This is all part of his eventual ambition to create an augmented reality where users can share in simulated experiences.

The Cutter & Cutter gallery in L.A has a virtual tour online, which includes exhibit information.

As a more immediate stepping stone, Google has been building a network of thousands of media producers to accelerate the introduction of their virtual tours, an extension of street view. With notable adopters such as English Heritage and National Trust in 2017, virtual tours are poised to help attractions turn interest into excitement as a highly engaging means of conversion.

Such introductions of new technology have a two-fold impact on the way we consume rich information. On the top-side, early adopters can benefit from a first-mover advantage, gaining widespread recognition over their competitors, new technological shifts are always driven by a small number of facilitators and an expanding audience

 

In addition to technological driven changes, changes in social attitudes have also lead to the emergence of new platforms to promote great experiences. Confidence in online reviews has continued to increase in recent years, with 19% of respondents reporting that they always trust online reviews, and a further 45% having confidence where reviews are corroborated, up from 8% and 40% respectively in 2015.

High numbers of positive visitor reviews indicate a great user experience and demonstrates the venue is reputable and trustworthy.

This increasing reliance and trust is immediately apparent when looking at Trip Advisor’s growth rate. In 2006, Trip Advisor had around 10 million total venue reviews, of which around 34,000 venues were visitor attractions. Ten years and one smartphone boom later, there are now 760,000 visitor attractions listed and 465 million total reviews, with more than 20% year on year growth. This meteoric rise is symptomatic of an increasing reliance on technology to help consumers research and book new experiences.

A similar trend can be seen in the use of voucher codes. Whereas coupons for visitor attractions were once in the form of wrappers and newspaper cut-outs, savvy consumers now scour the web to decide between similar experiences, or reduce the costs of those they would prefer. On average, searches for coupons in the UK have increased 38% year on year for the past 10 years, with search volumes now over 20 times in 2017 what they were in 2007.

What we have and are continuing to see is a veritable explosion in routes to market. Though the mobile boom has passed us, our consumers are still learning and trusting in new methods to plan and research days out. The use of online booking facilities, for example has risen from 10% of museums in 2010, to nearly 30% today.

The sum of these shifts means that Museums and attractions now more than ever must have their finger on the pulse of digital media trends. With each surge in a platforms’ popularity comes a fresh new audience to market to, and the more engaging the content, the more likely this can be translated to footfall from excited new visitors, each keen to share their experiences.

Sources

  1. http://www.e-unwto.org/doi/book/10.18111/9789284419029
  2. https://www.theverge.com/2017/10/11/16459636/mark-zuckerberg-oculus-rift-connect
  3. https://www.statista.com/statistics/315755/online-custmer-review-trust/
  4. https://trends.google.com/trends/explore?date=all&geo=GB&q=discount%20code,groupon,wowcher,voucher%20codes,hot%20uk%20deals
  5. https://www.visitbritain.org/sites/default/files/vb-corporate/Documents-Library/documents/England-documents/finalversionofreport2009_tcm30-19612.pdf
  6. https://www.visitbritain.org/sites/default/files/vb-corporate/Documents-Library/documents/England-documents/annual_attractions_trend_report_2016.pdf

 

6 Tips to Successfully Utilise Word of Mouth Marketing

Word of mouth is consistently hailed as the No.1 way to increase sales. Neilsen reports that 84% of people are likely to listen to the recommendations of their friends and family, and 70% would follow online opinions. Put it simply, people trust people more than brands!

So how do we tap into this? In this blog post we’ll be investigating some of the key ways to harness social media to turn our customers from attendees to ambassadors.

6: Appeal to Groups by Appealing to Individuals

Chances are, if a group of friends all decide at once to visit your event or attraction, there was one ringleader who has painstakingly organised the outing. That ringleader is our champion and we should do what we can to make their life easier!

Try using services such as Groupon to package multiple tickets with discounts built in. This both encourages our champion to find the qualifying number of friends to make use of the deal, and simplifies the booking process by condensing it into a single transaction.

5: Offer Referral Discounts

Giving our customers a direct financial incentive can be a great way to effectively market to the decision makers within our groups. Offering a fraction of the admission cost as a referral bonus for example means our champions are rewarded for loyalty and advocacy, with the potential to even earn a profit for attending!

A great advantage to this method is that as named referees begin to repeat, we can start to identify our key influencers, and even target them with special offers for future events.

4: Social Media Giveaways

There’s a reason why Facebook and twitter are constantly full of “like & share” posts, they generally work! “Like and share to win a free iPad” will go down in history as one of the most overused phrases of the 2010’s.

Beware however of the common pitfall of gaining a large following and never engaging; 79% of people say their primary reason for liking a Facebook page is to get discounts, but few of these will actually purchase anything.

The smart way to hold competitions is to create a tantalising experience which is closely aligned with your existing events. For example, try creating an exclusive VIP experience for your competition winners with special perks and a free bottle of Prosecco!

3: Create an Online Identity and Own it

While it’s unlikely that a tweet will make someone drop what they’re doing and come to your event, hashtags on Twitter are a great way to tie together a compelling story from multiple sources of what your event is about.

Start early, share your preparation process, encourage your guests to share their experiences and engage with them. If each tweet is a thread, by the end of your event you should have a rich tapestry to drive recognition and future attendance.

2: Go live!

Live streaming is the most recent trend in social media and drives some of the highest engagement of any medium. Facebook’s execution of this is fantastic, as comments and likes appear in real-time, delivering a unique snapshot of public opinion.

Twitter too, now comes standard with a live-streaming service. The allure of a live show is something first recognised with Big Brother years ago, and has scarcely dulled. Take extra precaution with your production values and this could be a great shared experience to draw a new crowd!

1: Get Creative

The No.1 consideration when attempting to gain traction in social media is to do something unique! Create a spectacle that people will want to share and you could find yourself in the centre of an exponential maelstrom of engagement.

No amount of incentive can compete with a genuine human need to share something brilliant, so try to keep in mind that our first objective is not to bribe our guests into call-to-actions, but to inspire them to say they were there.

 

Merlin Software Granted 2017 Rising Star and Great User Experience Awards for Event Management Software

We’re privileged to announce that a leading business software review site has granted Merlin Software two industry recognitions. FinancesOnline, which has reviewed over three thousand business solutions to date, awarded us with 2017 Great User Experience and Rising Star for our solution’s intuitive UI and solid user base experience. The awards are given to top solutions in their niche.

Finances online has reviewed thousands of business software packages online here.

 

The Great User Experience Award for top event management software recognizes business solutions that are simple to set up and use but feature powerful tools. Our event management software has all the essential standard functionalities, plus unique elements like wristband entry and our EPOS and retail platform integration. These give our users a wide range of tools to manage their events more efficiently.

Our software received commendation in particular for its versatility. The standalone web portal excels in meeting the needs of small businesses, offering a highly affordable platform for selling event and admission tickets, whilst keeping marketing data in-house and payments up-front. Merlin 8 on the other hand delivers a considerable range of enhanced business applications, functioning as a fully integrated EPOS, stock management and reporting package with membership controls and gift-aid features.

The Rising Star Award was attributed to Merlin Online, as a newly launched service with great potential to meet the ticketing needs of event managers. Merlin Online stood out for offering fantastic value and flexibility, with full telephone customer support and the availability of hardware packages to benefit queue management and reporting.

3 things you should be prepared for in 2018

Okay it’s now October, we’re now officially in Christmas-aisle season (not to be confused with the actual festive season, which starts December 1st). With any luck, the summer has been kind and those of us in the business of outdoor events can now start to concentrate on next year.

Grab a coffee, take a well earned break and let’s go through a few of the major considerations as we approach 2018.

 

Data protection is back in a big way

The more ominous sounding GDPR, or General Data Protection Regulation is on its way and will be in effect from May next year. This means some major changes in how we can collect and deal with customer data.

This update in essence will widen the definitions of what constitutes data, to include IP addresses and cookies, and improve consumer rights by offering the right to be forgotten and requiring clear opt-in consent.

 

Fee ya later!

As of the 13th January 2018, all credit and debit card fee’s will be shelved. You read that right, they will be illegalised, outlawed, scrapped, binned, thrown and dusted. They are scheduled to be jettisoned, evicted, dismissed, expelled, dropped, abandoned and ejected from the UK. And this is good and bad news!

Firstly, we can expect a short-term rise in small transactions under £5, which usually generate card usage fees of around 50p per transaction. Secondly, we may likely see many PDQ operators change and increase their pricing structure to deal with the loss in revenues.

Our advice – use this time to reevaluate your PDQ contract and move from fixed to variable commission where average transactions are £10 or less. 

 

The B word

Since June 2016 we’ve seen record inbound tourism, which may have a little to do with the 12% sterling devaluation. Since this point, we’ve seen massive fluctuations whenever the B-word is mentioned, as people choose to invest in Sterling, or the other B-word – Bitcoin.

This has been great news for tourism and hospitality throughout the holiday season, and while rates are low we can expect the continued surge in visits and staycations to continue. As we progress towards Michel Barnier’s October 2018 wrap-up date we will see how investors and speculators fancy our chances out on our own!

Is there something else we’ve missed? What is your business worried about the most next year?

Questions in the comments!

Top Summer Tips for Visitor Attractions!

With summer coming up, visitor attractions are going to be extremely busy. Schools are out, students have graduated and families will be taking a well deserved break. But with all this chaos, how can you keep your customers happy at this busy time of the year?

Check out Merlinsoft’s top tips for summer!

Visitor Data
Being able to capture your customers’ data when they visit is an integral part of keeping customers happy. It will not only help your business to grow but having the ability to analyse areas where more attention is needed makes it easier. It is necessary to keep in contact with your customers, especially existing customers. You can recover email addresses so that you can send in offers, promotions, upcoming events and much more. Keeping in regular contact with your customers is important and can help to increase numbers. Being able to gather data from your tickets and memberships means you can create happy customers and improve your business.

Online
Nowadays, people prefer to book online. They like to be able to order in advance so as to not have to wait in long queues. If you are able to give your customers this option it means that again, your customers are happier and it also means that you are increasing your secondary spend. More money can then be pumped around your attraction for the well being of your customers. Online gives more options to your customers, and that’s giving them what they want. Options. You are able to retrieve data from this as well, and see how your online sales match up to your in-house ones. Give your customers an incentive to book online, it may be that it is 10% cheaper, or they receive an extra feature within the attraction.

Mobile
Being able to queue bust is an important factor when it comes to visitor attractions. You want to make sure your customers are not always waiting in lines to get in and out. Having mobile options will help this. Being able to use tablets and phones to scan and redeem tickets means cutting down time. Customers are more than happy to use their mobile phones for tickets or print off their e-tickets which are sent to them directly when they book online. This saves time on printing and makes it easier to separate queues and cut down. Using tablets means that your employees can walk around helping your customers when they arrive and being able to use the system at the same time. It’s convenient.

Marketing
Marketing is an essential part in making sure your customers are returning time and time again. It can be done in several ways, but being subtle about it can be difficult. You don’t want to be hounding your customers so that they get annoyed. Having the options to be able to promote events on the bottom of receipts, on the back of tickets and an extra parts in emails. This is something they may not think they see consciously but in reality it is there when they think about events and dates. It also acts as a reminder and helps to cut down marketing emails everyday, and many people choose to opt out of this option.

Kiosks
Kiosks provide a quick and easy way for customers to buy tickets without the need for queueing too long. Visitors are able to purchase their own tickets without the need of a member of staff, which is very useful at busy periods. Not only this, but it comes with fully integrated ticket printing facilities and a chip and pin for instant payments. Having this option, provides more staff to be in other busy areas and offers ease of convenience to your customers when they like to pay on the day.

 
Merlinsoft Ltd are able to help you provide all of the above to your customers and more. Merlin is constantly evolving and provides an integrated solution for online ticketing and venue management. Call us for more information on 01226 294413 or email sales@merlinsoft.co.uk