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.




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.

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.

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 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 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

The Importance of Technology in Business

Merlin tablet

Merlin constantly develops new technology for customers.

We are nothing short of hearing about the advancement of technology, from smart watches to virtual reality; we as a generation have grown and aspired to develop and re-create some of the most complex technologies of our time. Humans have managed to increase their capacity of knowledge with constant breakthroughs in all sectors of our industry. And yet everyone is constantly asking why we must keep up with technology, why we can’t go back to the ‘good old’ days’.

Well, we could; if we had more time… Time to use books for research instead of the internet, time to write letters instead of emails and texts, time to travel abroad and see family/friends/clients instead of Skype and Facetime. Yes, we did have time to do all of the above and some may still but now we have found bigger and better ways of doing those things quicker, more efficiently, more effectively. So why stop now? Technology is emerging whether you like it or not, so why not embrace it.

Today, the world cannot function without it. It empowers us just as much as we thrive off of it. Technology is essential to every business; it makes them grow faster and excel in all areas. This means that they can offer more to you, to everyone. In order for companies to gain a competitive advantage they need to keep up with the technology of today and incorporate this into their organisation; even those that aren’t considered technological.

Technology in business is growing ever more important. With the busy lifestyle of consumers, it’s even more important to offer an easy to use and easy to access service. With the astronomical surge in retail habits shifting to online sales, keeping up with these trends are even more important today than it was yesterday and will be more important tomorrow.

Paypal, Stripe, fingerprint scanning and contactless payments make online purchasing more secure than ever. With trends showing that the trust and security in online retail has been steadily increasing over the past 5 years, it’s more important now to allow your customers the opportunity to book, buy and pre-plan their retail journey online.

MerlinSoft has evolved consistently with modern technology which can be seen from their constant upgrades in the Merlin software. Our clients are provided with ongoing updates which tender to their needs so that it is not only user friendly, but highly developed. In doing so, Merlin has kept up to date with changing technologies which has set them apart from many of their competitors. This is what customers want; this is what they look for, and if technology can provide that then companies must follow suit.

It is important to find a technology supplier that will keep up with trends and also help to push the boundaries of technology. Finding a supplier you can work with to get the software that fits your needs is important to gain a working relationship that ultimately benefits your customer. This is why Merlin works with clients to offer bespoke packages based on the needs of our clients.

Increase your customers secondary spend

Merlin believe in making the most of what you have, and there are some simple things you can do to increase your customers secondary spend when at your attraction, here’s a couple of points to get you started;

Increasing secondary spend

1. On-Line ticket sales:

The real advantages of on-line tickets sales are two-fold;

a) The visitor pays upfront and you have the money irrespective of whether they attend or not!
b) Psychologically, as they have paid in advance, they still have the entry money in their pockets!

In the case of a) it is very easy to add on-line ticket sales to an existing website and be selling tickets 24 hours a day 7- days a week. The cost of this is negligible and can be covered very easy by a small on-line booking fee if required. Many venues make no charge for on-line booking as the cash-flow advantages and the reduction in staffing intervention is worth the small fees charged. In addition, if you link merchandise to ticket sales as part of your on-line offering this will also increase sales of existing products. For example if they are attending a special event there may be specific merchandise linked to that event which can be bought at the same time as the tickets. ‘Dinosaur Live’ attracted 10,000 visitors and parents could buy their children self assembly models of a variety of dinosaurs both before and during their visit. Shop sales rocketed during that exhibition as even if they hadn’t bought on-line they knew these products were available on their visit,

Having paid for tickets on-line the visitor often sees their visit as a ‘freebie’ as they haven’t had to pay out money on the day so still have money in their pockets. Data gleaned from existing users of on-line tickets sales show an increase in secondary spend of up to 24%. Clearly this is a fantastic opportunity for you to increase your revenues in the shop and café. To tap into this lucrative market you need to be creative in your product offerings and ensure they can take something away that links to the visit. Using the example of the dinosaurs I mentioned earlier. How about looking for local products such as paintings, craftwork, ceramics, etc.

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 – home made pies, buns and cakes for example. ‘Own brand’ biscuits, flap-jack toffee, fudge etc. There are plenty of suppliers that will brand items up for you. However, don’t fall into the trap of being too expensive as this gets more negative reviews on Tripadvsior than almost anything else. The fact that you have a ‘captive market’ doesn’t give you the right to rip them off! 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 but the sandwiches were a ridiculous price. I’m not suggesting that you try to compete with Greggs or Subway or the like but do be sensible in your pricing structure.

2. Retail Merchandising:

One area that is sadly neglected in many venues is the retail offering. I’m aware that you’re not all high street retailers but you do need to be aware of the opportunities available from good quality products and merchandising.

Back to that comment of ‘captive audience’ where here it can be a real advantage. They have visited your attraction and many of them want to take away a souvenir of their visit. All too often this means rummaging around the same stuff they can buy on most market stalls. In some cases badly presented and even dusty. In some attractions the dusty environment can be a real problem but this has to be contained so that your product offering is always being displayed in the most attractive and appealing way as possible.

First of all try and see your retail offering as a visitor would see it. This can be difficult as it is often difficult to see faults with what we have created. If necessary get a friend you trust to give you their opinion. Retailers in general use ‘mystery shoppers’ to check out their offering. This will assess both the visual effectiveness and also the staff’s attitude to customers.

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. TV screens are very cheap but they can be used to show dynamic displays of products in a particular setting.

Ensure all your staff are also part of the ‘wow’ you have on offer. Are they all familiar with your product lines and the history of your venue. Often when in the shop visitors will ask questions they forgot to ask inside.

Picking up again on the Dinosaur Live exhibition make sure you have enough products which reflect the theme and content of what they have just seen.

Don’t ignore the till point either as this is the place where they will have to stand for a few minutes at least. I don’t mean clutter it all around with those cheap tacky goods from the Far East either. Use the space wisely and effectively either to add value to what they have already bought or as a way of advertising forthcoming events and experiences. Remember the two-third rule – two-third space and one-third products. That way it 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. Often a picture will identify issues you missed when you were setting it all up. There are also lost of ways you can spruce up displays very cheaply and effectively – I call it the Blue Peter effect! Think back to that programme and how they made some very magical objects out of fairly ordinary objects with the addition of coloured paper, stars and decals and even sticky back plastic. If creativity is not your speciality I’m sure the local art college would be more than willing to get involved, especially if they get a mention on the displays. If you sell models have one or two already assembled and painted to show what the finished product will look like.

We hope this post has been of some use to you, If you would like to talk through any options you have or what Merlin could offer, call us on 01226 321213 or email us at and we’ll be happy to help. feel free to visit our ticketing site at

How to drive traffic to your website

This topic is one that’s fairly well publicised all over the internet through various sites, and we are no exception. Here is what we believe are the best techniques not only to get as much traffic as you can to your website, but the correct traffic which bring conversions and more business in the long run.

All of the marketing and SEO techniques that will be discussed are “white hat SEO” and legitimate, meaning Google sees these favourably as opposed to “black hat SEO” where if Google finds out that some of those techniques have been used, then you could be penalised and removed from the Google search listings completely like did in 2006, using doorway pages. These are pages that get stuffed with keywords but not visible to humans, only to the Googlebot to gain a better ranking and be shown in more search results. Although removed the page almost instantly, Google gave them the “Google death penalty” which gave them a page rank of 0.

So the techniques we are about to display are all legitimate and won’t get you anywhere but further up the Google stairway to heaven.


Yes I am sure you have come across this topic time and time again on your searches, but it is very important. When Google crawls your site it picks up on the most used words then uses them to display your site to others that search particular terms relating to said keywords.

These keywords should obviously be related to the kind of business and audience you want to attract. If you put the term “Cameron Diaz” all over your website but you sell bulbs, then the traffic you get from the search engines are going to be people looking for Cameron Diaz and not bulbs. This will result in your bounce rate will be very high and you wouldn’t receive much business from these visitors.  A good tool to help you is the Google webmaster tools, click here to find out more.

Make sure that your keywords flow within the text and not just stuck in anywhere. Although you will have more keywords, when potential clients come to your website and see that it isn’t worded very well and hard to read, they will leave very quickly.

Create a Blog.

Search engines like fresh unique content, the perfect way to do this is to add a blog to your website. There are a few different blogs you can add. The one we have used is a Word Press blog which was supported by our web host and was fairly simple to install and can be directly attached to our website obviously helps the traffic to your website as the content is updated more often.

As well as blogs being search engine friendly, they are usually of interest to your visitors who are able to keep up with what is happening within your company and/or industry. Then if your blog is newsworthy or of interest, try and encourage other users to spread your blog around the internet or pass it on to friends and encourage people to comment. Making your blog interactive will make writing on it more appealing to your visitors.


That’s right, everyone loves something for nothing and your visitors are no exception. Here’s a few things you could give away!

  1. E-Book – write about what you know and help others in the process and of course insert your logo and web address. Instead of giving away a physical thing, offer your knowledge. If this information is good and going to help others, then they will spread it around amongst their friends and so on, making your website the place to go find out specific information and inevitably increase traffic to your website.
  1. Demos, freeware, shareware – If you’re a software company like we are, offer your visitors a taste of what you’ve got on offer and again put your logo on it. If they share it around and other use it they will know where it came from.
  1. Discounts and E-vouchers – Offering people money off incentives to purchase from you is a technique that has been used for many years, and the modern day is no different. If you can get people through the door and sell them something cheaper that is quality, this should ensure long term business and recommendations from your new clients.


If people don’t know who you are, then how are they going to be able to know what you do or why they should buy from you? Advertising is important especially at the launch of a new company. Online marketing tends to be a lot cheaper and allows you to target in on your audience as opposed to TV or radio adverts that can be very costly and are broadcast to everyone, most of whom aren’t your target audience. However they are a good way of building your brand identity.

Offline marketing could be things such as TV or radio adverts, leafleting, mail shots, magazine or newspaper adverts and so on. A lot of these are costly and depending on your budget, some of them may not be possible or recommended for you.

If your budget isn’t the one that Microsoft one has, online marketing may be the best start. Things like Google’s Pay-Per-Click advertising. This is where you credit your account and choose keywords and an advert to be displayed when users search said keywords. Depending on the market, this could drain you budget pretty quickly. To narrow down what you think your users may want, be fairly blunt and specific with your advert and keywords. My suggestion is to draw the customer in, but let them know exactly what they are in for when they get there. So when they do get to your site, you’re more likely to get conversions from your clicks.

Other ways are to join online directories, some of these firms usually let you get listed for free, but then try and sell you optional extras afterwards. If you like what they are offering and it would be of benefit, then test it out or maybe ask for a free trial. Others such as and Thompson Local are also good sources to be on as well as Google’s own business directory which will also get you listed on Google maps

Be social

I’m sure by now you are aware of social networks. The most popular ones being Facebook and Twitter. These are free to use and are a different approach to marketing your business or website. It’s a gentle way of easing people into what you do. You simply tweet or post on Facebook and allow people to join at their will. The people who join or visit your page may be potential clients that are in the market for what you sell, but maybe not decided or ready to purchase. So you should feel free to write about what you know, what you offer and interact with others, giving yourself more of a personality and eventually inviting people to visit your website and purchase what you sell.

There are many more social networks on the internet like MySpace who’s popularity was lost to Facebook and has now re-launched itself in a way that is now mainly based around music. So music products and such are best placed here as well.

Facebook and other social networks get their money from advertising, and they are a great way to promote your business on a budget and reach out to the right audience. But if your budget doesn’t stretch, nearly all of the social networks that will appeal to your business are free of charge.

As well as social networking, blogging (which we have already discussed) is a great way to let people know who you are and that you do have an opinion. Be proactive in your blogging and participate often and show others that you do have an opinion, it will also encourage other people to visit your blog and give their opinions to you.

Don’t duplicate… Don’t duplicate… Don’t duplicate… Don’t duplicate…

This is something that many people do on the internet but should be avoided. Copy and pasting from another website that is already indexed will not help your ranking in Google searches as duplicate content isn’t indexed well and the original usually takes precedence.

Your viewers want to read content that is new, fresh and interesting and that is what you should give them. Whether it’s a new spin on an old or existing story or just something you want to share with the world to entice people to your site, then write about it. This will be favoured by both Google and your visitors.

Be patient!

These techniques aren’t a quick fix and are to be used to gain a larger audience and better ranking in Google over the long term. Some sites offer to “boost you website traffic by thousands” and to an extent they do, but only by putting your URL into some software for a few hours that pings your website thousands of times, making it appear to have thousands of visits. The true number of visits is often none.

In time your efforts will pay off and you should see an increase in the number of unique visitors you receive and hopefully your conversion rate too.


You’ve put a lot of time and effort into the above, so how do you see if your hard work has paid off? I recommend Google Analytics. It allows you to see a whole array of what people have been searching to find your website, what page they enter and what page they exit, even the geographical location of where your visitors are from.

I highly suggest this to keep track of how your website performs. To find out more, see our blog post on google analytics or visit the  Google analytics home page