10/23/13

An amusement park operator boosts sales with mobile apps

Customers can skip the ticketing line and pay for services in advance.

Amy Dusto , Associate Editor

Cedar Fair Entertainment Company, which operates 11 amusement parks, three water parks, and several campgrounds, hotels and marinas across the United States, has increased sales of its season passes by more than 10%—with record sales this year and last—since updating its e-commerce sites and mobile apps in 2012, the company says.

The new web sites and park-specific mobile apps allow customers to prepay before arrival for items such as tickets, wheelchair reservations and food. That’s not only cut down on line wait times, making customers happier, but it’s helping to drive extra sales as customers plan their trips and see what they can purchase in advance to make their visits easier, a Cedar Fair spokeswoman says.

The mobile apps also help drive incremental revenue inside the park, she says. When customers have prepaid for many items with their smartphones, they are more likely to reach into their wallets and pay for other things inside the park—they aren’t watching their recent ATM withdrawal dwindle as quickly as they would otherwise, she says.

The company’s previous mobile apps didn’t facilitate payments; they only provided park information including maps and event schedules. The company declines to reveal exact figures for how many customers use their smartphones versus the web sites to make park purchases, but says the apps have been downloaded more than 1 million times. Cedar Fair properties bring in more than $1 billion in revenue and attract more than 23 million customers annually, the company reports.

With the update, both the web site and mobile apps also began supporting payments by installment for season passes. That’s encouraging customers to buy passes as holiday gifts more than before, the spokeswoman says, because they needn’t put up the entire cost at once for tickets that won’t be used for six months or more. Additionally, the new sites and apps allow Cedar Fair to change its pricing more frequently, for instance raising prices for a one-day special event or lowering them at will, perhaps in response to weather, she says.

Cedar Fair enlisted the services of web development company accesso LLC, which builds web sites, apps and ticketing products for amusement parks and other cultural attractions. Accesso also provides round-the-clock phone support for Cedar Fair’s ticket sales via the web and mobile. “That would be hard for us to do,” the spokeswoman says.

The cost of building the web and mobile software would also be too expensive for Cedar Fair to do in-house, she says. While she declines to give the exact cost of accesso’s services, she says, “We’ve seen a nice increase in our revenues through e-commerce that justifies any cost to the product.”

Cedar Fair is now working with accesso to update its customer relationship management software, which will allow it to better target customers with offers, including on mobile devices, the company says. Eventually, the parks might be able to encourage moms to prepay for stroller rentals, for example, or push a coupon to someone near a particular restaurant in the park. “These are all opportunities we see ahead of us,” she says. “We will definitely look to accesso for new ways we can interact with our customers through their mobile devices.”

Topics:

accesso LLC, Cedar Fair Entertainment Group, m-commerce, Mobile, mobile apps, mobile commerce, mobile ticketing

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