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7 levers to tailor your loyalty for a powerful visitor experience

Shifting consumer behavior, changing buyer expectations and rising digital adoption are prompting attractions to rethink membership and loyalty in a fresh light.

Over the course of the pandemic, many visit centric commercial attractions suffered high churn, while mission centric cultural institutions saw better than expected results and those with strong digital propositions even experienced improved growth. Now, the disruption of reopening and recovery has  exacerbated old challenges of finding new members and retaining existing ones. How can visitor attractions navigate this period of uncertainty turning recurring revenue to hyper growth?

1. Reset individual benefit to community concern

With less member focus on the physical visit and restrictions preventing members from afar from visiting onsite, many attractions are refocusing member offerings towards brand mission over a transactional relationship. Purpose driven memberships that are unique and relevant in community value proposition are more likely to sustain through economic uncertainty and do have stronger upsides during economic boom too. 

2. Look after existing members first

Make sure any special offers are inclusive of the existing membership base, rather than exclusively focusing on attracting new members – seeing new members receive perks that existing members can’t enjoy can lead to brand cynicism and encourage stop and start subscription behavior. Reopening and recovery is the perfect opportunity to first reward repeat visitors and members who have stuck through the hard times. It’s also a unique moment to recapture former members who have recently churned, such as , as a special offer for their first return visit or to rejoin their membership.  visit – is an approach that has served well for attractions through the pandemic – small gestures go a long way in inspiring loyalty.

 

 

3. Address past policy mistakes 

With an unprecedented situation and such pressured timelines, it’s not unexpected that some decisions may not have been the right ones the first time round, or in hindsight, that old policies were no longer fit for purpose. For some attractions, this led to high profile cases of controversial membership or season pass refund issues, or other public relations aspects surrounding the events of 2020. Long term brand damage, a major contributor to churn, can be reduced or avoided by retrospectively addressing past concerns head on, particularly if a make up benefit can be offered., 

4. Analyze and segment for nurture 

Insight oriented membership experiences with segmentation or personalization are more likely to experience higher growth rates over member programs where every member is treated the same, regardless of behavior. By analyzing member data, understanding insights and then segmenting the member base, nurture activity such as drips, offers and follow up can more effectively steer members away from negative outcomes such as churn and towards positive outcomes which boost lifetime value and lead to upgrade. For starters, identify and nurture members with low visit behaviors – those who haven’t subsequently visited after joining compared to others, those who haven’t visited in a longer period of time than their usual or those approaching renewal in the coming quarter who haven’t visited enough times in the year to deliver return on their membership investment.

5. Tap into local markets before scaling beyond

Despite easing restrictions, most attractions are still experiencing the effects of suppressed tourism. Hyper local marketing strategies are still the best return on investment for new member acquisition – whether targeted digital advertising in local areas or traditional methods such as mail drops. To continuously monitor and evaluate when to broaden investments elsewhere, use new member zip codes to track the balance of organic demand from increasingly distant locations, or to test small experiments before scaling investment. 

6. Build loyalty through digital engagement

Over the course of the pandemic, digital adoption has accelerated agnostically for geographies and demographics. Many attractions successfully  responded to this trend by using digital to stay connected with members, despite the inability to invite them onsite – from exclusive online events to enticing ecommerce discounts. This trend is likely to stay and digital presence playing an increasingly important role in converting and retaining member loyalty.

7. Mindful cost to serve 

Even as budgets rebound, prudent financial governance means keeping a close eye on cost to serve. For comparison to pre pandemic times even if the member base has shifted significantly, this metric can be calculated as unit economics by dividing the total spend on member operating costs (including staffing but excluding customer acquisition costs) by the total number of members served, potentially by various member product tiers if possible. These numbers can help reveal where to continue restraining or even further reducing costs versus where to begin investing again, along with budget deep dives into hard costs such as member only events.  

Pulling the right levers to attract and retain members is no longer merely a matter of delivering value on the cost of membership. Factors like mission relevance, loyalty acknowledgement, policy ethics, nurtured behavior and digital engagement signal the evolving expectations of members as consumers. These shifts are an opportunity for visitor attractions to turn recurring revenues into predictable scale , where insightful intelligence is the gateway to growth.

Angie Judge

Angie is the Chief Executive of Dexibit with a 15 year career history in information technology and is passionate about big data analytics in visitor attractions. 

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