Summer is coming.
In an alternate Game of Thrones universe, this is the motto for owners of indoor play centers and FECs. These words refer to the need to be vigilant during a dangerous season where business slows down to a grinding halt.
Before we create our battle plan, let's look at consumer behavior during the summer months. As Sun Tzu wisely said, "If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat."
The competition for attention, time, and money for leisure activities is already fierce in every market. When you get into the season of vacations and family travel, you're in for a dog fight.
According to the US Family Travel Survey 2018, the summer was the most popular time to travel and remains a likely time next year.
The survey also looked into the types of activities US families prefer when they vacation with visiting family and friends, theme parks, beach vacations being the top three. Although indoor play centers or family entertainment centers aren't on the list, "family visits" being on the top of the list can be an opportunity to capitalize on the types of activities families prefer when they're on vacations.
For the families who don't travel or choose stay-cations, 69% site their main reason being "I/We cannot afford it." The age of children and being too busy with other activities seem to be a factor for stay-cationers as well.
Now that we have a deeper understanding of family behaviors let's create the battle plan. Here are ways you can prepare for the summer slowdown:
Refine your pricing strategy
The right pricing strategy can influence decisions on whether a traveling family of seven chooses your facility or the local Olive Garden for dinner. Since parents who are looking for the best bang for their buck, the idea is to use perceptions of how your customers see value to charge the perfect price.
One strategy to explore this summer is behavioral pricing, or understanding how customers make sense of prices based on psychological and sociological biases they have about pricing.
For the battle-tested owners out there, you may already have an idea of the types of promotional offers your customers respond to during the summer months. If you're a new owner heading into summer for the first time, here's what science says about discounts, promotions, and free offers.
Target families who are vacationing to your market
In exchange for giving detailed personal information to Facebook, businesses can create targeted audiences and deliver sponsored ads that show up on their news feeds.
You can use Facebook ads to not only test your hypothesis on behavioral pricing strategies for traveling families through A/B testing; you can use it for crucial touch-points in your customer journey map.
For example, you can look at which communication channels that raise awareness and provide information about where to go and what to do. By knowing where prospective customers go during the awareness and consideration stage, you'll be able to choose the channel for paid ads and messaging to bring them through your doors.
Create new revenue streams
Instead of praying for rain to bring people through your doors, you can prepare for the summer lull by generating predictable revenue. I don't want to beat a dead horse, but booking groups and parties online is critical to getting those sales.
In 2018, nearly 20% of parties booked online occurred between 4-8 weeks from the event date. The timeframe for booking combined with the fact that 25% of parties booked online occurred between 9 pm to 9 am, getting a party booking automation software in place is crucial.
Another way to create a new revenue stream is to offer a new summer program that helps parents get the job done. I've always been a fan of the occasional parents night out because it was a program that spoke directly to my wife's desire to have a few hours of "adult time" and enjoy a nice dinner.
Fine Tune Your Internal Processes
Just as the World's Top FECs have demonstrated what it takes to make it to the top, you have to keep refining your craft. The continuous improvement should include all aspect of your business like party booking to delivering a fantastic experience.
Sometimes, identifying and making improvements is not as easy as it sounds. Lucky for you, we recorded a webinar with Birthday University's Frank Price. You can watch the replay here.
Is summer coming? Bring it on!
Now that you're armed with a few strategies to go into battle, you can make the shift from survival mode into thriving during the summer months.
By continuing to learn about your guests and making continuous improvements to your business, you'll be better equipped for a killer fall and holiday season. If you have other strategies on preparing for the summer slowdown, let's talk about it in the PCS Facebook Community.