Across diverse industries, customers eagerly embracing upgrades that offer increased convenience, are more personal, are viewed as more valuable, and offer access to exclusive activities.
Audiences will naturally gravitate toward activities and enhancements that are most relevant to them.
Everyone wins when attendees can craft their conference experience in ways that excite and captivate them.
Taking a page from the travel, retail, and entertainment industries, tradeshow and conference organizers are improving attendee experiences with exclusive offers, upgrades, and value packages. They are inventing new, more enjoyable ways to engage audiences, while at the same time increasing revenue and improving attendance satisfaction.
Package vs. à la Carte: Which Model Works Best? There are two main approaches to up-level the attendee experience:
- Package a collection of high-value offers into a premium single price offer.
- Allow attendees to pick and choose the offers most important to them with à la carte pricing.
Concert organizers, entertainment industry conferences, and theme parks find success in the “packaged” route. Live Nation, for example, creates “experience packages” for their headline concerts. Customers buying tickets for the Justin Timberlake concert had the option to purchase the Perfect Vision Tour, Perfect Vision Party, or 20/20 VIP Bar & Lounge package. Each level offered a unique experience, increased convenience, special access, and merchandise.
Offering packages like these creates high value for concertgoers and provides an opportunity to increase the average ticket price for a show or an event. For the recent Rolling Stones 50 and Counting tour, the show was staged in smaller venues compared to previous tours–but thanks to various VIP packages, the average ticket price jumped from $50 a show to $250 a show. And, production costs were reduced because of the smaller venues.
Universal Orlando Resort and Parks offer consumers the star treatment with custom tours, private entrances, and expedited services for varying days and parks.
The alternate approach is to offer guests à la carte options based on what is of highest value to them, and at times as “in the moment” decisions. Movie theaters pioneered this trend many years ago, increasing their profit by offering concessions to go along with the movie. This innovation is expanding in the modern day to include full menus and professional chefs.
The travel industry has taken this model to a new level, focusing on what matters most to the traveler and developing a wide range of add-ons to meet those needs and desires.
Hawaiian Airlines, for example, offers travelers the opportunity to pre-order inflight amenities such as premium meals, Made-In Hawaii snacks, or tablet entertainment systems before boarding their flights.
Delta recently gave its flight attendants wireless devices allowing them to sell passengers last-second seat upgrades and more on the plane. And Jet-Blue is bridging the packaged and á la carte experience upgrade by announcing the new Mint Experience, which, for a single fee, offers travelers a private suite on the plane plus tapas-style dining and plush amenity kit.
Total airline revenue generated by these ancillary fees skyrocketed from $2.45 billion in 2007 to $27.1 billion in 2012. In fact, a full 14% of United Airlines’ revenue comes from these fees, with passengers spending, on average, an additional $38.11 on extras.
Putting the Right Offers Together What value attendees put on premium offers is largely dependent on the degree to which relevance comes into play. What is relevant or valued by one attendee may not be for another.
Customization can address the relevance, and can be based on a variety of factors—job title or level, content interest, geographical location, even gaming platform preference.
Some may value a convenience pass that includes express registration lines, preferred keynote seating, or a preferred hotel block at the hotel nearest to the convention center. Others may choose increased networking opportunities such as private meeting room access or a lunch with well know industry representative.
Here again, the travel industry offers a model. They segment offers by trip type (spa offers for leisure travelers, extra Internet bandwidth for business travelers), location (packages that include fine dining for Las Vegas or NYC trips), and status (executive room upgrades only for non-Gold or Diamond members.)
Cross-promotion with sponsors and partners can extend the value of these packages even further. There are valuable opportunities for partners to increase awareness of the partners’ products or offerings by making special offers or activities available that further highlight the value and relevance to key audiences.
Once a relevant upgrade package has been developed, an important aspect is its limited availability. In most cases, limiting the availability (due to limited resources or by design) increases the interest, perceived value, and urgency to purchase. The result is a shift from the purely economic value and an “I can get it any time”, to an “I want that so I should act soon” mind-set.
The legacy price based approach of offering “early bird” pricing to attendees can be offset by the availability of a series of highly valued packages available for a limited time or in limited quantity. This contributes to an increase in interest without needing to discount, and in increase in average attendee revenue without the need to raise prices for everyone.
Note: This topic is a derivative of a recent Trends and Innovations article released by Microsoft’s Marketing Events and Production Studios .
Scott, I couldn’t agree more. Personalization is clearly one of the trends that will continue to blossom in events and elsewhere. We are loving the challenge and opportunity to innovate around this, especially in the registration and housing space. Thanks for the great post!