4 ways to market your memberships and grow your customer loyalty

Although the benefits might be obvious to you, the value of a membership pass might be less clear to your guests. So to help you convince more guests that membership is a good idea, here are our four best practices for marketing membership passes.
Jacob Thompson, ICAP
October 2022

The elephants were amazing. The kids loved the monkeys. And everyone learned something new. 

But even after a great family day out at a wildlife attraction, what would make you go from a casual visitor to a paid member or season pass holder?

Well, for one, being able to visit a specific wildlife attraction as often as you want can take the experience to a whole new level. Members enjoy everything from changing exhibits and new animal arrivals to exclusive offers and experiences. Membership can also help you save a lot of money compared to buying multiple-day passes. 

Although these benefits might be obvious to you, the value of a membership pass might be less clear to your guests. So to help you convince more guests that membership is a good idea, here are our four best practices for marketing membership passes.

1. Sell Benefits, Not Features

Buying a membership or seasonal pass is not just a financial investment for guests. It's an emotional commitment too. 

To get value for money, members must feel ready to commit to returning to your wildlife attraction multiple times. Convincing them that they should means selling them on a membership’s benefits, not just its features.

For example, picture two different wildlife attraction membership pass offers, A and B. Both are selling the same thing: year-round visits for a once-off fee.

Membership pass A focuses on features and presents customers with an offer like this:

  • Unlimited access to our venue.
  • Member discounts
  • A free children’s toy.
  • Cost: £119 a year.

Membership pass B takes a different approach. It leads with benefits like:

  • Visit as often as you like! Whether it's the school holidays, a quick afternoon visit, or you just want to spend some time with our awesome animals as a pick-me-up, we'll be here for you.
  • Help us ensure a cosy home for our animals year-round and support our species breeding programs.
  • Get exclusive member discounts at our themed restaurants and unlock invites to our member only events.
  • All for just £119 a year (the price of just three standard visits).

With A, guests still have to do a lot of work to determine if a membership pass is for them. 

On the other hand, membership pass B leaves guests with no doubt about where the value of becoming a member lies. Instead of features, it gives pass buyers a taste of what their life with a season pass would look like.

Focusing on membership benefits like this is important. Research shows that frequent visitors to wildlife attractions find benefits and experiential value particularly important.

2. Do Your Maths

For most guests, the main reason to buy a membership pass is price. Membership pass pricing needs to tell customers, "I am good value," regardless of whether the pass has a fixed cost or a monthly fee.

Using research on the ski industry as a proxy, the ideal visit frequency for membership pass holders is to visit as many times as will give them a 50% discount on the cost of a day pass. 

The way guests use membership passes in a wildlife attraction will be different, but the same rule applies. Guests want to get more visits for less money than buying individual tickets would cost. 

You need to make sure to price your passes at a level that makes this possible. However, you also need to ensure you don't offer membership schemes that could be abused.

For example, offering an unlimited monthly membership pass that guests can cancel after one month is not a good idea. Some guests, like those in town for a short while, might visit every day for a month and then cancel when they lose interest. 

To stop this from happening, it is a good idea to require a minimum monthly commitment or annual membership only. 

Besides recurring revenue from membership passes, it’s also worthwhile remembering that passes can lead to increased secondary spending. 

While research shows that visitors spend the most money on tickets when visiting zoos, they also spend a considerable amount on food, animal experiences, souvenirs, and other offerings. Guests that purchase membership passes beforehand are even more likely to spend more on-site, forgetting the price they paid initially. This is especially true if they receive a small discount at the zoo cafe/gift shop for being a member.

3. Match Offers to Moments

To sell more membership passes to guests, getting the "why" down is not enough. You also need to understand "where" and "when." Studies of consumer attitudes show that giving guests no offer at all is sometimes better than showcasing a great offer at the wrong time. 

Showing guests membership offers at the right time and place is essential to boosting conversion. 

A fundamental step here is displaying membership offers at the points where guests leave and enter your wildlife attraction. It also helps to train staff to upsell membership to satisfied or repeat visitors. 

To add another layer to your customer targeting efforts, you can use smart mobile technology like the Attractions.io platform. This kind of next-level customer targeting means you can control when guests see membership offers. For example, you might schedule a membership offer to appear as guests leave your wildlife attraction for the day or after attending one of your shows.

As well as reaching out to guests with offers based on where they are in terms of their guest journey, it also pays to match categories of guests with particular offers. 

Studies show that, in general, customers are over 76% more likely to purchase a personalised offer. This is true for attractions too. Guests are naturally more inclined to buy membership offers that fit their needs. 

With digital technology like a downloadable guest app, you can target different guest segments by sending guests offers that match their demographics and user profiles. For example, you can show guests with families offers for family memberships, while individual guests who have visited your attraction twice already might instead see single-member passes. 

4. Introduce Exclusive Offers and Upgrades

Guests might be more tempted to buy a membership pass if it allows them to avail of unique experiences and offers. 

For example, you can offer members at your wildlife attraction benefits like:

  • Exclusive event invitations, such as the opening of new enclosures.
  • Private tours, for example, private keeper talks, the chance to interact with some of the animals, etc.
  • “Member mornings,” where you open on specific days to members earlier than the general public. 
  • The ability to bring family and friends to your zoo on particular days for free/at a discounted price. 
  • Classes and seminars on local and global conservation topics.

Research shows that the social benefits of memberships, i.e., meeting and interacting with staff and other members, are among the most important reasons why visitors become attractions’ members.

Final Thoughts

The value of membership programs and season passes cannot be overstated. Millions of guests love being able to visit their favourite wildlife attractions regularly for a relatively small fee compared to buying day passes. 

Meanwhile, zoos with membership pass programs benefit from more than just increased revenue. A 2020 study conducted by McKinsey showed that members of paid loyalty programs spend 60% more than non-members. 

Attractions.io's guest experience platform gives you a smart, personalised way of promoting membership programs to guests. With Attractions.io, you can send guests push notifications based on who they are, where they are in an attraction, and whether they enjoyed their visit. 

With our mobile technology, your attraction can:

  • Prompt guests who leave positive feedback with membership offers.
  • Send guests a membership offer notification at the end of their visit.
  • Explain to guests mid-visit how your membership program helps support the animals they see. 

To learn more about using mobile technology to foster greater connections with your guests, check out our guides: ‘Improving communication and the visitor experience at your Zoo.’

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Jacob Thompson, ICAP

Helping attractions to thrive in a digital age
October 2022

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