Alton Towers: Kings Of The Upsell

So this weekend Hollie and I made our annual pilgrimage to Alton Towers.   We always try to make it once a year because, well, roller coasters!

It’s fair to say we’re adrenaline junkies and running around theme parks like a pair of school children is simply one of our favourite things to do.

But there’s another reason why I personally also love to go to big parks like Alton Towers… I like to be inspired by their marketing.

Seriously.

They’ve clearly been taking tips from the folks over the pond at Disney as it seems they’ve just about copied every single one of their marketing tactics.   

Now whilst Alton Towers may still be lacking much of the razzmatazz which Disney (and many other US theme parks) do so well, they’ve certainly cottoned on to the vast number of upsells which Walt is famous for.

It all starts before you’re even in the park.

As you approach the park in your car you’re offered your very first upsell; premium parking.

Don’t like walking?   Not a problem!

You can pay an additional £10 per car and park right next to the entrance.  No need to trek across the multiple car parks with all the crowds.

And so it begins…

So the car is parked and you’re ready to enter the park.

Not before you’ve been offered some Fast Track passes first though.

Because who wants to queue for the rides?

If you’ve a Fast Track pass you can skip the lengthy queues and jump straight on to your favourite rides.

These start at £20 and go all the way up to £100.

Which, incidentally, is almost double the admission price (if you’ve been smart enough to book in advance).  

The ‘Gold’ pass allows you to ride the fifteen most popular rides without queuing.  

Although, importantly, just the once on each ride unless you take the platinum option.

Oh, and that’s per person of course.  

So a family of four can expect a bill of an additional £240.  Nice.  Well, for Alton Towers’ coffers, at least.

Alton Towers Fast Track Upsell

 

So you’ve ridden your first coaster and as you exit the ride you’re cleverly funnelled directly to the photo selection area so you can see the horrible face you’re pulling as you get flung around the track.

Don’t expect that photo to be in any way flattering… but do expect to pay £8 per photo if you want to take it home with you.

Or if you’d like to take a digital version of all the photos from the day then that’ll set you back an additional £30 for each day you’re in the park.

Ouch.

After deciding on whether or not you want the photos you’re then forced to wander through the ride-specific gift shop.

Yes, there’s a different gift shop for every substantial or popular ride.  

And you’re forced to walk through it to exit. 

You know, just in case you want a mug with a photo of the ride on it or a little bear with a ‘Nemesis’ tee-shirt on.   

It’s actually quite a sight.  The sheer amount of merchandise themed for each ride is really something to behold.  You wouldn’t think they could fill an entire shop but they certainly have managed that.   It’s surely every parent’s nightmare as every child asks if they can have “just this one, Daddy, per-lease”, for the tenth time that day.  

There are attempts to relieve you of your hard earned money at literally every corner.   Nobody expects a day at Alton Towers to be cheap, and it’s hardly the sort of thing you’d do every week, but I’d love to know the average customer spend per visit.

Even as you exit there is one last attempt to lure your credit card out of your pocket.

You can upgrade your ticket and come back for the rest of the year as many times as you like for just £22.

Alton Towers Season Pass Upsell

 

Pretty decent value that, all things considered, but Alton Towers have clearly done their sums. 

They know that their money is made once they get people through the turnstiles, not just with the admission prices – why do you think they are always offering two for one tickets?

Let’s have a look at what a family of four might spend in a day if they took the upsells offered…

  • Admission tickets (for those over the age of 12) – £55 x 4 = £220
  • Priority parking – £16
  • Digital family photo pass – £30
  • Fastpasses – £100 x 4 = £400
  • Pizza pasta buffet lunch (advanced online purchase price) – £13.50 x 4 = £54
  • Unlimited fizzy drinks refills – £7.50 x 4 = £30
  • Ice creams – £3 x 4 = £12
  • Additional games, stalls and coin operated rides – £10
  • Come back season tickets = £22 x 4 = £88
  • Family total = £860

And I’ve not even touched here on the additional potential costs if you’d like to stay on one of their various on-site hotels!

So that makes it possible to spend nearly £1,000 for one day in the park!   One day!   Although to be fair in that example that would allow you to come back and spend some more money with them!

Now I don’t want you to misinterpret the message here.

I’m not bashing Alton Towers.   

I think it’s a great park and I’ll be back next year for sure.

But the message here is that they are damned smart with what they are offering to their clients.   Whilst very few people probably take every possible additional sale I’ve listed I’ll bet that most people take at least some of them.

It’s estimated that Alton Towers makes around £460,000 per day and you can bet a lot of that comes from the multiple upsells they offer.

How much would they make if they only collected gate revenue?   A tiny fraction of that figure.  Maybe not even enough to operate the actual park.

So what can you learn from Alton Towers?

Well first and foremost you can look at your own menus.

Are you offering enough upsells to your clients?

Are you offering any at all?

If you’re happy for your clients to come in, have a treatment and then leave again without even offering them the opportunity to spend more with you then you’re doing yourself a disservice.

You’re actually doing a disservice to your clients, too.

Plenty of people do want the fast passes, the photo passes and the premium parking.

If Alton Towers didn’t offer these then they wouldn’t be serving some of their clients as well as they currently do.

Why not consider how you can look to increase your average client spend?

It’s so important because you’ve already paid the expense of getting the client into your premises so the upsells are generally very profitable.   

It’s also much easier to sell something to someone when they are stood right in front of you and when they’ve just purchased something else.   That’s your sweet spot, right there, and yet it goes sadly under utilised by so many businesses.

  • Do you offer your clients a VIP version of your treatments or services?
  • How about a luxury, longer version of each treatment?
  • Do you have a process in place for recommending suitable products to enhance their experience further?
  • What about offering other additional items such as food and drink if appropriate (and lawful)?

The thing is, when done correctly, it actually enhances your offering and some of your clients will gladly snap up everything offered to them… that is, assuming you actually offer it of course.

This isn’t about loading your clients up with things they don’t need or want.

However when it complements the sale and benefits your client it’s your duty to at least let them know about it.

You’ll be surprised at how many people thank you for it.

 

Want to read more about upselling?   We wrote this piece recently about a clever hotel upsell and this historic one about the topic more generally.  

Hollie Power Salon Business Coach

About Hollie

My goal is to help others achieve more with their beauty businesses through growth, sales and marketing. I like to see it as adding some sparkle to the beauty world.

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