In this this new monthly slot of the Skip the Queue podcast episode, Rubber Cheese CEO Paul Marden joins me to discuss different digital related topics.
“This, for me is the most shocking stat from the entire report. 96% of the respondents stated that they had never conducted any user testing for their mobile sites. So that’s nearly all of the 188 attractions that took part.”
Kelly Molson is the Founder of Rubber Cheese, a user focused web design and development agency for the attraction sector. Digital partners to Eureka! The National Children’s Museum, Pensthorpe, National Parks UK, Holkham, Visit Cambridge and The National Marine Aquarium.Kelly regularly delivers workshops and presentations on sector focused topics at national conferences and attraction sector organisations including ASVA, ALVA, The Ticketing Professionals Conference and the Museum + Heritage Show.
As host of the popular Skip the Queue Podcast for people working in or working with visitor attractions, she speaks with inspiring industry experts who share their knowledge of what really makes an attraction successful. Recent trustee of The Museum of the Broads.
“I think it’s so difficult to put yourself into the head of the person that knows nothing. We come to the party with lots and lots of knowledge that the average person that comes to the website just doesn’t have.”
Paul Marden is the Founder and Managing Director of Carbon Six Digital and the CEO of Rubber Cheese. He is an Umbraco Certified Master who likes to think outside the box, often coming up with creative technical solutions that clients didn’t know were possible. Paul oversees business development and technical delivery, specialising in Microsoft technologies including Umbraco CMS, ASP.NET, C#, WebApi, and SQL Server. He’s worked in the industry since 1999 and has vast experience of managing and delivering the technical architecture for both agencies and client side projects of all shapes and sizes. Paul is an advocate for solid project delivery and has a BCS Foundation Certificate in Agile.
What will you learn from this podcast?
- Mobile optimisation
- Why it’s important
- What you can do to improve it
You can also read the full transcript below.
Your hosts, Kelly Molson and Paul Marden
Kelly Molson: Hello, we’re back. Everyone will be sick of us by this episode.
Paul Marden: I give it a couple more. We’ve got some interesting stuff to talk about hopefully, hopefully.
Kelly Molson: We have. Okay, so let’s start as we usually do then, with what attraction have you visited most recently and what did you love about it?
Paul Marden: Well, there’s one that you and I both visited recently, and there was something I really didn’t love about it. We went on what was it called? Was it Mandrake Mayhem? It’s the new Jumanji ride. Chessington World of Adventures.
Kelly Molson: Mandrill.
Paul Marden: There we go. If you are a roller coaster nut, would be amazing. But yeah, within 2 seconds of the ride starting, I realised it was not the ride for me.
Kelly Molson: I like roller coasters. Yeah. So we sponsored one of the awards at the UK Theme Park Awards. And it was brilliant. It’s fantastic.
Paul Marden: It was such a great event.
Kelly Molson: Really good event, brilliantly organised. It was absolutely brilliant to see so many attraction friends there. And it was at Chessington World of Adventures, which was super cool. I also want to talk about Chessington because I had forgotten how good it is. So I haven’t been to Chessington since I was really small, and I think I’m pretty sure I only visited once or twice because we actually lived closer to Thorpe Park and were like in the Thorpe Park Rangers camp.
But what I’d forgotten about Chessington was the animals. Yeah, I was really lucky. I drove down the night before of the awards and got to stay at the hotel that night. I didn’t get to stay in any of themed rooms because budget did not allow for that.
However, what I’d forgotten was that when you’re having breakfast, the animals are literally right outside where you’re eating. And I’d forgotten about it to the extent that I went up to the buffet to go and get my lovely, delicious English breakfast, which I was really looking forward to. And I could see people looking out the window and I was like, “Oh, what are you looking at?” And they went, “Giraffes? Yeah. Wow.” Actually took my breath away a little bit.
It was a really great experience. It’s not often that you get to eat your breakfast whilst looking at giraffes and zebras as well that were out there. So, yeah, that was really great. And I really enjoyed the roller coaster. Despite someone’s screams in my ear.
Paul Marden: I heard this screaming noise all the way around and about three quarters of the way around I realised it was me.
Kelly Molson: There was quite a bit of a screaming, to be fair.
Paul Marden: I watched it back. I found a video on YouTube to show Millie, my daughter, and I was like, “Oh, my God, it’s horrific. You get to the end and you’re just dangling on the side for about a minute and then it changes direction.” And we watched it on YouTube, it barely stops at the top of the ride. It gets up to the top, gets to a hole and then drops back down again. Now, to me, in my memory, that was a solid minute. We were hanging over the side of the hole.
Kelly Molson: It was just a minute.
Paul Marden: Anyway, I did enjoy it.
Kelly Molson: Yeah, big thumbs up to Chessington. It was a really great experience. So, thank you. A big thumbs up to the UK Theme Park Awards organisers as well. It was a great event. We’ll be back next year.
Paul Marden: For sure.
Kelly Molson: Right, we’re going to talk about mobile optimisation in this episode. We’re going to talk about why it’s important and what you can do to improve it. And we’ve got some really interesting stats to share from the Visitor Attraction Website Report about this. But did you know optimisation is no longer a nice to have? It’s a necessity, because Statista forecasts that retail sales from mobile commerce are expected to surpass that 100 billion mark by 2000 and 2400.
Paul Marden: Crazy, isn’t that?
Kelly Molson: I started my career in digital, in ecommerce as well, which is crazy. So it just feels really I know, back in the day, so I always say it was my last proper job before I founded Rubber Cheese, which then has been like, what, nearly 21 years. So it was the last proper job that I had before I set that up was for a really early startup, almost like Shopify, but back then. So this is like 23 years ago.
Paul Marden: We’ve got employees younger than that.
Kelly Molson: Let’s look at it. But it enabled sellers to go and build their own shop. It was called iShop. It was an absolutely incredible platform of its time. And back then, I just about had an email address, let alone did everything, could pretty much run my entire organisation on my mobile phone now. It just blows my mind how much things have moved on.
Paul Marden: It’s crazy, isn’t it?
Kelly Molson: Anyway, I digress. So our Visitor Attraction Website Report shows that attractions understand the importance of mobile optimisation for their websites, but there’s really huge areas that could be improved. This, for me is the most shocking stat from the entire report. It’s blown my mind slightly. 96% of the respondents stated that they had never conducted any user testing for their mobile sites. So that’s nearly all of the 188 attractions that took part said that they’ve never done any user testing on their mobile, which I just don’t understand. I’ve been banging on about testing on your mobile, testing your mobile site for every talk that I’ve given for the past two years.
Paul Marden: Well, that’s having a big effect, isn’t it, mate?
Kelly Molson: Isn’t it? Maybe I should talk louder. Yeah, I’m really gobsmacked at it. What was really interesting, though, about it, I mean, it’s a shocking stat in itself, but what we did this year with the report is that we asked attractions to kind of self-score their website. So we asked them what they felt their design scored in terms of design, so they could give it a one to ten score. So we asked them to do the same about different areas of their site, and one was mobile optimisation. So 31% gave their site a score of nine out of ten for it, and 24% gave their site an eight out of ten.
Paul Marden: They think it’s pretty good.
Kelly Molson: Yes, and this is the problem. So they think it’s good. That indicates that those scores are based on internal assumptions, not potentially not tangible user centred data, because they haven’t asked the people to test that their mobile sites are a nine out of ten or an eight out of ten. So I just thought that was really interesting, that a lot of your judgement can be based on your assumptions rather than actually asking the people that are using it. So yeah, I think that’s really important that people do that.
Paul Marden: I was looking at some stuff that was related to this, but not the same area of the stats that you were looking at there. So I looked at how many of the group actually did any user testing on their site. Okay. And obviously that’s a really in comparison to other stats where there’s a big wide disparity between different sorts of people. The vast bulk of people reported that they weren’t doing any user testing, but the ones that did, all sat in the top range of conversion rate.
I’m not saying that one causes the other, but there is a strong relationship between the group of people that are user testing their sites. And all of that group of people also had a conversion rate right in the top of our data set, and that ranged in size as well.
So we’re not just talking about the big brands that are doing this. And when you looked at that set of data, there was a big brand in there. Everybody would know it. There was quite a few big brands that weren’t in there. So for me, they were conspicuous by their absence because I’d seen them elsewhere in the data set that had been reported. But there was a small brand in there as well, a small organisation. I’d not heard of them before.
They had between 5 to 10,000 transactions a year, which in comparison to the people at the top end of the scale, that’s at least an order of magnitude smaller organisation. But they were reporting that they were doing user testing and they had a conversion rate right up there in the top end of our data set.
Even more surprisingly, of those that have done user testing specifically on mobile was a very small percent. And this bit you will be pleased about because some people are listening to you, that consisted of a very high proportion of Rubber Cheese clients were in that set of people who were doing user testing specifically on their mobile experience.
Kelly Molson: Yay. Yay, Rubber Cheese clients!
Paul Marden: Somebody is listening to you.
Kelly Molson: High five to all of you lovely people. Yes. So it’s interesting, isn’t it? Because user testing for me, so we talk a lot about marginal gains at Rubber Cheese, about trying to make something that 1% better, 1% better, 1% better. And the only way you can actually do that is by doing user testing because you just don’t know what to make better. You don’t know where people are finding those barriers, you don’t know where people are maybe confused about something or being blocked by something as well. For me, it’s the number one thing to do if you want to start making those tiny adjustments that will start to then have those incremental and larger effects later on down the line.
Paul Marden: I think it’s so difficult to put yourself into the head of that person that knows nothing. We all come to the party if we run the testing, whether it’s us at the attraction or us as the agency. We come to the party with lots and lots of knowledge that the average person that comes to the site and just doesn’t have. And it’s really hard to put yourself into that position and the solution to that is getting them to do the testing for you.
Kelly Molson: Yeah. And when it comes to testing, I think I kind of split it into two. Because for mean I’ve said this before, but most of my browsing or purchasing is done in a very short window of time in front of the telly when I’m supposed to be watching something that Lee and I have decided that is the one thing that we can watch with the hour of telly time that we get together each day.
But actually I’ll be trying to watch that whilst also doing ten other things on my phone and I’ll split it into browsing and purchasing and most of that happens between about 9:00 and 10:00 for me at night and it will always be on my phone. Do not make me go, I’m not going to go back into my office and crack open my laptop at that time.
So everything has to be on my phone. I’m really time poor, clearly. So page load speed for me is really important. If I’m trying to find something, I need to find it quickly. I want to read something that’s engaging, but not at the expense of not being able to load that page that I want to read. So things like compressing your images is really important. This is a difficult one when it comes to video is that I love video. I
think there is nothing more engaging than video on your website, especially if you’re a visit attraction to sell that experience. But lose the video on mobile or reduce it, reduce it, reduce it down because that’s going to wipe out a load of bandwidth speed and it’s going to make your page loads really small.
Paul Marden: I’ve got beef about it in terms of it’s autoplay video. It’s not an environmentally sustainable thing to do. We don’t often think about the environmental impact of websites but it’s right up there in terms of industry generating CO2 emissions and it’s not the main cause of it, but it’s one area where this is prevalent is in the use of autoplay video on homepage. The website. People go to the site, the video plays whether they want to watch the video or not and that is just burning through bandwidth which is ultimately generating CO2.
So I’m not anti video. I think video is an amazing thing and as you say, it can really engage you. I sat this morning talking about engaging video to try and get people to want to love the attraction to a client. So I’m totally for it. But it should be something that user opt into, not something that autoplays for them.
Kelly Molson: Yeah, I agree. And content as well. So we know that people read content online differently than they do in a book or a magazine or a newspaper for example, but actually they read it differently than they do on desktop to mobile too. So you actually need to think about if a certain article you have or a blog or event or whatever it may be, is going to sit in the demographic of people like me who is a 45 year old woman with toddler has 1 hour in front of the telly a day to do all of her purchashing and scrolling and anything else she needs to do on her phone.
Paul Marden: Superheroes you make.
Kelly Molson: Where is my cape? That content really needs to appeal to them and it needs to be in the shortest form possible because I don’t have the time to read all of the engaging content. I just don’t. So you need to kind of think about, is your content formatted differently when it’s from desktop to mobile as well? And then when it comes to purchasing this one’s, a little bit trickier for attractions, I think, and there’s lots of different reasons for it. We’re probably going to talk a little bit longer about this one, but the number one thing that we’re always asked to review on attraction websites is that booking journey. And the thing is, we can only do the review of it if that booking journey is owned by the attraction.
What I mean is if it’s been designed and you are integrating with your booking system via API, so your agency or your internal team have designed that journey up to the point of you know, the tickets in the basket and gone. If you’re using a third party system, an off the shelf ticketing platform that isn’t integrated via API, there’s not a lot that we can do about of once a guest is into the purchasing journey, they’re with that system. The things that you can think about if you are going to go down the design and at your own route, you need to think about big buttons, you need to think about less clutter. I want arrows, don’t make me type stuff into small form, free form boxes on mobile. You just need to be able to select things really quickly and clearly.
So you want to kind of just strip out all of the noise and just get people to focus on the one thing that you want them to do, which is go through that journey and buy that ticket. What was interesting in the stats that came out of the report is that 75% of the respondents to it still expect customers to complete more than five steps to purchase, which hasn’t changed from last year, that’s similar to last year. And again, the reasons you might not be able to control that, you might be unable to control that because of the system that you use. So this is a really challenging one, but if you can reduce it, you can actually make some quite significant financial gains. So you looked at the impact of bookings on conversion rate, which is quite significant.
Paul Marden: I got really excited working this number out. I reckon these numbers are conservative as well because these are on the basis of ticket prices and lost ticket sales. For me, I think this number could be higher for most attractions because the value of somebody coming to an attraction is bigger than just their ticket price. We talked about this the other day when were chatting. When you go there’s, the meal that you eat, there’s the gifts that you buy when you leave.
So the total cost of somebody arriving at the attraction is probably higher than I’m estimating here. But using some stats on what the fall off rate is in ecommerce transactions, we’ve worked out that each step that you add to your checkout flow, it costs.
For our average attraction in our data set that we reckon it costs about 8000 pounds a year in lost sales. And for our top performing attractions it could be worth in the range of a quarter of a million pound a year in lost sales for each step that is included in their checkout flow. You think if you’re in one of those top performing attractions with five steps, a quarter of a million pound in lost sales just in year one, that’s a lot of developer time that you could buy to simplify your checkout workflow, isn’t it? The return on investment for that, for a big organisation of simplifying your checkout workflow I think could be huge.
Kelly Molson: Yeah, it could. There’s so many other factors to think about. We have clients that have API integrations, we have clients that use off the shelf booking systems. In one way, I’ve always been really in the corner of designing and owning your own booking journey, but you have to be realistic about what that puts on the organisation as well, and what size your organisation is, whether you have the internal team to be able to manage that, the infrastructure to be able to manage that as well.
Paul Marden: There’s a total cost of ownership issue, isn’t there, that is beyond just the buying price of the website in the first place. You’ve got to be able to maintain the thing going forward, haven’t you, and that’s pricy.
Kelly Molson: Yeah, absolutely. But I think if you are thinking about your booking systems at the moment, then having the conversations with the providers about what their mobile journeys look like, ask to get them to demo it on mobile so you can see it for yourself. And ask them what the roadmap is in terms of mobile optimisation for the booking journeys as well. So just go into these conversations with those thoughts in mind so that you can get an understanding of what that looks like. And if their purchasing journey is six steps at the minute, ask them what are your plans to reduce that to five steps and how could we work with you to make that happen? That could start to take those conversations in some really positive ways.
Paul Marden: Honestly, this stat, I’m going to sound like such a nerd, but this stat has stuck in my head ever since we worked this one out. And I can’t get out of my head what the impact is of the lost opportunity, the lost sales that are happening because of these steps. And I’ve been thinking, what is the absolute barest minimum? Because lots of attractions, when they’re going through their buying journey, I’m thinking, what on earth do you need to ask me? This is a rhetorical question, by the way. I know the complexity that is going into a lot of these things, I do understand it, but why is it that you actually need to ask me to take these five steps to get through, to get me to actually part with my money?
And I’ve been thinking about, for me, what is the absolute barest minimum you could get away with asking? Well, there’s no way that you can affect a payment card transaction without knowing the card details. So you’ve got to ask the card number, the postcode, the CDC number and the surname of the person holding the card. So you have to have those. And if we can’t give the ticket to somebody, we’ve got to have a mechanism getting the ticket to them, so we need their email address. Those five things are the absolute barest things I could get away with. But of course, that would only sell you, could only sell an undated, untimed ticket with that.
And I’ve been thinking about this back in COVID, so COVID and lockdown, and then the gradual release of lockdown was what introduced for many attractions, timed and dated tickets, wasn’t it? And that was a complete transformation because we had limited capacity, we needed to make sure that we didn’t oversell that capacity and create a problem at the gate. But is it necessary now? I completely understand that there’s lots of benefit to the attraction, to guest services and people like that, of knowing exactly how many people are coming into the attraction and being able to metre that. But I wonder what impact having timed tickets and dated tickets is having on the number of people that give up buying because there’s just too many steps in the process. “I can’t be bothered with this. I’m going to not do it.”
Kelly Molson: This is quite controversial.
Paul Marden: Isn’t it? Completely. And I’m thinking back to that podcast episode that you did with Roman Baths where you were talking about variable pricing and dynamic pricing and of course you can only do those things if you have dated and timed tickets. So if nothing else, there is a creative tension there, isn’t there, between if I ask the absolute barest minimum, I will sell more tickets, versus if I date and time my tickets and I could be really flexible about my pricing. Everybody wants lots and lots of information because who wouldn’t want all the information you could possibly get about your customers versus the more I ask, the less people will buy. Harsh, isn’t it?
Kelly Molson: Yeah. I’m in the camp of pre booking as well, so this is uncomfortable for me. I’m in the camp of pre booking and I don’t mind time ticketing either. I think there is absolutely a place for it and I think for organisations, for attractions, it just makes their life so much simpler.
Paul Marden: Completely agreed with you. But I guess there’s this at one end of the scale, you’ve got the absolute barest minimum that you could ask that will get more people, take their money, take money off of people and get them through the checkout flow as fast as you possibly can. Versus if there’s two ends to this spectrum and both make us both feel uncomfortable, Where’s the middle ground? Do you need to know where my address is? You don’t need my address to be able to sell me a ticket. You need to know my postcode so you can do the credit card transaction, but you don’t need my whole address to do that. So maybe that’s where the compromise sits. That doesn’t make either of us feel uncomfortable.
Kelly Molson: Maybe. I always think there’s a way to get more data out of people at a later stage as well, if you really want it. And maybe that’s something that we need to look at in a different episode, is that you don’t have to ask for all of these things at the point of purchase, but you can ask for more stuff afterwards as well if you’re really engaging with that audience.
Paul Marden: There’s also one more thing just on that point, there were tools that could simplify this as well. Because if you have a clever use of Apple Pay or Google Pay, both of those checkout flows, people have all of their personal information plugged into Apple Pay, so you don’t need to ask me anything about me. If you have a clever checkout flow with Apple Pay, then you could take my money and then get my personal information from Apple rather than make me having to type it all in. How much easier does that make the process?
Kelly Molson: When I posted about this on LinkedIn, it must have been a couple of months ago now, and I asked people what their biggest frustrations was with booking journeys. They said lack of Apple Pay. They said it’s a necessity for people. They don’t want to think about their details. They don’t know their card details. They haven’t gotten again, they’re sitting on the sofa like I am, their cards are upstairs. They’re not going to get off their bums and go and get their cards. That was the number one thing that kept coming up over and over again.
And then the second one was around clear and consistent pricing so that they don’t feel like they’re being ripped off as the deeper they get into that journey. So that’s two really interesting things to think about there.
On these episodes, we often highlight people that are doing it. Well, we’ve decided not to do it in this episode. And there’s a couple of reasons for that, is that it’s really hard to compare between people that have an API integrated designed booking journey and people that are using off the shelf systems. And there will be very specific reasons for why they have chosen to go down either of those routes.
And you can’t compare them because the reasons are uncomparable, I feel. So we’ve decided just to take that step out for today, but we are going to talk about what next steps that you can take. So I think the first one is going back to what you’ve just referenced is thinking about what information you actually really need from the customer.
Paul Marden: Yeah, if you ask less, you’ll need less steps. The less steps, the more people will make it through the checkout site.
Kelly Molson: So what can you remove and maybe what could you add in later in addition to that.
Paul Marden: Completely.
Kelly Molson: And then test on mobile. Test again. Didn’t I end last episode with saying just test, test on mobile regularly, but go through the entire process from start to finish.
Paul Marden: And then the fix the stuff that doesn’t work. So I had an interesting conversation when were at Theme Park Awards with another podcast alumni. We were chatting about prepping for the report and where were going and what were doing and all that kind of thing. And he told me a story about a site, fairly large attraction, where when you try and check out the only way if you’re doing it on mobile, you can’t select the number of tickets when you hold your mobile up.
Now, the attraction has tested, they know it because they’ve written a message at the top of the page and it says to be able to book your tickets, rotate your phone to the side and then you get the ability to be able to choose your numbers.
So great, they’re doing some testing, but how many people don’t bother reading that message, how many people are stymied by the idea that, “Oh, well, I can’t choose the number of tickets?” Not only have you got to test it, you got to fix the stuff that doesn’t work as well.
Kelly Molson: Yeah, gosh, how frustrating is that? And is that the system that they’re using? So they’ve got no control over it. And if that is the system that they’re using, then they didn’t get them to demo it on mobile, did they, when they purchased it?
Paul Marden: I think it’s a combination of the two. I think there was something very special about the ticket descriptions of that attraction. That meant that they wrote quite a lot in the descriptions and when you wrote quite a lot in the ticket description, it just overflows off the side of your mobile, unless you’ve got a massive tablet. Or you rotate it on the side.
Kelly Molson: Yeah, it’s not great. Asking them to do something that they’re not expecting to have to do is challenging, isn’t it, asking all your users to think, well, they don’t want to think either. They don’t want to think at that point. They just want to do the doing. Okay, what kind of budget are we looking at for some of these things? It’s really difficult to say.
Paul Marden: Yeah, as you’ve just said, or to remove steps out of the checkout flow. It could be impossible for many people, because if they have an off the shelf ticketing system that they call out to that they don’t have control over, then they might not be able to do anything about that. I mean, don’t get me wrong, there’s lots of things with those off the shelf ticketing solutions. Many of them are very flexible about the steps that you take through the checkout flow.
So it can be very highly configurable and it could be in their control to just take it out without any need for developers doing things. It could just be a case of how do they use their third party ticketing system and changing that slightly. So it could be possible, or it could be something very practical that they could do themselves.
Kelly Molson: It’s worth saying that we as an organisation have lots of conversations with lots of the ticketing providers and they are very aware of improvements that can be made or would like to be made to this. So I think that there’s definitely a movement in the ticketing world of acknowledging that this is challenge and knowing that they can do something about it. And I know that there are a few that have got kind of plans to make change in this area as well. So that’s great to see.
Paul Marden: It’s a really competitive space, isn’t it? So it’s interesting to see how that’s going to play out.
Kelly Molson: Yeah, very much so. Okay, well, look, listeners, this is us for another month. What we’d really like, though, is to understand what you’d like to hear from us. So we’ve got loads more topics that we can talk about from the report. We have got loads of things that come up on day to day basis, things that we work on that we can talk about. But if there’s anything that you would like us to discuss, any questions that you’d like to ask us, we can happily make those into a podcast episode.
So send me an email. It’s firstname.lastname@example.org. Just let me know what you’re having challenges with. Yeah, any questions that you just would like us to cover as a topic and we can make that happen.
Paul Marden: Awesome. I’d love to. I’m enjoying it.
Kelly Molson: Me too. It’s lovely to have a fellow guest. Fellow host.
Paul Marden: I just got downgraded then.
Kelly Molson: Who’s the real host? Me, of course. It’s lovely to be joined by a second host. Thank you, Paul. See you next month.
Paul Marden: Bye. Bye.
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