Questions from the 2023 Visitor Attraction Website Report, with Kelly and Paul from Rubber Cheese

In this new monthly slot of the Skip the Queue podcast episode, Rubber Cheese CEO Paul Marden joins me to discuss different digital related topics.

“85% of the free to enter attractions didn’t tell us what their conversion rate was or said they didn’t know or couldn’t measure it.”

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.

“This is why we encourage people to give us feedback and to send us these questions in, because it all adds to the conversation and it all helps us make this better and better every year.”

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.

What will you learn from this podcast?

  •  We’re answering your questions from the 2023 Visitor Attraction Website Report
  • Asking what more you’d like to see in this year’s survey
  •  Sharing more on how you can get involved.

Skip the Queue Questions for report

To listen to the full podcast, search Skip The Queue on iTunes, Google Podcasts and Spotify to subscribe. You can find links to every episode and more at www.rubbercheese.com/podcast.

You can also read the full transcript below.


The interview

Your hosts, Kelly Molson and Paul Marden



Kelly Molson: Hello.

Paul Marden: Well, hello.

Kelly Molson: This is nice. So the two of us haven’t been together for a podcast episode for a while.

Paul Marden: It does feel like, well, happy new year to start with.

Kelly Molson: Way too late for that malarkey. We’ve just been busy, haven’t we? We’ve got lots of exciting projects that are coming to. Well, I don’t like to say the end, but they’re coming to point of launch.

Paul Marden: The launch, yeah. The exciting bit.

Kelly Molson: The very exciting bit. So we’ve all been pulled here, there and everywhere. So I’ve had lovely guests to speak to and you’ve had a little bit of a break from this. But we’re back. We’re back.

Paul Marden: Absolutely.

Kelly Molson: And we’re going to start like we always do with these ones with what attraction have you visited most recently and what did you love about it?

Paul Marden: I have been to Mary Rose Museum and I went with a bunch of nine and ten year olds. We basically went down there for the Kids in Museums Takeover Day. It’s one of the kind of showpiece Kids in Museums events that they run every year all around, putting the ownership of the museum into the hands of kids. I managed to wangle my way to Mary Rose, which is relatively close to me. And I took my daughter’s class, who I run a coding club for. So interestingly, theme around our coding club this year is all around the arts and how you put art into Stem and make it steam just like an amazingly.

Kelly Molson: I can’t believe how well that’s worked out.

Paul Marden: It gets better. The very first session of our club was all about what is the job of a museum curator. And so we took that theme and went and took over the Mary Rose and became curators for a day. So the kids got to go around the museum and have fun and see all the cool stuff that’s going on there. They did the 3D Dive, the Mary Rose experience, and it was amazing watching a bunch of nine and ten year olds reaching out and popping these bubbles that were on the 3D screen in front of them. And then they went off and they designed their own interactive display around whatever was the thing that excited them about the museum.

Paul Marden: So there was lots of dog themed ones because there’s a dog that is the kind of subject of a lot of the kids stuff focused around Mary Rose. But there was all different sorts of interactive displays, augmented reality within the glass lift that looks onto the Mary Rose and how you could gamify it. The kids just had a whale of a time and I just strolled around the museum and watched them having fun and say, that wasn’t a tough day at all.

Kelly Molson: I’m actually really jealous as well because we were due to go and then you got the opportunity to go because of that thing happening and I still haven’t been.

Paul Marden: I know. And it’s an amazing place. We had so much fun. They welcomed us. We had all the education department looking after us and making us feel special. It was just such a brilliant day. Apart from trying to park a minibus with 15 kids somewhere near the Mary Rose, which scared me whitlets.

Kelly Molson: Oh, you actually drove a bus?

Paul Marden: I did not drive the bus, no, I was a navigator. I had to find the parking spot. It’s a level of responsive.

Kelly Molson: You were bus driver dad as well that day.

Paul Marden: There’s a character in Peppa Pig, isn’t there? I can’t remember who she is, but she works in the supermarket. She drives the minibus.

Kelly Molson: This rabbit is the hardest working rabbit you’ll ever meet in your whole.

Paul Marden: Exactly.

Kelly Molson: No, I’m going to put her on par. Sorry, I’m actually going to put her on par with Mrs. Rabbit, who has got hundreds of kids who doesn’t work, but she has to look after those. So she is probably the hardest working rabbit that you’ll ever find. So there you go. Digress into Peppa Pig. You can see where my world is right now, can’t you? That just gave you an insight into where I’m spending my time.

Paul Marden: So tell me about where have you been recently?

Kelly Molson: I have been recently to the Museum of the Broads. I don’t ever really spoken about this on the podcast that much. But I am a trustee of the Museum of the Broads and it is a lovely museum. It does not get as much love and attention as it should. So I felt that today was a good opportunity to highlight it. It’s wonderful. It’s on the broads, obviously, it’s in Stalham. And it is such incredible value for money because you can buy a ticket to the museum and a boat trip. And the boat trips are phenomenal. Last year these were really popular, so they introduced some afternoon evening boat trips where you could go and spot kingfishers because that stretch of the broads is absolutely like prime Kingfisher viewing area.

I have only ever seen one Kingfisher out in real life, and they’re so quick, like it was a flash of blue and I didn’t have my glasses on it. She wasn’t going to see anything in great detail. That is incredible. On one of the trips last year, on the boat trip, they saw ten kingfishers. It might have been the same kingfisher, just like, who knows? I’m going to say ten. I’m going to take the ten.

But the museum itself is wonderful. Some of the artefacts they have there are just really fun and really engaging. And obviously they’ve got lots of information about the boats and the broads themselves and what the broads were traditionally used for and how they’ve developed over the years. It’s a lovely little museum. It’s volunteer led. They have, I think, two or three members of paid team there. So much work goes into the management and the development of those museums when it’s volunteer led as well. So it’s lovely. It is really lovely.

Paul Marden: We both started doing trusteeship type stuff at the same time. So I started at Kids in Museums because I wanted to see a broad view of things. You started at Museum of the Broads because you wanted to see the inside running of the museum itself. What has the experience been like for you?

Kelly Molson: It’s so different. It’s such a different environment to what I’m used to. So, I mean, it won’t surprise you to know that museums are not quite as dynamic as an agency owner, or they’re just not as fast paced as an agency. So I think the speed at which some things happen is I find it a bit of a challenge, if I’m honest, because we’re used to kind of going, “Should we try this? Okay, let’s talk it. Okay, great. Let’s not someone run with it.” And it’s sort of just, I don’t know, there’s a speed at which stuff happens in an agency that it’s incomparable to any other organisation. So it’s nice in some ways that kind of take a bit of time to kind of think things through. I’ve really enjoyed understanding about all of the different facets that are required within an agency, within a museum. Sorry.

And the things that you have to understand about. Even when we had an office, there’s a level of HR and a level of safety management that you have to do, but it’s a whole other level when it’s a museum and you’ve got members of the public coming along. So that’s been really interesting to understand and learn about. I’ve really enjoyed kind of looking at how they’re developing certain areas of the museum as well. So when there’s a new exhibition that’s on. So last year, the Pippa Miller exhibition launched. Pippa Miller was a really famous artist that was connected to the broads, and the museum was entrusted with some of her artwork when she passed, and it’s the only place you can come and see it. It’s a wonderful exhibition.

So understanding about how those exhibitions are developed and put on and watching those happen as well. And there’s another one this year that will happen, which is an exhibition on peat, which I know that probably doesn’t sound that interesting, but it really is my mate Pete. No, not your mate Pete. No, actual Peat. Peat soil Pete. So, yeah, that’s been really nice to see and kind of understand how those things progress and are developed and the ideas that go into them. It’s fascinating.

Paul Marden: Cannot imagine the effort that goes into curating a whole exhibition like that.

Kelly Molson: It’s vast. And I will give a huge shout out to Nicola, the curator at the Museum of the Broads, because she works tirelessly there to just bring these stories to life. That’s essentially what they do. They bring the stories of the broads to life. This is a little plea from me, actually. A little shout out to everyone that’s listening. If everybody listening to this podcast, I mean, we get hundreds of people listen to these episodes.

If everyone went and bought a ticket from the Museum of Broads that’s listening to this episode today, it would make such a massive difference to that little museum. So if you are thinking about booking a little staycation this year, head to Norfolk, get a ticket to the Museum of the Broads, go and check out the broads themselves. It is just a wonderful experience to go and see that museum and take a boat trip down the broads.

Paul Marden: There’s a very nice place nearby to stay as well, isn’t?

Kelly Molson: Yeah, I mean, a certain podcast host does have a lovely little place in Norfolk that you could rent out, which is literally 25 minutes from this museum as well. Just heads up. 

Paul Marden: Incidental.

Kelly Molson: If you want to give me a shout, I can put you in the direction of 28 Millgate. Or you could just search that on Google. No, honestly, genuinely, if you are thinking about having a staycation and you’re heading that way, put it top of your list because it’s a lovely afternoon out. Thank you. Thanks for listening to my podcast.

Paul Marden: So what are we actually talking about today then?

Kelly Molson: In this episode, we are going to be answering some of the questions that we’ve received from the 2023 Visitor Attraction Website Report. So, as you can imagine, we launch the report, we do the survey. All you lovely people fill in our survey for us and we launch the report, which gives you an analysis of what that survey data has meant. And it’s a huge undertaking. It really is a huge undertaking. And I don’t say that lightly. It’s massive. It takes over our whole lives. And there is so much data in the report that we send out, but there’s always questions, there’s always more, and there’s always more that we can do as well. And I think it just is an awful lot of work. Right.

So what happens is we launch it goes out, people digest it, and then they send us emails and they say, “This is really great. Thank you for this bit. Is there any insight into this thing?” And there’s quite a lot of those emails that come in and most of them we probably can answer. It just, again, takes a bit of work to go back and look at the data and crunch the data and see if there is any answers to those questions. So we have had some of these questions in and we thought, well, let’s do it as a podcast. And then everybody can hear the answers to these questions because it might be something that other people are thinking about as well.

So we’re going to talk through some of the ones that have been sent in, and then we are going to give you a bit of a heads up about what’s happening with this year’s report and survey and talk a little bit about that. Sound good?

Paul Marden: Does sound good. I need to get my geek hat on my numbers. Geek hat.

Kelly Molson: It’s time for Paul to nerd out. I will be asking the questions. Paul will be nerding out on the answers. Right. Okay. One of the questions we had in was how many respondents were return respondents from 2022 to 2023?

Paul Marden: Yeah. This was a question that somebody asked in relation to. They saw some changes, I think it was in terms of ticketing systems that were being used and they wanted to know, “Oh, if there’s been a change in the ticketing systems that were used, could that because we’ve got different group of people, or is it the same people changing systems?” So, yeah, I dug into that. It was actually relatively hard to figure this out because what people type in as the name of their attraction is not always exactly the same. It’s sometimes different people, sometimes they’ll write the same name in a slightly different way. So actually, comparing apples with apples turned out to be quite challenging and I had to change some of the data to normalise it between the two groups.

I could see they were the same attraction, although their names were subtly different. What I worked out was two different views of the same thing. But essentially, in the 2023 data set, 20% of the respondents were return respondents from the previous year. But of course, the 2023 data set was much bigger than the 2022 data set. So if you look at it from the other direction, how many people that filled in a survey in 22? Filled in a survey in 23? It’s 50% of the 2022 respondents replied in 2023. So we had a good return rate? Yeah, for sure. But there was 50% of people didn’t reply. So that made me think, there’s a job of work to do this year.

Kelly Molson: Where did you go 50% of you. Cheeky little monkeys.

Paul Marden: And they vary. Some of them are smaller institutions, some of them are much bigger institutions. There’s the reasonable amount of movement of people in the sector, isn’t there? So you can easily imagine. Actually, there was an interesting one there, isn’t it? What if I were to match the names of the respondents? Did we actually get a reasonable number of returners, but they were in a different job with a different institution?

Kelly Molson: Yeah, that’s really a good point, actually, because I do know that people, I know people personally, that I know that they’ve moved on and gone to different places, and actually, some moved out of the sector and moved into completely different roles altogether.

Paul Marden: There is a decent cohort of people that returned and responded in 23, but the 23 data set was much bigger. So when you do see swings between 22 and 23, some of that is just a sample size thing with the best will in the world. We talk to lots of people and lots of people respond with data to us, but we have not captured the whole entire set of all attractions in the UK, and so we will get sampling errors out. If one year we sample a different group of people than we did the previous year, the comparisons can be a little bit harder.

If we could just get more people responding and we had more data, then you’ll get that the role of chance and the role of sampling errors will have less impact on the data and you’ll be able to compare more year on year outcomes.

Kelly Molson: Yeah. Okay, well, there’s your call out to get involved this year we’ll let you know how.

Paul Marden: There’s going to be lots of those all way through.

Kelly Molson: Okay, second question. Can we break down the responses in the other type category? This is an interesting one, isn’t it? Because we detailed out as many different visitor attraction types as we possibly could think of or find on internet and gave everybody the opportunity to be able to select what they specifically were, but we still had a huge amount of people put other. What’s the reasoning behind that?

Paul Marden: Can I give you facts and then tell you what I think the reasoning is? Yeah. So there’s some things that I know. Okay. 37% of all respondents mark themselves as the other. It skews when you drill into that 37%. It’s a big group of people. It was like the second or third largest group of people in the report itself. They tended to be attractions that had lower visitor numbers. So they were under 100,000 visitor numbers in that other group. So it was about 45% of people were under 100. About 37% were between 100 and a million visitors. Those are the things we know. Then I started having a play with the data.

So what if I were to group those people that were in other because they had the opportunity to type some stuff in for free text box, and could I make a grouping out of that? One thing that I did notice, and this is observation as opposed to fact. Okay. So I could see many of the places that chose other chose other because we didn’t allow them to choose multiple types and they were an attraction that had multiple things. So one of them was one of our clients. And they have a historic house. They have a guest house, they have a beach, they have outdoors activities. They’ve got.

Kelly Molson: So how do you categorise yourself based on all of those? Actually, with that client, I probably would have said historic house because that was what I would have put my hat on for that one.

Paul Marden: But then I met somebody yesterday. Not too dissimilar. Yeah. Primarily a historic house, but it’s a historic house that has a hotel, bar, golf on the site. And if you ask them, it would totally depend on who you spoke to as to what they primarily were. There were people that ran the historic house who would have you believe that they were primarily a historic house, but there were other people that would say, “Well, actually the revenue is generated elsewhere in the organisation and primarily we are a hotel and golf destination and alongside we have a historic house.”

So I think there was a nuance in the way that we asked the question, please choose what type of attraction you are. And the only option for the people that had lots of these things was to say other. And actually, I think going forwards we probably need to say, “What are you primarily, and do you have other things” and give people the option to choose multiples.

Kelly Molson: Yeah, I was going to say, because even if you put multi, it causes the same challenge, doesn’t it? Without being.

Paul Marden: But when I had to play around with that group and I tried to assign them to things partly based on what they replied on their questionnaires and partly by looking at their websites and having a guess, a lot of them had some element of outdoor activity. A lot of them had food and drink. There was a large group that weren’t multi activity. I don’t know what a better way to describe those historic houses with other things going on, but there was a decent size of people or decent sized number of attractions that were tv themed and they were primarily a behind the scenes tour or something themed around a tele program. And we didn’t have that. There was nothing like that in any of our categorisations.

So again, it just comes down to refining the questionnaire every year to try to improve what we’ve got. Give people the option to choose multiples and include some other groups. But avoid getting to a point when you look at all the categories we gave, because you mentioned, we gave lots of categories, there was a very long tail. There was a large number of the actual categories where it had one or two attractions within that grouping. And then it’s like, is that a meaningful way of slicing and dicing the data? So we have to be really careful not to throw too many categories at it, but at the same time give people some choices.

Kelly Molson: Yeah. You also have to feel that the people have to feel that they are included within this as well. So if those one or two people came along and they couldn’t choose what they were, would they feel excluded from it?

Paul Marden: Yeah. Would they drop out? Because this clearly isn’t for me.

Kelly Molson: Exactly. I’m all for having more choice in that. It’s a tick box. That’s fine. There’s other stuff that we can take out, don’t worry.

Paul Marden: And that’s because you’re not looking at the data. Add more numbers.

Kelly Molson: I’m all for cutting stuff out if it makes life easier for people and more people will be able to fill it in and that. But I think that one particular thing is not one that we need to cut back on.

Paul Marden: No, I agree with you. Totally agree.

Kelly Molson: Were all attractions who responded to the survey paid for, or how do those ecommerce results break down between those that have an entry fee and those that are free? This was a good question.

Paul Marden: Yeah, it really was. In many of the questions that we’ve got, some people chose not to answer us. Within this group, there’s a group of people in the whole set of data that chose not to answer this, either because they didn’t know or they felt they didn’t want to answer the question. But if we take everybody that reported an entry fee, 15% of those people were free of charge. So they ticked the box that said they had no entry fee. That’s already a fairly small group amongst the whole data set. So we’re asking questions here that zero in on a smaller and smaller group. This sounds like I’m giving excuses before I give you my homework. Yeah. But as the groups get smaller, then the role of chance and sample error means that the data becomes less and less reliable.

And I got to be honest, within that 15%, there was a large number of people that didn’t tell us a conversion rate. So you’re down into a very small number of people now. 85% of the free to enter attractions didn’t tell us what their conversion rate was or said they didn’t know or couldn’t measure it.

Kelly Molson: So that’s interesting in itself, because this is some of the things that we’ve been talking about in terms of the conversion rate and how we measure that effectively, because some of those free museums obviously will have probably smaller teams, less budget, less ability, maybe just less understanding of what we’re asking in the first place. My assumption is that they will use off the shelf ticketing platforms that they might not be able to get the conversion rate from. So you’ve got that limitation in the data that they can actually then supply us because they genuinely just don’t have it, they don’t know it.

Paul Marden: Or because they’re free. They don’t think about the concept of conversion. But in that instance, how much does it matter the number of people that come to your website and then the number of people that actually buy? If there is no ticketing, if you’re free to enter and you don’t even need a ticket to pre book to enter, does it even matter? And I would argue absolutely, it definitely does. Because instinctively, I would believe that there is definitely a relationship between the number of people that visit your website and the number of people that visit your attraction. And if you can improve the ratio between those two, you’ll get more bookfalls through the attraction.

And even if you’re free to enter a considerable portion of the money that you make out of the attraction is going to be from donations, from people walking through the door. It will be food and beverage sales, it will be gift shops, it will be memberships that they join to get other things. All of those things need bums on seats, don’t they? If you don’t get bums on seats, you don’t generate that revenue. But it can be hard, I think, to join the dots between that big number of people that visit your website, hopefully, and the number of people that are actually walking through the door and creating a correlation between, or creating a relationship between the two.

Kelly Molson: It’s when there’s no purchase made from that thing to that thing, there’s almost nothing to tie them together.

Paul Marden: Yeah, but it makes it harder to think about which, when you’re a small attraction in those sorts of circumstances, if it’s harder to think about, then it’s not going to be a priority for you. But I would argue it would be a super important thing to do because you tweak those. We’re all about tweaking the dials, aren’t we? We’re all about trying to increase. 

Kelly Molson:  Marginal gains.

Paul Marden: Exactly. And in that instance, it can be hard to see the point. But I definitely believe there really is a point to it. If I go one more thing, I would say, and this is where the data.

I don’t think the data is reliable, but were into this small group of people that we had, 15% of people say that they were free, and in that group we had a small number of people tell us what their conversion rate was, and it varied. There were some attractions that had a 1% conversion rate. There were some attractions that chose the 5% conversion rate, which was the higher end of the bracket, which was the average over the whole group. I bet you there’s more data that would help us to understand what the difference between the 1% and the 5% was. Is it chance or is there something materially different between those two types of institution? I don’t know, but there’s a debate there.

And is it valuable for us to investigate that there’s only so much time to be able to put to these things?

Kelly Molson: Well, I think this is why it’s important. Well, this is why we value people asking the questions about the report. This is why we encourage people to give us feedback and to send us these questions in, because it all adds to the conversation and it all helps us make this better and better every year because we can understand what you send us a question and then that gives us an understanding of what’s really important for you right now. So we can start to incorporate some of the ways to get the answer to that question into the survey and the report for this year.

Paul Marden: Yeah, absolutely.

Kelly Molson: So send us more questions. As a midway to this podcast, definitely send us some more questions. You can send them to me, Kelly@rubbercheese.com, or you can send them to paulm@rubbercheese.com but whatever you do, just send them in. And then we can again start to look at how we incorporate some of those questions into this year’s.

Paul Marden: Yeah, absolutely.

Kelly Molson: Okay, next question. It’s around ticketing platforms. One question came in and they noted the apparent percentage drop in use of access gamma in the past year. So what we saw was Digitickets and Merack both seemed to kind of hold their share, and they’re UK based. With over 70% of the 188 respondents UK based and about a quarter of European. We found it a little odd that there was such a drop here in such a short space of time and wondered if you had any further insight. Interesting one, isn’t it, because we all noted that access had dropped off a little bit.

Paul Marden: Yeah, absolutely. I’m going to caveat this again. I can go into more depth and understand the differences between the two, but I would caveat it that if we had more responsive, we could be more confident in the reliability of the difference across years. But we’ve gone from a large, but a sample in 22, a bigger sample in 23. The 23 sample included some of the 22 people. But really, I think what the question I was getting at is how many of those people actually switch ticketing platforms between that group? And I think that is unlikely to be the reason why we saw these changes. Yeah, of course people change ticketing platform, but it’s the beating heart of the business. They don’t change it on a whim and they don’t change them dramatically very quickly. Yeah.

By the way, there’s no evidence to this in that respect. There could be changes, but my instinct is it’s unlikely to be a wild change on the basis of the number of people because it’s just not that easy to.

Kelly Molson: No. And we speak to agencies, our own clients have been through these processes, and we know how long they take and we know how embedded those systems are within an organisation and how difficult it actually is to switch from one to another and the time frame that it takes. So I would agree with you.

Paul Marden: On the basis of that. I think the differences are more easily explained by we got more different people included. And we’re seeing more of what the sector buys. Now, whether, when we get into 24, whether we see another swing again. Well, that’s entirely plausible, because the sample sizes, they’re not big enough to be statistically valid. They give an indication, but they will suffer from chance in some areas. And it could just be the group of people that we’ve got, we know within the year demonstrates the usage of the ticketing platforms within the group of people that responded within that year, but unlikely to be comparable across the years. Only 20% of this year’s data were responses that had been given in 22 as well. 

So we’ve only got a small group. Within that group the data has changed dramatically in that year, mainly with people telling us they chose an other not listed system. So it was not one of the big ones that were familiar with, and no one reported anything in that group last year. So this is where you know as well as I do, we get people asking us for copies of their data that they’ve submitted, because there’s a big period of timing between when they submit stuff and the report being published, and then they want to see what they did, what they gave to us, don’t they? So people remembering what they wrote last year and putting it in again this year, it’s no wonder we see differences between the two year groups. Apart from other not listed, which was by far like a country mile than largest number of responses.

The biggest absolute change in the number of responses within the repeating group was digitickets. Digitickets had more people within that returning group saying that they were using their ticketing platform.

Kelly Molson: And I can’t remember this off the top of my head, but where people are selecting other not listed, are we giving them the opportunity to write who they are using? So did we give them an open.

Paul Marden: Such an unfair question? I can’t remember the answer.

Kelly Molson: I genuinely can’t remember. But if we didn’t, well, then we need to, because that space, I mean, there’s a lot of ticketing platforms already, but there are new ones popping up all over and there are ones that are specifically focused on accessibility for an example. There are ones that are relatively similar in terms of what they’re doing to everyone else, just packaged up in a different way. So it would just be interesting to see some of the names that people were putting forward and where people are swinging to. 

We know that there’s Tessitura, for example, and Spektrix that are used quite predominantly in theatre world now. People have always talked really positively about those two platforms and it would be interesting to see if they are looking to make that transition over into the attractions world. And maybe some of these people are starting to kind of move over to those. Who knows?

Paul Marden: There’s a few systems lots of people know about because they’re not just pure ticketing, are they? They’re ticketing. So they manage the ticket inventory, they do online sales, they do walk ups, they do EPOS, they manage a shop, they manage a catering, they do everything to operate the entire attraction. And then there were other systems that focus purely on ecommerce and the sale of the tickets themselves online. There are other people that focus purely on the EPOS offering. And actually, there’s a lot of complexity within these systems that go to running the attraction itself. And maybe again, we need to give people more choice about what they choose and give them the opportunity to choose multiple things. Because we might say, do you use Gamma or do you use Merac or do you use Digitickets?

And there may well be people that use digitickets for their e commerce sales, and they might use Merac for their membership, or they’re running the EPOS in the shops and their food and beverage. I don’t think we give people the opportunity to have the nuance of selecting multiple things that they use.

Kelly Molson: Yeah, for like, I literally just had a conversation with someone who uses Digitickets for their ticket in, but Merac for their K-Three, for their till. So, yeah, I totally see where we need to do that. Okay, good. Two more questions. Is there future scope to develop comparisons against other science centres?

Paul Marden: Yes is the short answer, and yes, we have done that. It’s quite interesting because you and I both have been talking about this year’s survey at different places and the science centres one is a good example. It’s good because I was the one talking. Well, it’s good because I was the one, but. So I went to the Association of Science and Discovery Centres conference in Belfast. I talked about that one of the pods just recently, and I had a table talk where I was talking about essentially observations that I found about the data about science centres. But you’ve done talks in numerous different locations.

Kelly Molson: All over the place. I was all over the place last year. Here, there and everywhere.

Paul Marden: Slicing and dicing the data to talk to the group of people that you were talking to. So you were in Ireland and you talked about comparisons of the attractions that we’ve got in both the Republic and Northern Ireland. And then you talked to ALVA and that’s a different slice of larger attractions. And in both cases, we were slicing and dicing the data and trying to find what made that group of people special or what were the observations that we had, weren’t they?

Kelly Molson: That was one of the nice things about the report this year, because the data set was so much larger, we could make the things that were talking about so much more specific for people. So the ALVA talk was really great, actually. So I was very kindly invited along to speak at one of the ALVA council meetings. And it was at Bletchley Park, oh my goodness. In their new auditorium that were the first group to speak in there. It was wonderful, such a good experience.

But that was lovely because I was able to talk about how ALVA members are performing and give them a specific breakdown of the things that they’re doing well, some of the things that they potentially not doing so well, and give them some real insight into how they can improve on the things when they’re not doing so well. So that was lovely. And then the same at AVEA.

It was great to be able to give, again, a breakdown of how Irish attractions are performing in terms of the rest of the country, but also showcase attractions that are doing really brilliantly from those areas. So actually in the talks I could highlight a specific Irish attraction that was doing an absolutely phenomenal job in terms of great website, great conversion rate, all of those things. And it was really nice to be able to shine spotlight on people this year as well.

Paul Marden: So pick out some examples of that. Yeah, so let’s just pick out some of the examples from the science centre. So the ASDC members, it was interesting because ASDC members tended to have higher footfall than when you compared it to the whole group of respondents that we had. That surprised me. ASDC members tended to have higher entry fees than all respondents. ASDC members tended to have substantially higher mobile usage than all respondents. So you’re up into 90% of traffic for ASDC members or ASDC members tended to have upwards of 89%, 90% mobile traffic, whereas when you look at the whole group of everybody, it was down into 60%. So still the majority, but not as big a majority.

Kelly Molson: That’s interesting.

Paul Marden: So again, is this chance or is there something interesting about the audience that buy tickets to go to a science centre. Are they genuinely different than people that go to the all set?

Kelly Molson: Well, yeah. Is this stereotypically because someone is really interested in science and technology, therefore they are more digitally advanced potentially as an audience. And that’s why that’s higher. That’s interesting.

Paul Marden: ASDC members tend to spend less of their gross profit on marketing. 18% of ASDC members spent more than 5% of their turnover on marketing, whereas when you look at the whole group, 24% of all respondents spent more than 5%. So it’s interesting, isn’t it, this difference in the outcomes and the difference for the inputs. ASDC members were much more likely to track their conversion rate, but most of them didn’t track their cart abandonment rate. So they don’t know how many people were giving up partway through. ASDC members were more likely to have a top level conversion rate. And of the ones that did tell us what their cart abandonment rate, it was more likely to be lower than the average. They updated their websites more frequently and they tend to spend more on their websites each year than the average.

So there was markedly different things that happened across the different groups when you looked at ALVA, much larger organisations. So footfall is higher because that’s a minimum entry criteria. They spend more on marketing and they have better outcomes. They had better conversion rates than average.

Kelly Molson: Unsurprising.

Paul Marden: Unsurprising completely. But what was interesting was within that group, the averages marked quite relative poor performance. So there were some examples where there were attractions spending a large amount on their site, but achieving poorer conversion rates than the average.

Kelly Molson: Hopefully those aren’t clients. Fingers crossed.

Paul Marden: So yeah, there’s group averages and you can see differences by the different groups. I think in future, wouldn’t it be interesting if potentially we did this sort of analysis based on the type of organisation? If you’re a museum, are you more likely to have a higher conversion rate than you are if you’re all respondents?

Kelly Molson: Well, this is the thing.

Paul Marden: What’s of interest?

Kelly Molson: Yeah, exactly. We can say, “Oh, this is interesting. Wouldn’t this be useful to know?” But actually is it useful to know for you? One of the things that we did talk about doing was doing a regional breakdown of how attraction is performing. And I think that’s probably on the cards for the next month or so to get that out. We raised that and got some quite good feedback on having that. So that’s definitely top of the list. 

But yeah, again, are these things going to be useful for you? We’ve always had the ethos that any kind of information or support documentation or essentially our marketing has to be useful for you. Right? What’s the point otherwise? We need to know what you need. So more questions, please more. Do you have this? Can we have this? If we can’t do it, we’ll tell you, but if we can do it, we’ll damn well work hard to get you it.

Paul Marden: You can just imagine that some people find the full written port to be report to be really useful. It gives a fixed set of slices and dices and it gives interesting insights and it gives recommendation. But people might be interested more in more group comparisons or geographical comparisons with less of a large report and more of a. Well, I want to see a white paper about my sector or my location or what is special about me compared to everybody else, as opposed to telling me everything that is good in the sector. Where do we focus our attention to have the best value for people at the end of this?

Kelly Molson: Good. Last question. Is there a correlation between conversion rate and visitor numbers?

Paul Marden: It’s really interesting because this got me playing with the data. I’m all over a pivot table in excel. All right, so I did loads of analysis. 

Kelly Molson: I am not.

Paul Marden: No. We’ve got our strengths and weaknesses and complement each other very well, I think when I did this first time round and I was working with a team of people that were analysing data, but I was slicing and dicing in different ways and I looked at these things and I thought there was no great relationship. But when this question came in, I had another stab at reorganising the data.

And actually I did a heat map version of what is your average sales conversion rate? And we’ve got like zero to one to two, three to four to five and more than five. And then what is your annual visitor numbers in groups? And actually, the larger the annual footfall on site, the more likely you were to have a high conversion rate.

Kelly Molson: Just for our listeners, this data is quite difficult to visualise. We’ve got a graph, we’ve got some pre pictures that will explain this better, which we will put out on social media. If you follow our Twitter account, or if you’re connected with us on LinkedIn, or follow our LinkedIn Rubber Cheese, or Skip the Queue LinkedIn pages, we’ll put all of that on there. What we’ll also do as well is when we edit this podcast, we always do a video. The videos don’t get a lot of love, but there’s loads of videos up on our YouTube. So head over to the Rubber Cheese YouTube channel and within this episode we will insert what we’re talking about as well. So it’s just a bit easier to digest.

Paul Marden: So yeah, there is definitely a relationship between these two factors. The more footfall there is, the more likely you are to have a high conversion rate. Just intuitively, they must be related variables. This is not just a relationship between the two. There is somehow one is feeding into the other the more footfall you have, the more budget you’re going to have, the more you’ll be able to invest in marketing, the more you invest in marketing, you’ll have more people focusing on different elements of your marketing and you’ll have more budget to spend on digital people that can focus on conversion rates and marginal gains. I don’t know whether that’s true. The data doesn’t prove that. That’s just my instinct that spending money on people like me is probably a worthwhile investment. But that’s just instinct. There’s no proof for that.

The heat map shows there’s a relationship, but there’s loads of factors involved in what goes on. As I said to you before, spending more money does not guarantee you great outputs. And you have to measure these things, make regular changes, because just because you’ve got a large number of people coming through the door does not guarantee you a high conversion rate. And you need to graft to get to the point where your website is converting as best it possibly can. One major redesign does not an increased conversion rate may you need to do lots of little things regularly to nudge it in the right direction.

Kelly Molson: Yeah, it’s just the start. Yeah. That comes back to what I said at the beginning about. I was just about to say we’re at the end of the project. I’m like, no, we’re not start of the project because the project is launching. That’s the starting point for the rest of the process.

Paul Marden: Yeah, absolutely.

Kelly Molson: Oh, this has been really good. Well, look, listeners, hopefully you found that useful. Hopefully some of the listeners that are listening, we’ve answered your questions as well. We’ll send this out to all the people that did ask the questions specifically as well. But yeah, coming back to what we’ve said, is there something that is a burning question from you, from the data that we’ve already released? Is there something that would be so incredibly useful for you that we haven’t released that we might potentially have? We just don’t know. Or we don’t know that you need it. And what does this year’s survey hold and what would be useful for the survey and the report to hold for you this year? So we are at the point now where we’re gearing up for the 2024 survey.

Last year we launched it in May at the fabulous Museum and Heritage show. Plans are afoot at the moment for when we launch it, but nothing is diarised yet. So it’s a really good opportunity to get involved and have your say about what you’d love to see in it this year.

Paul Marden: Yeah. There’s some key things that have come out of our kind of retrospective. We’ve been belly button gazing and questioning what do we do next year? And there’s obvious things that come out of it. One of our big things was we want to simplify 2024. We asked too many too complex questions last year and it took too long for people to submit their responses. And that’s not fair.

Kelly Molson: It’s a big ask that we’re asking of you to trust us with your data as it is. We don’t want you sitting around for like half an hour having to fill it all out.

Paul Marden: So we want to simplify, we want less questions, and we’re going to look at potentially a different questionnaire platform. We’ve done different platforms each year in the last two years and I don’t think we found the right answer yet. So that might be an area that we try and simplify things. My instinct of, and this is just based on my own struggles with life. Okay. I am struggling with Google Analytics 4 for everybody. All of my data has moved and I don’t know how to answer my questions. And that data that’s in GA4, it’s the core of the questions that we ask in the questionnaire. And I’m thinking, if I do this every day, what must it be like for all of you guys listening? So what can we do to help you understand how to gather the data and how to submit it?

Because there’s obviously going to be a disparity, isn’t there, between people that do this every day and people that do this as part of a bigger job and they don’t do it all the time and they need advice and guidance.

Kelly Molson: Yeah. So one of the ideas that’s been floating around is that we actually put on little workshop or little webinars, which it shows you how to go and get the data that actually is needed to fill in the survey. And then that’s with you. It’s a reference point. You can keep hold of that for the following years and the following, the subsequent years. And we might look at, we’ve got a brilliant circle of fabulous suppliers that we work with that are all attractions focused, and so we could potentially partner up with them and run the workshops and do something like that.

Paul Marden: The questions that we’re asking, the data that we’re gathering is likely to be marketers’ dream dashboards anyway. So it’s not just of use to the survey itself, it’s of use to your day to day month to month reporting and demonstrating the efficacy of what you’re doing. We want to increase the number of people that are responding from large multi site organisations. So the plea call to action here for digital markets is in large multi sites. We were interested in talking to you about. If you’ve got 50 odd sites that you manage ticketing for and multiple attractions all over the country, filling in the questionnaire based form approach that we’ve given may not be the right way for you to share data with us.

No, we’re really flexible. We want data. We want to ingest more data because it improves the quality of the responses. So we’ll be completely flexible around what different large multi site organisations can provide and the method with which it makes most sense for them to provide it.

Kelly Molson: So what are we doing? We’re doing a vocal shout out here to National Trust, English Heritage, et cetera, to say if you want to be part of the survey and the subsequent report and the process that we’re offering you, it doesn’t work. You’re not going to sit there 50 times, however many sites you’ve got and fill in this data. That’s ridiculous. We can give you a better process of doing that and we can work with you one on one to work out how that works best for you as well.

Paul Marden: Completely.

Kelly Molson: If you do want to be involved, don’t let the process of how we collect the data put you off. We can solve that challenge for you.

Paul Marden: Shout out, call to action. Really for everybody that submitted last year and would be thinking about this year’s survey is tell us what key themes are of interest to you. We have what we think is interesting and we’ll follow our noses and ask questions and ruble around the data to try and find the answers. But we don’t know what you want as well as you know what you want. So tell us, as you said, Kelly, ask questions about what you’d like to see, but tell us what you’d like us to do. We might be able to do something really easily based on the data that we’ve already got. We might need to ask another question. There was a question that somebody asked that weren’t able to answer.

They wanted to know whether you were primarily educationally focused as an institution or primarily focused on selling tickets, whether that had an impact on your conversion rate. And actually, without us guessing, it’s impossible for us to answer that question. And what’s the point in us guessing because we’re going to give you meaningless data if we ask the right questions. What’s the primary focus of your website? What are the secondary focuses of your website? If we do that, then we might be able to slice and dice the data. So ask us the questions now because we can use that to influence what questions we include in the survey.

Kelly Molson: I would add to also as well, if you are well, to say thank you. We had a phenomenal amount of support with the survey last year and the report. But for us, being able to move from 70 respondents in year one to nearly 200 in year two, the difference in that was all of the membership organisations that supported. It’s a mammoth task. There’s no way I could have done that on my own just by sending it lots of people and hitting people up on LinkedIn and posting across social media. The biggest difference there is the support we’ve had. I mean, ALVA, ASVA have been huge supporters of us from the start, which we’re super grateful for. This year we had AVEA come on board and help us. We’ve had AIM help us. We had ACE help us.

Paul Marden: We had ASDC.

Kelly Molson: ASDC. I mean there were just so many. I’ve got a huge list of all of the attractions and all of the kind of Hampshire’s best attractions and these smaller regional attraction organisations that have supported Devon’s top attractions. Without their support, we could not have done that, made that happen. So I guess what I’m asking for is continued support, please, would be great. And are there any other organisations out there that we should be talking to? And if there’s any listening that haven’t been involved in helping us distribute the survey this year, if you’re up for it, give us a shout. I mean, the benefit to your members is phenomenal, right? What we produce for them and it’s all free. It’s all for free. Come and get it.

Paul Marden: That is a nice segue because yes, it’s all for free, but it doesn’t cost nothing. And actually what we would also like help with is sponsorship for 2024. So if there are organisations around the listening public, as it were, that would be interested in supporting the work that we do on this and would like to influence and help guide what we do, then we would be really keen on talking to people that would like to sponsor and that sponsorship could be gifting kind. So some people might be able to help us by doing things with us. Some people might be able to help us by financially supporting the data analysis or the production of reports or production of specific analyses of a slice of the sector that is of interest to them.

There’s lots of ways in which people could support the work that we do. And obviously the more support that we get, the bigger we can make this thing, because it is. I mean, it’s a herculean task that you dreamt up two and a half, three years ago, isn’t it? And you did the first one and it was amazing and you got a decent number of respondents and I think you were both amazed at the number of people that gave us data and downloaded the report and interacted with us. And then were blown away in 23. But we need to do more. There’s a market for this. There’s a value in what we’re doing. It’s not just chance. It wasn’t a crackpot idea you had three years ago to do this.

Kelly Molson: It was not a crackpot idea about it at all. No, it wasn’t a crackpot idea. It’s really nice, actually. You’ve just given me a really good flashback, actually. The Museum and Heritage Show has played like a part in this for years, actually, because the survey itself launched last year at the MandH. But the previous year I sat down at the MandH and had a chat with Bernard Donoghue about, “I’ve got this idea, Bernard, and I think this is good. I think this would deliver some real good value to the sector. Would ALVA be happy to help get the word out and stuff?” And that was where it started. So isn’t that funny that’s a connection? I’d forgotten all about that. It’s not crackpot. It is amazing and I’m so happy that we’ve been able to produce this.

The value that it delivers to the sector, I get. People tell me about the value. So this is not me going, “It’s definitely delivering value.” The feedback that we’ve had has been so incredibly positive on it and it’s just been wonderful to be part of that. So let’s make next year’s bigger and even better. But maybe some less questions so it doesn’t take you as long.

Paul Marden: Yes, more rows in my spreadsheet, less columns in my spreadsheet.

Kelly Molson: Less time taken up. If you can do it over a cup of tea and a biscuit, then that’s perfect, right?

Paul Marden: I reckon so.

Kelly Molson: Hopefully that’s going to produce some good value today and we’ll see you next time.

Paul Marden: Cheers. Take care.

Kelly Molson: Bye. 



Do you know someone we should be talking to?

Do you know someone fascinating we should be talking to?

If so, email us at hello@rubbercheese.com – we’ll get back to you shortly.


Paul Wright.
Kelly Molson Managing Director

Host of the popular Skip the Queue Podcast, for people working in or working with visitor attractions, she regularly delivers workshops and presentations on the sector at various national conferences and universities including The Visitor Attractions Conference, ASVA and Anglia Ruskin University.

Read more about me

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