The Retail Landscape is Changing
Malls are transforming, retailers are closing, and technology companies are buying up brick-and-mortar businesses. But, amid all the transition and disruption, nobody has stopped to ask one very important question:
How are Haunted Houses Adapting?
Ok, so maybe it's not the most important question to ask. But, it is an extremely interesting case-study on the things guests are coming to expect from brick-and-mortar businesses.
The Old Model
To fully appreciate where HHs (haunted houses) are headed and how their model must change, we have to start with the current landscape.
- Large party sizes - HHs are a numbers game. Since they are incentivized to push as many people as possible, you can find yourself mixed in with strangers. What's the big deal? Well, tell me, when's the last time you said, "I'm gonna go shopping and spend the whole time with people I've never met!" It's not that meeting new people is bad, it's that you don't consider `hanging out with strangers` a crucial part of the retail experience.
- Dependent on jump scares - I'm not saying jump scares are bad. In fact, I love a good jump scare. It's an affective and cheap way to illicit a reaction. But, if you think of jump scares as the equivalent of flashy, in your face, ads and banners, you get a better picture of what I'm talking about. These cheap thrills work at first, but after a while get dull and even annoying. Point being, you can't depend entirely on jump scares, loud noises, or flashing lights.
- Anonymity - The opposite of anonymity in this case would be `personalized service`. Have you ever been in a HH where the actors scream your name? Believe me, it's veeeeery creepy!
- Long lines - Are the worst! Interestingly enough, this was the top complaint from people we asked, "What is your least favorite part of a HH."
- Linear - A good story is never linear. The best adventures are never a straight line. When your operation is based on quantity, your incentivized to get people in and out as quickly as possible and the quickest path between any two points is a straight line.
Haunted House of the Future
From the get-to, we want people to describe our HH as an 'adventure.' We know it will take more than simply improving the shortcomings above. We need to do it while telling a story. Ultimately, we need people to suspend their disbelief.
So, how do we pull this off?
The New Model
- 1 ticket admits 2 - If the HH is to be an adventure, what better way to experience it then with a friend or a family member? We found, from our first year, that most people come in pairs. So, we're going to optimize for that party size
- Max party size of 2 - Besides making the whole thing much more intimate and personal, you no longer have to worry about running into the party in front of you or holding up the party behind you.
- Book a time in advance - By allowing guests to book a time in advance, we have essentially killed the line. Booking may solve the line problem, but it introduces a whole new issue: No shows. Since we will charge for tickets in advance, it's really not too big an issue, but getting paid for nothing is not our idea of success. So, just like we do at the shop, we're going to use Sprucebot to make sure people are on time.
- Guest profiles - Often referred to as clienteling, we will use personal (but, not too private =) details about a guest to personalize the experience. Sprucebot allows us to build profiles that guests complete after booking and we plan to use that to the fullest!
- Atmosphere - The best retailers know that the a great experience does not end with the products on the shelves. It's the layout, merchandising, culture, even the music and the smell play roles in creating an atmosphere. While we will have our share of jump scares, it's gonna be so much more than that.
- A Twist - Good stories have a twist. Great ones have a few. But the best, they're the ones you don't see coming. Our HH will have it's fair share. Unfortunately, publishing them here would spoil the whole thing. The only way to learn more is to get involved.