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Business analytics software helps zoo increase revenue and visits



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The Cincinnati Zoo expects a $350,000 jump in revenue the first year and an additional 50,000 new visits through its use of business analytics from IBM.

The zoo wanted to maximize a recent increase in attendance and raise guest spending, which would allow management to provide increased care for animals and potentially add new exhibits to further increase business.

Multiple point–of-sales systems at the zoo, however, limited management’s ability to track overall sales performance and cross-promote products and services. For example, officials could not measure and report on what zoo members did when visiting an attraction and what they spent their money on. Even basic information on sales volume across a 75-acre campus was difficult. Managers often had to walk the entire park to see what was occurring in the business.

In addition, three separate systems were used to capture and collect sales and admission date—one for ticketing, one for retail and one for food and beverage. The systems were not integrated so management could not make key decisions on what items were more frequently purchased, spending patterns, and so on.

In July 2010, the Cincinnati Zoo turned to IBM and its business partner BrightStar Partners to replace the siloed systems with a single integrated IBM analytics solution, giving employees and management a single view that provides insight and an at-a-glance view across ticketing, retail and food segments.

According to a press release from IBM, zoo staff members now have easy and fast access to sales and attendance data via real-time information, analysis and event notification, giving them important information on client purchasing patterns or delays in ticketing. Management can get detailed information on visitations to determine who came to the zoo, how much they spent while visiting and where they spent it. Previously it took seven to 14 days to collect such information and required part-time staff to sift through register tape.

With the business analytics solution, management can target its two key groups for specific promotions to generate more revenue—season pass holders, who make up 50 percent of the business, and non-pass holders who make up the remaining 50 percent.

John Lucas, director of park operations for Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Gardens, says, “Almost immediately after going live with IBM analytics software, we were able to increase our in-park spending by as much as 25 percent by utilizing 360-degree customer views. We turned that information into strategic offers to our guests, and arming our managers with real-time data enabled them to react to a dynamic and fluid business driven by seasonal weather patterns. It was instant payback.

“We now have the ability to see and analyze data in all corners of our business--presented in the way we want to see it whenever we need it--and be more responsive to our customers. The solution is also revolutionizing our cross-promotion and cross-sell efforts, helping us better serve clients, and most importantly, because of our increased revenues, we’re better able to deliver our mission of inspiring passion for nature and saving wildlife for future generations.”

The Cincinnati Zoo solution is powered by IBM Cognos software.


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