This is the first part of our mini-series covering some of the haunt friendly programming from this year’s IAAPA Expo in Orlando. Haunt Pay AKA Passage is a ticketing platform tailored to haunted attractions. This year the team put together and released a free ticketing trends report and I stopped by to discuss the findings with Alex during IAAPA.
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What Is Haunt Pay AKA Passage?
Alex: My name is Alex Linebrink, and I’m the founder and CEO of Haunt Pay, and we power scary-simple ticketing and payments for haunted attractions. At IAAPA we are actually talking more about non-haunted events, so we have our Passage brand which is our version of on pay for the non-haunted side of things.
We’re showcasing a little bit of everything, things for attractions, things for family entertainment centers, be at time ticketing or virtual queues, or virtual access if it’s for music and that side of things as well.
With Haunt Pay we power ticketing and payments both online and at the door. So, we have a register online component for fans and customers of haunts. We also helped the haunts reach more fans. We had over 6 million people this year looking for haunted houses, which they’re not going to do that any place else, we’re the haunted house ticketing guys, right? So, they look on our site, we push them to our haunted attractions whenever possible, and then we have that at the door point of sale system.
This year and last we started to add this in, but it became more mature this year, our free virtual queue system to allow people to get text messages when it’s their turn waiting in line, which is a little out of fashion these days. We also have virtual access that some people have been using for behind-the-scenes stuff, live stream of what’s going on behind the scenes, or makeup tours and education and that sort of thing. That’s been used by haunted attractions quite a bit more than I actually expected, yeah.
What Were The Ticketing Trends From 2021 Heading Into 2022?
Alex: We have seen quite a bit of a move from cash at the door ticketing and that sort of thing to online ticketing in advance. It was about 20 to 30% before last year that we’re using time ticketing, last year was 80%. It was just crazy, it flipped almost 100%. Then this year it stayed up in that range, it was about 75%, so down just a little bit, but 75% of still using time ticketing, which is awesome to see, and I expect that to continue there.
Philip: Do you have any information on when a person is purchasing a ticket for when they are attending?
Alex: Yeah we do, and it’s lengthened out, it’s not what you’d think. Previously we saw that was more so the day off couple days before that sort of thing. Yeah, there’d be the early birds that we’re getting in on the early deals a month before or something like that, but the average was like in that two, maybe three-day range before this year. Now, this year, the last two years I’m kind of including together here, but the last couple of years it’s really lengthened out and it’s over a week. So, this is the first time that I think we actually saw the average was over a week, was more like 8 or 9 days. Of course, that’s a lot of those are real early coming in, those early-bird specials, and if you can get that money 60 days in advance, why not? It’
Philip: In terms of ticking options, are you seeing that haunts are adding different ticket options to what they’re offering overall?
Alex: Yeah, I would say more than ever before are doing front-of-the-line passes and things like that. I think they’re seeing that there’s a lot of desire out there to wait in line for shorter amounts of time. We’ve even seen some that have been adding on options to get into a virtual queue. We really didn’t anticipate that when we build our virtual queue system, we expected people would just use it for everything, but it turns out it actually might work better in a lot of use cases if somebody has a general admission that still stands in line, but a virtual queue, that’s a little bit of an upsell. You pay a little extra to get that virtual queue where you can keep roaming, and then just get a text message when you can go straight to the door.
What Would Be The Best Ticketing Design For A Haunted Attraction?
Alex: The best design? I mean, I think a haunted attraction is getting the biggest bang for their buck when they’re doing online sales, they’re starting early, they’re doing timed ticketing, maybe not down to like the 10 minute or 15-minute intervals, but hourly intervals. When you have the dates and times selected by the customer, that actually lets you change price points, see how many people are coming on certain days so you can even change who’s working those days, and that sort of thing. So I think that is all advantageous, and then also tacking on the virtual queue element, especially if you have a midway. If you have a midway with different things that people can do and spend money at, concessions, merchandise, little midway games, 5-minute escape rooms, that sort of thing, you want to keep people roaming instead of waiting in line because they’re not spending money when they’re waiting in line. That is your Primo to have that added on there too. So, people get that text message when it’s their turn, but until then they’re roaming your midway spending more money.
Philip: Do you think we’re going to see a reversal in that trend of planning ahead? Or do you think that the consumer has just permanently shifted their leisure planning to an earlier time frame?
Alex: I don’t think it will be a full reverse, I think there will be a little bit of a backoff as things continue to open up here, and who knows exactly how that all works over the next year. But, if it continues the direction it’s going, I would say there will be a little bit of a back down on that and people will maybe get a little bit closer to the day off. But, in general, I think people are more and more often looking at their phones looking at their laptop and saying, “what’s open this weekend or next weekend or that day that we have a birthday or celebration? What is open? What can I guarantee my spot in right now?” And they’re reserving right now when they see it’s open, they don’t want to wait and chance it until that comes up. More and more people have been trained into that with the pandemic stuff and the limited capacity as you mentioned earlier, that’s come lately. So, I think that’s going to continue to happen, and there’s it’s gotten a lot easier; the tools are available now, integrations with Google and all these different sites to book straight through.
What Is The Future For Ticketing?
Alex: Yeah, I mean I would say that is something to check out, good SEO stuff that’s going on. If the system works well with Google and all the SEO that’s out there, you’re going to see buy now tickets right in the search result. That’s limiting them, so the customer doesn’t have to make that extra click right? They can just click right there and it pops right up. In some situations, you can even “Hey Google,” “Hey Alexa,” “Hey Siri, what’s going on?” and book right from there. I think that’s coming more and more, there’s not a lot of it right now, right? But I think that’s something to watch out for, more people wanting to do that. So, those are some integrations that make a lot of sense.
Then again, this has been a trend for a while, but it’s going to continue to be a trend, mobile friendliness. It’s gotta be mobile-friendly. It’s gotta be easy for the customer to get to, not have to download an app necessarily to do something, but just one click, pop in, get your tickets, be ready to go, not have to print stuff out. We’re talking about basic trends that have been happening over a long period of time, but it’s all accelerated. I think that’s one big thing, everything has become digital, no-touch during the pandemic, and people like it more, so it’s going to stick around.
Where Is Haunt Pay And Passage Looking To Meet Customers?
Alex: Those are all things that we’re always trying to improve. That’s kind of why they’re top of my mind too. We always want to limit clicks, but there is a fine line between user-friendliness too. If it’s one click, but you have to scroll down the page for eight pages to get there, that’s not that working. It’s a combination of user-friendliness, low number of clicks, getting there from external sources as well. So, we’re working on more integrations with third parties where, again, those buy now buttons can show up on those other sites before they even get to our site, and eventually, we are starting to look into the integration with the assistants, the virtual assistants. I think that’s cool, I’m excited to see where that goes.
Philip: You can become more of what powers it completely in the background, where in many cases they may not even ever see your portal, but you’re going to be powering the interaction.
Alex: Exactly, that is our goal. We want to help you reach more fans and sell more tickets. We don’t care if our name is on it. We don’t care if people know that it’s powered by Haunt Pay, or Passage in the background, depending on if it’s the haunted or non haunted side. We just want to help our clients sell more tickets because that’s where we’re both making money, and we’re both having the best experience there, so that’s our main goal with everything we do.
Where Will Haunt Pay/Passage Be Next?
Alex: Ooh, next I think will probably be Transworld. That’s the one that’s coming up in March, that’s usually early in the year, and we always go to that. We always go to that, always go to Midwest, and we’ll see if there are any other non-haunted ones we squeeze in before. But definitely, we’ll be.