Cincinnati Zoo Adds 50,000 New Visits, Drives New Revenue With IBM Business Analytics

ARMONK, N.Y. & CINCINNATI, Ohio – 11 Jan 2011: IBM today announced that the Cincinnati Zoo is using IBM business analytics software to drive new revenue, improve member visits and integrate all ticketing, retail, and food sales operations. The zoo projects a $350,000 increase in revenue in the first year, and an additional 50,000 in new visits per year using the IBM analytics solution.

More than 1.2 million people a year visit Cincinnati Zoo’s exhibits, which feature over 500 animal and 3,000 plant species. The Zoo was also rated the No. 1 attraction locally and one of the top zoos in the nation by Zagat Survey.

The challenge facing the Cincinnati Zoo management was how to maximize the recent increase in attendance and raise guest spending through new incentives and loyalty programs while improving services for visitors.  Additional revenue would allow management to provide increased care for zoo animals and potentially add new exhibits.

Multiple point-of-sales systems at the Zoo, severely limited the ability to track overall sales performance and cross promote products and services.   For example, prior to working with IBM, three separate systems were used to capture and collect sales and admission data – one for ticketing, one for retail, and one for food and beverage.  These systems were not integrated and the staff was unable to uncover customer buying trends and promotional opportunities. 

Children get a close up view of a Polar Bear at the Cincinnati Zoo’s Lords of the Arctic exhibit. Image credit: IBM

The Cincinnati Zoo turned to IBM and IBM business partner, BrightStar Partners to replace the siloed systems with a single, integrated IBM analytics solution, giving employees and management a single view of data that provides insight and an “at a glance” view of the business across ticketing, retail and food segments.

As a result, the Zoo has transformed its business processes to make key decisions on things such as what items were most frequently purchased, spending patterns and relationships between guest behavior across business segments, and fluctuations in attendance mix (paid, member, and others).

The Zoo’s staff now has easy and fast access to sales and attendance data through real-time information, analysis and event notification giving them critical data on client purchasing patterns or delays in ticketing which is helping run the business more efficiently.   This has already resulted in revenue gains and smarter marketing spends for the Cincinnati Zoo, since they are now getting direct insight into the specific buying patterns of visitors.

Using IBM analytics software, management can drill down and get detailed information on visitations to determine who came to the Zoo, how much they spent while visiting, and where they spent it. They can also report in real-time when spending has not reached a defined level at a particular location and make adjustments.   For example, the Zoo’s ‘Beer Hut’ concession features six different brands, which are typically rotated based on sales volume and the seasons. With IBM analytics, management can now instantly identify which beer is selling best, on what day, and at what time to make sure inventory meets demand. Previously, it took seven to 14 days to get this information, which required hiring part-time staff to sift through register tapes.

Cincinnati Zoo visitors experience free flying birds at the Wings of Wonder Birdshow. Image credit: IBM

Features in IBM business analytics software such as smart phone notification and mature drill through capabilities give Cincinnati Zoo quick access to key information. Through smart phone alerts, management can notify staff when VIP guests arrive at the Zoo, or automatically send customized notifications to Zoo members to make them aware of special promotions and events for them. The end result is a smarter operation and a more enjoyable experience for visitors.

Management can also target its two key groups for special promotions to generate more revenue — season pass holders, who make up over 50 percent of the business, and non-pass holders, who make up the remaining 50 percent. The zoo can now outreach to these audiences with tailored promotions, track their spending when visiting, and readjust marketing efforts along the way. For example, the Cincinnati Zoo hosts evening wine events, and they also have a movie theater on site, as well as special exhibits. If a member shows a particular interest in attending these events they can tailor their membership package so they will get special discounts and exclusives to their premiere shows, exhibits and other events. Or if they have a history of always purchasing food and drinks at the Zoo but never anything from the gift shop, they can now make sure their membership package is stocked with discounts on food and drink, rather than on items they historically do not have a history of purchasing.

“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,” said John Lucas, Director of Park Operations for Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Gardens.

“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. IBM analytics software 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,” Lucas said.

The Cincinnati Zoo solution is powered by

IBM Cognos Software

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*Source: IBM

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