Merlin Entertainments boosts online ticket sales with a global eCommerce solution from IBM

Published on 17-Nov-2011

Validated on 03 Feb 2014

"IBM Global Business Services offered the best functional fit, but also, and perhaps more importantly, the best cultural fit. There was a definite can-do attitude and a willingness to go beyond the terms of the contract. We wanted not just a supplier, but a global partner for the long-term development of our online sales – IBM fitted the bill perfectly." - Andy Davies, Commercial Director for Merlin Entertainments Group

Customer:
Merlin Entertainments

Industry:
Media & Entertainment

Deployment country:
United Kingdom

Solution:
Smarter Commerce, Optimizing IT

Overview

Merlin Entertainments Group is the second largest theme park and attractions company in the world, with more than 70 sites globally. In the UK, Merlin Entertainments operates Alton Towers, Chessington World of Adventures, Thorpe Park, Sea Life, Legoland, the London Eye, Madame Tussauds, Warwick Castle and more. The company employs more than 15,000 people during its peak trading periods, and generated operating profits of £198 million in the 2010 financial year.

Business need:
Merlin Entertainments had no single, consistent process for online ticket sales. The cost of sales was variable, online cross-marketing and promotions were difficult, and there was no global sales visibility.

Solution:
IBM® Global Business Services® developed and now supports a strategic global eCommerce solution based on IBM WebSphere® Commerce software, supporting 60 global attractions, 13 languages, seven currencies and 16 payment methods.

Benefits:
Reduces cost of sales, as a higher proportion of ticket sales are made online Cuts queuing, improves cash flow and reduces sensitivity of ticket sales to bad weather Delivers greater marketing control and global sales reporting

Case Study

Merlin Entertainments Group is the second largest theme park and attractions company in the world, with more than 70 sites globally. In the UK, Merlin Entertainments operates Alton Towers, Chessington World of Adventures, Thorpe Park, Sea Life, Legoland, the London Eye, Madame Tussauds, Warwick Castle and more. The company employs more than 15,000 people during its peak trading periods, and generated operating profits of £198 million in the 2010 financial year.

When the merger with Tussauds was completed in 2007, the new group ran strategic reviews of all functional silos, aiming to identify opportunities for consolidation and rationalisation. The review of the eCommerce environment showed that that there were 12 separate solutions in operation across the group, ranging from in-house solutions through to managed services from third parties.

Without a single, consistent platform for online sales, costs were high: the company was maintaining several separate solutions internally, and its outsourced service providers were also charging a significant fee per ticket sold. Equally, Merlin Entertainments was unable to run effective cross-marketing or cross-brand promotional activities online, and could not easily see online sales performance across all brands and sites.

Andy Davies Commercial Director for Merlin Entertainments Group, says, “We wanted a single solution that would provide more functionality than the existing ones, and we issued an RFI to get a short-list of five potential solution partners. IBM Global Business Services offered the best functional fit, but also, and perhaps more importantly, the best cultural fit. There was a definite can-do attitude and a willingness to go beyond the terms of the contract. We wanted not just a supplier but a global partner for the long-term development of our online sales – IBM fitted the bill perfectly.”

All-in-one solution
IBM provided a complete turnkey solution for Merlin Entertainments, combining business and technical consulting, technical architecture, software development, infrastructure design and implementation, global rollout, and fully managed support. The new strategic global eCommerce solution for Merlin Entertainments was built on IBM WebSphere Commerce, which offered the best ‘out-of-the-box’ fit with the defined business requirements.

“IBM’s approach to the project was highly structured, and this project management discipline was very useful in compelling us to be completely clear about what we wanted,” says Andy Davies. “The IBM team was really like an extension of our own – the cultural fit meant that there were none of the usual customer/supplier barriers. When issues arose during the project, we worked as a single team to resolve them. When some factors outside of our control caused the delivery date to slip marginally, IBM was able to flex the balance between onshore and offshore development resources to bring the remaining parts in on budget.”

Global reach, local flexibility
The new Merlin global solution for online ticket sales supports more than 70 attractions around the world, working in 13 languages and offering support for seven currencies and 16 different payment methods. The solution is integrated with three key third-party applications: a global ticketing system, a global payment authorisation system and a global address book lookup.

The solution provides a single platform for online ticket sales, enabling cross-selling, up-selling, cross-brand promotions and near real-time global visibility of ticket sales. While it brings operational and reporting consistency, it also supports complete flexibility in presentation, enabling each of Merlin Entertainments brands and attractions to create their own user interfaces and branding.

“The IBM solution gives us an accurate picture of global sales; individual brands can still go to market however they choose, but with central reporting and visibility,” says Andy Davies. “Our look-to-book conversions and online ticket sales have risen significantly, and our cost per sale is significantly lower online, so as the proportion of online tickets grows, so does our profitability.”

He adds, “Increasing our online sales provides other benefits too. We have less queuing for tickets at the attractions themselves, we bank the money from ticket sales faster, and our gate revenues are less sensitive to poor weather. The online channel is also more convenient for customers.”

Simpler and more cost-effective
By replacing multiple legacy systems with a single solution from IBM, Merlin Entertainments has reduced its capital and operational costs for IT and significantly simplified its global infrastructure. What’s more, having a single, highly extensible eCommerce platform in place will help the company bring new attractions onboard more quickly. There are already plans to extend the solution from ticket sales to encompass hotel bookings and merchandising.

IBM has a three-year Application Managed Services (AMS) contract to provide full production support for the Merlin eCommerce solution. Support delivery is split between the IBM UK AMS Delivery Centre and a dedicated Merlin AMS team based in Hyderabad, India. The AMS service includes fix-on-fail, minor enhancement and proactive maintenance services. As part of the contract, IBM works closely with the three key third-party application vendors and the internal Merlin IT service desk to diagnose and resolve issues.

“IBM’s knowledge and depth of experience have been key to the success of the new eCommerce platform at Merlin,” says Andy Davies. “As good as the IBM technology is, this is really about the quality of the IBM people and their desire to make sure we get what we want. This is an ongoing relationship, and we are very comfortable that we chose IBM to support this key revenue stream for the future.”

Products and services used

IBM products and services that were used in this case study.

Software:
WebSphere Commerce - Express

Service:
AIS: e-Commerce Applications

Legal Information

© Copyright IBM Corporation 2011 IBM United Kingdom Limited PO Box 41 North Harbour Portsmouth Hampshire PO6 3AU Produced in the United Kingdom November 2011 All Rights Reserved IBM, the IBM logo, ibm.com, Global Business Services and WebSphere are trademarks of International Business Machines Corporation, registered in many jurisdictions worldwide. A current list of other IBM trademarks is available on the Web at “Copyright and trademark information” at: ibm.com/legal/copytrade.shtml. References in this publication to IBM products, programs or services do not imply that IBM intends to make these available in all countries in which IBM operates. Any reference to an IBM product, program or service is not intended to imply that only IBM’s product, program or service may be used. Any functionally equivalent product, program or service may be used instead. All customer examples cited represent how some customers have used IBM products and the results they may have achieved. Actual environmental costs and performance characteristics will vary depending on individual customer configurations and conditions. IBM hardware products are manufactured from new parts, or new and used parts. In some cases, the hardware product may not be new and may have been previously installed. Regardless, IBM warranty terms apply. This publication is for general guidance only. Photographs may show design models.