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Sabah Karimi

Escape Rooms have been described as team-building experiences, gameified theater, and an unparalleled entertainment experience—and business is booming, with new rooms popping up all over the country. The Escape Room Directory lists more than 2,760 sites and counting around the United States, as business owners capture a hungry market with this new local experience. But, what exactly are Escape Rooms? It's a place where guests play a real-world version of a video game by solving puzzles together to get out of a room as quickly as possible.

Despite it's popularity, the industry is still in the infant stage: Experts trace these unique puzzle hunts to the REAL ESCAPE GAME™ franchise that launched in Kyoto, Japan, in 2007. The first made its way to U.S. soil in 2012 where it took place on board a ship in San Francisco.

Since 2012, variations of the original Real Escape Game have been popping up all over the country and may soon be a leading trend in the active entertainment industry. Room Escape Adventures, for instance, opened its first location in Chicago in December 2013 and has now opened up locations in 18 American cities and three destinations overseas. Owner Marty Parker tells Newsweek that he estimate another 300 to open by the end of 2015. Centennial's Clue Room opened in Colorado in September 2014 and has been attracting an average of 400 customers per week, according to the Denver Post.

With such a young industry, new businesses are bound to run into a few challenges as they try to handle the rapid influx of customers. Choosing the right online booking software can make it easier to generate more bookings and handle customer communications—as well as the booking process for your escape room business—more effectively. Setting up a system that allows for group bookings and group pricing options, customization, and easy implementation of discount and promo codes is beneficial for any small business owner.

Here's a closer look at challenges Escape Room business owners may be facing, and suggestions for overcoming these obstacles:

Challenge #1: Maintaining Customer Communications Efficiently

Solution: Customized Emails

Maintaining contact with your customers as soon as they register on your site is a critical part of customer service. Sending customized emails can help you maintain a high level of professionalism and give you a chance to encourage more bookings. Hubspot reports that personalized messages increase conversions rates; and the 2013 Email Marketing Study from Experian Marketing Services reveals personalized promotional mailings had 29-percent higher open rates and 41-percent higher unique click rates.

Personalized emails can be a great way to not only welcome newcomers but also to nurture leads—walk your customer through the booking process by sending out a series of personalized emails. Topics may cover the latest escape room experiences you have available, a news byte about your business in the news, and promo codes to encourage the recipient to book now. Use online booking software programs that allow you to set up customized automated emails, manage your email database and registrations all in one place, and handle all customer communications with ease.

Challenge #2: Poorly-Designed Online Booking Forms

Solution: Streamlined Online Booking Process

Many escape room business owners want to move beyond a simple "contact us" email that doesn't always capture relevant details about the customer, and, in most cases, looks unprofessional.

One-click bookings and buying options are an attractive component of any website. Online retailers including Amazon, Macy's, and Sears have perfected the art of guiding shoppers through the entire checkout process so that they not only feel confident about going through the online checkout, but are also encouraged to buy more than anticipated — complementary products, add-ons, and suggestions. Look for online booking software that takes customers through a stepped checkout process and allows for add-ons or multi-activity purchases in a single click.

Challenge #3: Managing Corporate Accounts and Package Options

Solution: Tiered Pricing Options

When you are in a position to handle larger volumes of bookings and are busy building a larger client base of group parties, team building activity leaders, and special event hosts, you need an efficient process to handle these types of customers—not different pricing options.

You may want to offer several different pricing options for individuals, couples, groups, and corporate bookings. For example, you may offer a discount for corporate groups of five or more people planning a team-building event at your escape room, or a couples or friends package where the customers get a discount for booking the experience together.

If you want to add add-on services, such as beverages and snacks after the experience or meals at a local restaurant, you'll need a software program that allows you to create different packages with ease. Tiered pricing can benefit your business in many ways because, as QuickBooks points out in this article, it gives your customers a menu of options to choose from. Invest in a booking software program that allows you to set up group pricing rates specifically for these market segments.

Challenge #4: Poorly-Managed Discount and Promo Code Process

Solution: Online Voucher Redemption Management Tools

If you plan to offer discount codes, coupons, vouchers, and send out special offers, make sure you choose online booking software that keeps track of these codes and redemption activities. ZOZI Advance makes it simple to add promo codes and discounts to various activities on the backend. You can use drop-down menus to assign promo and discount codes to each activity. You can also keep track of promo code redemptions in the backend. Invest in a software program that makes voucher redemption management a simple process so your customers can enjoy a streamlined checkout flow and you can run promotions at your leisure.

Challenge #5: Managing Gift Card Sales

Solution: Streamlined Online Gift Card Purchase and Redemption

Escape room enthusiasts may be interested in gifting the experience to a significant other, friends, family members, or acquaintances. Keeping track of gift cards issued and redeemed manually, however, can be time-consuming and inefficient. Make this process easy for customers by offering the option of buying and redeeming gift cards exclusively online. Offer gift cards when following up with the customer about their experience via email and have gift card purchase options readily available for purchase both on your website and during the checkout process. Choose a software program that allows for gift card disbursement and redemption at checkout by entering a gift card number directly as a form of payment.

Challenge #6: Maintaining Accurate Sales and Activity Reports

Solution: Built-In Reporting Tools

As your business grows and you are managing larger volumes of bookings each week—or perhaps branching out to multiple locations—make use of reporting tools that allow you to keep track of sales, booking trends, discount redemptions, and other site visitor activity. This can be almost impossible to manage manually and may require hiring additional staff to take care of accounting and operations management duties. Choose online booking software that makes it easy to produce downloadable reports and print report summaries with current data, including up-to-date information about bookings, sales, discount redemptions, and customer details.

Final Thoughts

As more escape rooms start appearing around the country, business owners need to count on a reliable booking system and customer relationship management tools to manage bookings effectively week after week. Taking steps to integrate a customizable online booking software program that grows with the business's needs is a smart business move for today's escape room operator.

ZOZI Advance is an online booking software for Escape Rooms that offers all of these solutions and more.

Click the button below to learn more about how ZOZI Advance can help you accept online bookings, offer individual and group pricing, view all of your bookings and availability in one calendar, and much more. 

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