Welcoming tens of thousands of visitors from across the globe, Ice Castles is a magical winter wonderland of soaring castles built from solid ice. Since its humble beginnings in 2006, Ice Castles has grown to be one of the most anticipated winter events, with new locations opening every year across the United States and Canada.
The story of Ice Castles starts with Brent Christensen, CCO & Creator of Ice Castles, and his children playing in their backyard in Alpine, Utah. Having just moved from California, Brent wanted a fun, unique way to entertain his kids. After watching his neighbor create a giant mound of ice by attaching a sprinkler to a pole, Christensen was inspired. That year he began building the foundation of what would quickly become an international magical phenomenon.
Today, Ice Castles has grown into an enchanting annual attraction, featuring six locations and hosting tens of thousands of visitors each season. Ice Castles is owned and operated by CEO Ryan Davis, COO Andrew Child, CFO Kyle Standifird, and CCO & Creator Brent Christensen. Their patented construction method utilizes hand-picked icicles, chainsaws, and ingenuity to create the romantic backdrops, majestic ice thrones, winding tunnels, and slippery slides that are present at each Ice Castles location.
As Ice Castles continued to flourish, their team began to notice a few areas that needed immediate attention. They knew employing the experience of an experienced event ticketing partner would be key, but their early selections were unable to resolve the challenges of this growing phenomenon.
Previous event ticketing partners did not have the functionality to control the flow of admissions into the event. Ice Castles was offering both general walk-up sales and online ticket sales, but due to restraints within their ticketing system, these tickets were valid at any time of day. Without time restraints, the majority of attendees showed up within the same early evening period. This trend, coupled with increasing popularity of the attraction, led to delays, queuing, and street traffic.
“We started to get more people coming just to come, without buying a ticket online,” Ice Castles COO Andrew Child explained. “They would all show up at the exact same time, and so now you can imagine two to three hour waits... standing in the cold.” Finding a way to encourage customers to attend earlier in the day became one of the event organizers’ primary goals, as it would prove critical to the long-term success of the winter attraction.
The event’s increasing popularity also brought to light the need for a more robust customer support system. Customers were now inquiring about event details, seeking exchanges, and other support requests on a regular basis. “We just didn’t have the bandwidth,” Child said. “The first [customer support employee] we hired... would respond to three or four hundred emails a day, just trying to keep up with everybody.”
The climbing number of support requests also raised questions that Ice Castles had not previously given much thought to. How would they handle refund and exchange requests? What if poor weather conditions prevented customers from reaching the Ice Castles location? “We had to come up with a way to change people’s tickets without hurting our sales,” Child said. They needed the time, experience, and insight to build ticketing policies to best service both their customers and their organization.
The Ice Castles team knew they had something with a potential for massive appeal on their hands. They needed to gain a deeper understanding of who was attending their event to optimize their marketing campaigns. “When it comes to marketing, you’ve got to know who your buyer is,” Child said. Though their marketing efforts were clearly striking a chord, it was a challenge for the team to determine which campaigns were performing best without proper tracking measures integrated onto their event listings. As Child put it, “you can spend a lot of money on marketing, but never know if it’s really working or not unless you can measure it.”
With Ice Castles multiplying in size year after year, they needed an event ticketing partner who was willing to work with them. It became clear that their previous partners could not meet their growing needs, so the search began. After studying other attractions in their area, the Ice Castles team couldn’t help but notice that ShowClix was the event technology partner of choice for several successful events. What made ShowClix stand out was a combination of robust functionality, and a willingness to work alongside the Ice Castles team to integrate into their way of conducting business. “It was refreshing,” Child explained, “just to work with everybody there... It’s kind of like there’s no challenge too hard for ShowClix.”
- Andrew Child, Chief Operations Officer
While other potential partners made promises to develop the features that could resolve Ice Castles’ primary challenges, ShowClix already had the functionality, and had perfected it. “Other systems tried to fit us into a box or offer to build out whatever we wanted, but they didn’t have the experience,” Child continued. “ShowClix already had it done and has been able to continue to grow with us. We love that.”
In order to prevent the uneven distribution of daily attendees, Ice Castles was thrilled to utilize the timed entry feature integrated into the ShowClix system. This feature gave them the power to control the number of tickets sold within individual time slots, and it allowed them to quickly update and customize time slots for maximum efficiency. Customers could choose their day and time, and be alerted when a time slot was selling quickly or already sold out. The difference was immediate. “It’s so key to what we do, because otherwise we can’t capitalize on [less popular time slots],” Child said.
Ice Castles now has the power to better manage massive crowds moving in and out of each location across their hours of operation. This functionality is an integral component of Ice Castles’ event operations plan. “It’s just so normal to us now, and it’s worked so well,” Child said. “If you were to take that away… we just wouldn’t function very well.”
With a fully-staffed call center and email support team available, ShowClix was the only ticketing partner with the bandwidth to step in and support the thousands of customer requests received via phone and email. “That’s just a lifesaver for us,” Child said. He explained that due to the seasonality of the event, “it’s hard to hire somebody for that.” The time it would take to train temporary employees, all for a season that can last anywhere from six to twelve weeks, would not make sense for their organization.
For the 2017-2018 season, Ice Castles started utilizing a fully branded call center provided by ShowClix, which serves as the event’s only source for customer support. This additional service provides a seamless, branded customer support experience with detailed insight into how their phone and email support requests are managed.
By partnering with ShowClix, Ice Castles was able to gather more event intelligence, hone in on potential customers, and better track which marketing campaigns were contributing the most to their bottom line. Using ShowClix’s Marketing Account Integrations, Ice Castles was able to link their third-party marketing accounts to their event listings, which gave them insights into the entire sales funnel and the ability to remarket to potential customers. “Knowing where and how our customers interact with our website and event listings is extremely important to us,” Child explained.
- Andrew Child, Chief Operations Officer
With six locations as of the 2017-2018 season, Ice Castles continues to look toward the future. Their continued growth requires a partner who can take on any challenge and continue to add value throughout the entire event lifecycle. Offering the tools for Ice Castles to effectively manage their admissions, take control of their customer support, and harness ticket buyer data to optimize marketing efforts, ShowClix continues to fill the role of trusted event technology partner.
With a wide variety of products and services, ShowClix offers even further opportunities for Ice Castles to sell more tickets. “There are definitely services and features we want to start implementing,” says Child. “As we continue to grow our brand and develop more events, like our holiday light experience, Christmas in Color, we want to keep using ShowClix.”
- Andrew Child, Chief Operations Officer