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The seasonality issue and new product development – Camera Obscura

How can an issue like seasonality become an opportunity? We examine this through a case study from the Edinburgh Camera Obscura.
Photo of people engaging with the Camera Obscura
© Edinburgh Napier University

Camera Obscura and World of Illusions – Case Study

Despite their prime location on Castle Hill and their steady supply of tourist straight off tour buses, the ‘Camera Obscura and World of Illusions’ business detected a dip in visitor numbers during the second week of January. Analysis of their visitor data, collected over a few years, revealed this period of January losses was a pattern year-on-year.
As they guarantee to be open for published hours throughout the year, shutting the attraction during this period was not an option. Instead, they decided to take action to attract more visitors during this period and address this seasonality issue.
First, they looked into visitor segments they most appeal to and what time of the year these visitors visit. They also considered visitors’ place of origin and time of visit. Their analysis revealed that the people most likely to visit during this low-demand time, just after the Christmas holidays, are local people, as well as young families that visit during early afternoons.
They decided to approach this problem with the development of a new product through creating a ‘teeny tiny toddler fest’. After all, you don’t want to have lots and lots of toddlers around when it’s really busy! This was an opportunity to reach out to the youngest people and particularly to the Edinburgh market, who tend to come back again and again.
Camera Obscura launched the toddler fest, which proved successful in the first year. By the third year, it was one of the busiest weeks of their calendar. They managed to make the quietest week one of the busiest, whilst also generating a huge amount of positive publicity for their visitor attraction. They designed a programme of events throughout the week and encouraged advance bookings. Bookings helped them to predict visitor patterns quite accurately, which in turn also facilitated getting their staffing just right.
Visitor numbers increased steadily over the 3 year period. The toddler festival has now become so popular that, based on feedback, they had to take measures to contain it and limited it to weekdays only. This is an example of analysing what is going on, trying something out and then using the data – tracking it via income and admissions but also feedback and social media – to see whether the new product worked.


Consider the Camera Obscura case study above – which data provided insight at each stage of development?

In order to improve or innovate any products or services, the first step is data analysis and detection of an issue, then the second step is to think creatively to come up with solutions. The process starts with identifying the problem, then working backwards from the problem to take action, which in the future should affect your data (e.g. visitor numbers during January) favourably.

Working backwards, what data points do you think they looked at to:

(a) identify this seasonality issue?

❏ Admission numbers

❏ Visitor times

❏ Visitor segments

❏ Overall demand for VA sector

❏ Seasonality (festivals, special events, holidays)

(b) implement the new product?

❏ staff rota

❏ marketing communications

❏ visitor flow

❏ exhibit design, events, activities

❏ visitor place of origin

❏ visitor time of visit

(c) monitor and measure the success of the new product?

❏ Revenue

❏ Customer Experience Insights

❏ Visitor flow patterns

❏ Social media feedback

For businesses operating in rural areas, seasonality can produce additional challenges beyond that faced by a business in a city such as Edinburgh where seasonality is less severe. In those cases consider wider regional events to encourage visitors in shoulder months to visit the region and benefit individual businesses. For example Pitlochry in Scotland and their Enchanted Forest event which takes places in October

© Edinburgh Napier University
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