BottleRock Doubles Merch Revenue with atVenu

BottleRock Doubles Merch Revenue with atVenu


Located in California’s idyllic Napa Valley, BottleRock has seamlessly infused the best elements of multi-day music, food and wine events. Today, the festival is characterized for its culinary and wine experience as well as its top-tier pop and rock headliners. The 40,000 cap festival has become a beloved institution for those that don’t mind spending a little extra money for an unforgettable experience.

Initially dubbed “the Coachella for Grownups” BottleRock Napa Valley has taken the festival world by storm, establishing itself as the premier festival in North America despite the fact the event is still relatively new to the festival scene.

Past headliners of the festival have included Bruno Mars, Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers, Stevie Wonder, and the Red Hot Chili Peppers. These headliners are in addition to the festival’s corporate partners which include Apple Pay, Lagunitas, Salesforce and Cisco along with 20 leading Napa wineries.

The Challenge

Following several successful editions, BottleRock entered a key stage in the festival’s growth cycle. They wanted to maximize their footprint but in order to scale and tap into new revenue streams, the organizers needed to expand beyond ticket sales, concessions and sponsorship. After taking a closer look at their merchandise operations, they discovered the following:

  • existing systems were operationally inefficient costing them money and resources
  • fans were not benefitting from the same level of satisfaction from merch operations as they were with the festival’s other offerings
  • a lot of money was being left on the table

“Back in 2015, merchandising across the festival industry was really being treated like an afterthought,” said atVenu’s CEO Derek Ball. “BottleRock was doing things in much the same way everyone else was: a basic 20×20 tent with some t-shirts slung on the wall and an excel sheet to monitor all the sales and inventory.”

BottleRock’s organizers knew the process needed improvement. “This was at a point when they were tightening the screws across the entire festival,” Ball continues, “and recognized that by honing their merch operations, they could reduce natural inefficiencies and increase revenue and profitability.”

“Merchandise as a legitimate revenue stream had always occurred to us, but we never had the right partners to maximize the opportunity,” said Dave Graham, CEO of BottleRock festivals. “At BottleRock, the customer’s experience is of paramount importance, and merchandise is a critical part of that experience!.”

In order to appeal to the festival’s affluent demographic and discriminating tastes, BottleRock needed to revamp their line. The organizers enlisted San Francisco-based suppliers Golden Goods to assist with this upgrade. They also invested in how the merchandise was presented to the fans, designing and building their own bespoke merchandise stands, rather than hanging t-shirts on a chain link fence in a standard white festival tent. Significant effort was also put into thinking about the queuing experience and giving customers a chance to see and touch merchandise on body forms while waiting in line.

Further to improving the design and presentation, Graham also wanted to adopt a powerful technology to improve their existing merch operations. In previous years, BottleRock encountered the same challenges faced by many festival organizers:

  • legacy methods using an excel spreadsheet to advance, track inventory and settle with the artists leaving considerable room for human error
  • teams waste precious hours advancing and building custom spreadsheets with each artist
  • lack of accurate, real-time data needed to make intelligent business decisions

To solve these challenges, Graham leveraged the power of atVenu’s technology to streamline the festival’s merch operations.

“There are so many aspects of the live event experience that have been improved by technology,” said Graham. “atVenu brought a solution that was sorely needed and much overlooked. It certainly helped us realize the huge potential of a well-honed merchandise operation.”

The Solution" Improve Speed, efficiency and refinement with atVenu's Register and Ship to Home feature

A key win for BottleRock was being able to know exactly what the hot selling items are on Day 1, so they could print more in time for the remaining 2 days of the festival to ensure they wouldn’t run out. The sales data was also used to accurately plan production levels for subsequent years.

BottleRock rolled out atVenu’s auto-advancing feature for its festival. The goal was to spend less time setting up and counting-in the 80 plus artists playing the festival, and more time focused on delivering the most memorable experience for both artists and fans.

“Speed and efficiency are crucial at a festival like BottleRock. Nothing hurts your sales revenue or the fan experience more than long, slow lines” said Ball of atVenu.

By using atVenu’s point of sale (POS) system, the staff was quickly able to process transactions, accurately track sales per artist and generate valuable real-time data.

“We needed to take control of the situation and really understand where we stood at any given moment from a sales perspective,” explains Graham. “atVenu’s platform allowed us to see if we were or if we weren’t on track, and why. Having that real-time analysis of inventory and sales was critical.”

As each year’s festival draws to a close, atVenu’s settlement feature makes it easy for the BottleRock team to settle up with the bands quickly and accurately. This ensures no money is left on the table, resulting in a more positive artist experience.

Shortly after introducing atVenu’s Ship to Home feature, the BottleRock team was able to continuously sell items despite being sold out. Not only did this improve operational efficiency by avoiding the unnecessary overproduction of items, but it also maximized their revenue and profitability. The ability to balance merchandise and effectively manage inventory allows festival teams to optimize sales and improve customer satisfaction. “Our audience really likes the ability to have the merch shipped to them,” says Graham. “Sometimes people don’t want to carry their items around all day, so when we introduced atVenu’s Ship to Home feature, it was very well received.”

The Result: Improved Merch operations and increased revenue

Coming into 2017 with BottleRock, the sales team was now more experienced with atVenu’s platform and operations were considerably more efficient. The ability to use historical data allowed the team to accurately stock inventory across the four merch stands on site without having to worry about selling out of any particular item. And if by chance an item did sell out, the Ship To Home feature ensured BottleRock wouldn’t miss a sale. Furthermore, detailed sales and transaction information allowed BottleRock to confidently present this data to potential sponsors, particularly credit card and payment processing firms that were keenly interested with the lucrative opportunity from the festival’s affluent clientele. “atVenu’s data allowed us to understand which credit cards our audience uses,” explains Graham. “For example, we could show Apple what the rate of use of Apple Pay was at BottleRock. We can do the same with Visa, Mastercard and Amex. That kind of payment information is really valuable to us when developing these relationships.”

After implementing atVenu in 2016, the BottleRock team experienced a 120% increase in merchandise revenue from 2015. Furthermore, the team noticed improved sales time and increased efficiencies as a result of reduced setup times. Shortly after using atVenu’s Ship to Home feature, BottleRock increased sales by 10% improving customer satisfaction and loyalty.

“I was a believer in atVenu from the beginning but being able to see the direct ROI in such a short period of time has made atVenu such a huge hit across the festival,” says Graham. “Now that we’ve seen what atVenu has done for BottleRock, we can’t imagine using any other tool to power our merch operations.”

The upcoming 2019 BottleRock will be the fourth year in a row working with atVenu and everyone involved is expecting another successful event.