I was in Milan at the weekend. As my two brothers and I all live in different countries, it’s very, very rare you get us all in the same room together. The last time was in June 2016 in Bordeaux.

So, when my Tokyo-based brother was booked to speak at a conference in Milan for the weekend, we decided it was a good chance to get together and spend a bit of time with each other. Now, we had a great time – there was food, there was wine, there was football, and of course, as an accountant, there was a business lesson in amongst it!

You see, one of my favourite things is finding clever pricing strategies, and particularly really good uses of upgrades. Good upgrades are where there’s really good value for the customer, but also the business makes a healthy profit as well.

I came across one of these at, of all places, the Duomo – the big cathedral in the centre of Milan.

The Duomo is a beautiful cathedral. Parts of it are 500 years old and, therefore, it’s a big tourist attraction.

One of the things they’ve done as good business sense is implemented the classic “fast track” strategy, i.e. where you pay an extra amount of money to skip the queues.

This is the classic upgrade – it costs very little for the place to implement and, therefore, there’s a huge profit margin on it. But, as a customer, you’re often really pleased to pay it.

had a limited time on my own in Milan to do the touristy things – both of my brothers had been before so didn’t need to do this. On the Friday, one of the brothers was speaking at the conference and the other one hadn’t arrived yet. I wanted to see the Duomo and it was well worth me paying the 10 Euro upgrade to make sure I got in there and saw it in the two-hour window that I had.

It’s a really good pricing strategy there. It’s a win-win for them and me.

However, a little extra thing they did was really clever. It was the way they arranged the ticketing and also the queues.

They had the queues for the normal ticket holders to go into the cathedral at one end. But, at that end, they had the fast track ticket booth. This meant that, as you saw the big queues, the chance to pay the extra 10 Euros and get in quick was right there in front of you.

Whereas, if you wanted to go and buy a normal ticket, you had to go to a separate ticket booth at the other end of the cathedral. And this booth was next to the fast track queue or, more exactly, the fast track “no queue” – there was a railing there with a sign for the entrance, but no queue at all.

Basically, whichever ticket you were going for, you got to see the alternative. If you were buying the normal ticket, you could see the fact that there’s no queue at the fast track -once you walk down to the big queues, you’re more likely to upgrade.

Similarly, if you just arrived at the busy end and saw a fast track kiosk next to it, you’re more likely to upgrade.

I just thought it was really clever – taking that classic simple strategy of a time-saving upgrade, but by arranging it in a way to make you even more likely to pay the extra.

So, let me know if you’ve seen any really interesting or clever upgrades out there.


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