Using digital to get Theme Parks ahead of the queue

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Posted by George Gabriel on 29 Sep, 2015

Although a distinctly “offline experience,” there is vast potential for theme parks to bolster their service offering with the implementation of digital techniques. After investigating how some of the UK’s top parks are using digital, we feel very few of them are making the most of the channel; missing opportunities to deliver an enhanced service to guests and to gain a more intelligent understanding of park operations.

Extending the window of customer engagement

From our experience working on event/location-based apps such as Wembley and Glastonbury, we’ve learned how beneficial it can be to extend the period of customer engagement either side of the event. For theme parks, where customers typically make a decision to go ahead of time, there are plenty of opportunities to use digital techniques to prolong this window.

Guests are at their most receptive in the build-up, looking to learn about attractions or plan their visit. By framing an app or website as a guidebook with information on the park, food and drink, travel, ticketing and more, guest awareness and interaction begins before arrival. An itinerary builder might let users view attractions and concessions and create a digital agenda for their day. With mobile well-equipped for creation and consumption of media, this section could be enhanced with ride guides, star ratings, photos, and videos; content that could be both curated by the park and submitted by users.

People enjoy documenting positive experiences, and enabling guests to share ride ratings, photos, videos, tips, and custom itineraries helps keep the park front-of-mind both before and after a visit. A group of thrill-seekers visiting a theme park for a day has a different set of needs to a family with small children, and offering tailored guides for different user groups would help create a more personalised feel. Social media indicates that users are already willing to share many of these experiences and photos after visits, but they could also be incentivised with discounts or vouchers for future bookings. Ultimately, extending the period of interaction can help promote a sense of loyalty, encourage positive endorsements, and increase repeat visits.

Adding value and utility to the in-park experience

Alongside facilitating interaction before and after a visit, digital can add real value to a guest’s experience within the park. Theme parks are conducive to frequent periods of mobile usage, whether people are queuing for attractions, breaking for food and drink or simply sharing memories; these moments present opportunities to engage with customers using information sharing, marketing, and gamification.

Many parks feature message boards at each ride to show estimated queue times, and pulling that information into a central page in the app would give guests a better overview of what they might do next. An intelligent app would combine that information with a user’s location and any ride preferences they’ve specified to offer tailored recommendations, enriching the offline experience without actually building anything new.  A monetised initiative could see the app used for exclusive queue management or “fast-track” passes, letting users fulfil their itineraries by picking out desired time slots for each attraction.

Custom-drawn interactive maps are something we’ve seen success with in our Glastonbury apps, and giving users a detailed, contextualised view of their location in the park adds further utility. The physical experience becomes richer when guests can see dynamic, changing information for the things around them, allowing them to make more informed decisions. Timed special offers at nearby concession stands could help drive footfall, while digital scavenger hunts using the app could let younger visitors explore otherwise unknown parts of the park.

Collecting data for more intelligent park management

Implementing digital doesn’t just bring value for users; it also enables parks to collect powerful data on the operation of their business. Much of the above functionality can be enhanced by iBeacons: tiny Bluetooth devices that can share information with smartphones through an app. For users, these beacons would enable location-based messaging and a more contextual experience, whilst the park can use the collected data for more efficient site management.

Strategically placed beacons could determine real-time queue duration by measuring how quickly users move from point-to-point, while the same technology could generate heatmaps, visitor density information, and guests’ journeys around the park. This information could save cost by identifying which areas require more cleaning/security/catering resource, which attractions could have their operation frequency altered, or identify areas of the park they may wish to improve.

The power of modern mobile technology means there are a range of potential solutions that vary in cost and complexity. When applied intelligently, these solutions greatly improve the customer experience, while also providing theme parks with valuable data and insight on how to enhance their service offering. User receptiveness to mobile and apps remains high, and theme parks present an exciting opportunity for digital implementation that to this point has been underexplored.


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