How to compare ready made mobile app solutions for your theme park, zoo or resort

In this article, we’ll show you exactly what to look for in your new technology partner, so that you can buy with confidence.
May 2021

Ready made mobile app solutions provide a cost-effective solution for theme parks, amusement parks, resorts and zoos looking to increase their influence over guest behaviour and spending without the headaches associated with building a bespoke software application from scratch. 

Still comparing your options? Check out our guide on buying vs building mobile apps.

Once you’ve decided that a SaaS platform is the right fit for your attraction, the next step in your buying journey is to compare vendors so that you can identify the provider whose features, pricing and service provision aligns best with your needs. As a starting point, you’ll probably want to compare:

  1. Customisation and personalisation
  2. Cost
  3. Native Vs Web Based
  4. Security and privacy
  5. Integration capabilities
  6. Support and responsiveness

For the remainder of this article, we'll explore each area in more detail, sharing what you need to look for in your mobile app partner AND the exact questions you need to ask to compare each provider's capability. So let's get to it! 

Alton Towers Resort app in the Apple app store

Customisation and Personalisation

SaaS platforms aren’t all created equal. Vendors often adopt a one-size-fits-all approach to streamline their development process and reduce costs. But for clients, this can have a significant impact on the way guests perceive the final mobile app, which can look generic and inauthentic. Ask prospective vendors how their solution will help you stand out from the crowd. After all, the last thing you want is a cookie-cutter app that looks suspiciously like your competitors’ and prevents you from differentiating your digital offering. 

At Attractions.io, we understand that the key to delivering incredible, digital guest adventures is successfully translating an authentic version of your offline guest experience into the online world. Guests should seamlessly be able to switch between digital and real-life whilst still being totally immersed in your brand, whether that’s at a theme park, zoo or amusement park.

To help you achieve this, we’ve designed our mobile app platform with personalisation in mind. You choose the icons, branding, imagery and even work with our illustrators to design your own interactive maps. Then we’ll bring it all to life! 

Key customisation questions to ask:

  • Am I able to brand/ white label my application?
  • How do you design site maps and other iconography?
  • How can I personalise push notifications and promotions that I send to guests?
Attractions.io platform options

Cost 

Buyers evaluating a ready-made mobile app platform should look beyond headline costs provided by vendors (e.g. the annual fixed-rate or monthly fee) and consider the total cost of implementation, support and, importantly, calculate the expected ROI of their chosen solution. 

Most vendors have a tiered pricing structure, consisting of a core offer plus premium ‘add-ons’ that can be included for an additional fee. For example, at Attractions.io, our core app platform provides all the tools attractions need to influence guest behaviour on-site, but you can choose to add additional capabilities, like digital tickets and mobile food ordering if you require them. This helps us keep the core price down so that you only pay for the functionality you need. 

Key cost-related questions to ask:

  • Are there any hidden setup fees?
  • Will I need to pay extra to access upgrades and new features?
  • Will I need to pay extra to access support?

Native Vs Web Based 

When you imagine your new mobile app, you probably envisage guests tapping into the App Store and finding it nestled between other entertainment apps, with a host of glowing 5 star reviews from satisfied visitors. But what if we told you that some apps never make it to the iOS and android stores at all? 

That’s because some apps are web based, which means they’re hosted online and accessed from a browser on your mobile device rather than being built for a specific platform, such as iPhone or Android, like native mobile apps are. The biggest downside of web-based mobile apps is the lack of access to the hardware features of a mobile. such as its GPS, camera and bluetooth. And for attractions, this makes it much harder to create world class digital experiences. 

Without GPS, you can’t tailor mobile wayfinding to your guests needs. Without bluetooth, you can’t take advantage of ibeacons and push notifications. Ultimately, with a web-based app you lose the ability to personalise your experiences for individual guests whereas a native mobile app offers personalisation, customisation and increased flexibility. 

If you are choosing a native app for your attraction, here’s another consideration to keep in mind: some app platforms don’t publish your app in the App Stores directly either. Instead, guests are required to download a master app (usually under the platform brand name) and select your app from their customer list, placing an extra barrier between you and potential users of your app. At attractions.io, we believe in frictionless guest journeys and will support your application to the App Stores instead!

Key questions to ask:

  • Is this a web based or native mobile platform?
  • What hardware will the app need access too?
  • Will I be listed on the app store under my own brand name?
Do not enter sign

Security and Privacy

Security and privacy concerns weigh heavily on the minds of many buyers we speak to, and it’s only natural; recent studies have revealed that lifestyle and entertainment apps are the most likely app category to be targeted by malicious attacks. And if that’s not a good enough reason to bump security up on your priority list, we don’t know what is!

Depending on the solution you choose, a mobile app platform can involve multiple vendors. For example, there may be a firewall and/or hosting provider responsible for maintaining the web portals you use to manage customer contact information and communications. Therefore, you’ll want to know exactly how that information is protected and whose responsibility it is to monitor and prevent malicious activity. 

You’ll also need to consider whether your app provider complies with local data privacy laws, as these differ between regions. For example, US based sites need to take COPPA regulations into account, whilst GDPR needs to be strictly adhered to in Europe.  

Key security questions to ask: 

  • Are there any third party vendors involved in the delivery, management or maintenance of the mobile apps and/or web-based applications?
  • How does the solution comply with local data protection laws? 
  • What security is in place at the colocation or hosting provider’s facilities, if utilised?
  • Who manages network connectivity, firewalls and access and identity management?
The Attractions.io platform linking with other providers

Integration Capabilities

Imagine sitting down with a vendor whose app seems to tick all the boxes, only to find that you need to migrate your EPOS, ticketing system, photo provider & mobile food ordering solution to their in-house product range to proceed. Or worse, they don’t offer all the integrations you need in the first place. Suddenly, your simple app project seems like a much more daunting task.  

Whilst some providers lock you into their complete software suite, others, like Attractions.io, integrate with third party solutions. Why? Well, we know we’re the best at what we do and would rather connect our attractions ecosystem to other leading vendors than attempt to be a jack of all trades. For the customer, this approach saves you thousands in potential migration costs and speeds up in-house adoption of your new app, as operators can continue using the tools they’re familiar with. Plus, you’ll benefit from best in breed technology at every level of your platform!

Key integration questions to ask:

  • Can I continue to use my existing EPOS, ticketing and photo solutions with your platform? 
  • You don’t integrate with my [name solutions here]; do you offer custom integrations?
Attractions.io team member assisting via video chat

Support and Responsiveness 

Launching a mobile app is a big undertaking, so ensuring that you have support on hand before, during and after you go live is integral to the success of your app. At Attractions.io, we pride ourselves on the personalised support package we provide to all of our customers. So when you come on board, you’ll have a dedicated customer success representative and delivery team on hand to help you get off to a flying start.

Together they’ll assist with the setup, training and launch of your app. There’s even the option to schedule regular check-ins to review your results and get suggestions on what more you can do to reach your customers. There’s no extra fees, no limits on requests and absolutely no automated responses. 

Key support questions to ask:

  • Who is responsible for managing my account after launch?
  • Do I have access to 24/5 or 24/7 support if I need it?

Go forth with confidence! 

It’s easy to feel overwhelmed when comparing new software for your zoo, theme park or resort. Still, by focusing on the five criteria above, you can ensure that you ask all the right questions of potential new providers so that weighing up the pros and cons of each becomes far less daunting! 

Ultimately, you want to choose a solution that is best of breed and ranks highly across each factor. It should be intuitive, easy to use, secure and customisable- maximising brand exposure and user experience at each touchpoint. 

Want to learn more? Click here to connect with our team.

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May 2021

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