How do attraction operators benefit from using marketing flywheels?

Digital transformation is rapidly disrupting traditional guest journeys, leaving the traditional sales funnel in need of a refresh.
Ellen Wilkinson
November 2021

Attraction marketers often think of the sales cycle as linear. Guests buy their tickets, spend the day on-site, make memories and head home. Voila! The journey is complete until a few years down the line; they catch an advert or enticing 2 for 1 deal (Kellogs cereal anyone?) that tempts them into revisiting. 

Surely there’s a better way?

This week, I caught up with Jacob Thompson, Business Development Manager here at, to discuss how ditching old school, linear, funnel methodologies in favour of a flywheel can breathe a new lease of life into the guest journey and give attraction marketers more influence over spending, loyalty and revisitation.

Goodbye funnels?

Believe it or not, the funnel has been a cornerstone of sales and marketing teams for over 100 years 😱 In 1898, St. Elmo Lewis developed the AIDA funnel methodology as an approach to direct selling. The model he laid out contained a sequence that describes the process a salesperson needs to lead a prospect through to secure their business. 

The four stages form a linear hierarchy, and thus the original funnel was born. Perhaps this looks familiar?

But that was then, and this is the digitally-driven, data-powered now. 

“As a sales and marketing model, funnels still work, but only when they’re used as part of a holistic revenue strategy,” Jacob explains. “Their weakness is that once the desired action is completed, such as buying a ticket in the case of the attraction industry, there’s no provision for continued engagement. This encourages teams to view the journey as complete, rather than using that customer’s experience to unlock additional revenue, through revisitation, referrals or upgrades.” 

The key disadvantage of the linear funnel structure is that it treats customers as an afterthought. Marketers spend months nurturing a lead through each phase of their buyer’s journey until they finally come to a decision. Once they’ve converted, they drop out of the bottom of the funnel, never to be seen again.

Before we had digital tools at our disposal, this made approach made some sense. Without a reliable way of connecting with guests during and after their visit, driving admissions was one of the most predictable ways to increase revenue (and for marketing managers, it was easily quantified, helping to justify the ROI of their teams’ efforts). 

But not anymore!  In today’s digital age, we have tools like mobile apps, chatbots, SMS messaging and targeted advertisements that help us stay close to guests throughout the visitor experience and influence their behaviour on-site. Not to mention a whole host of performance monitoring solutions that enable us to dig deeper into guests experiences. 

Long story short: In 2021, we don’t need our customer journeys to stop at the entry gate.

Hello flywheel 

The funnel was a great representation of how buyers used to learn about products before we had digital technology — they found (or were sent) marketing materials, they spoke to sales directly to find out more information, and then they became customers.

Consumers today, especially digitally savvy millennials and gen-z’s, shop in different ways. They browse your site, add tickets and then abandon the cart. They check reviews on comparison sites like Trip Advisor, and they post their own experiences on social media for friends to see and get ideas for their next day out from online influencers. Unlike Lewis’ sales funnel, today’s consumers can enter the buying cycle at any customer journey stage.

Building on this customer momentum and powered by a wealth of data made available by martech solutions like CRMs, booking platforms, and guest-facing apps, a new guest experience flywheel has emerged as a funnel alternative that engages customers across multiple touchpoints; both physical and digital.  

“Attractions that use the flywheel model instead of a traditional funnel have a huge advantage. They aren’t the only ones growing their business — their customers are contributing as well.”

Jacob explains: “Today, a purchase can be the starting point of the customer journey rather than its end. Marketing technology has made it possible to interact directly with customers at any stage of their journey, so we’ve got hundreds of opportunities to connect with guests and influence their behaviour. Similarly, they’ve got more opportunities to share their experiences using digital channels. The flywheel uses these customer experiences to grow awareness, and consequently, it builds momentum with every cycle."

But how can you guarantee that you’ll be able to build momentum in your flywheel? The key is to delight the customer throughout each phase of their buying experience and after completing their purchase. By doing so, you can inspire customers to share their experiences and, as a result, drive admissions, revisitation and loyalty.

Top 3 Flywheel benefits

  1. Drives on-site spending: Up to 50% of revenue arises from secondary spending on site. If your funnel stops at the admissions desk, you’re missing out valuable revenue from other stages of the guest journey. 
  1. Know your guests better: The flywheel methodology relies on a cycle of touchpoints and data. You connect with your guests at their stage of the guest journey and monitor your interactions to iterate and improve your influence as they move through the cycle. This process of interaction and analysis deepens your customer understanding, helping you refine your messaging for crucial segments.
  1. Flywheels build their momentum: Linear customer journeys stop with an action, whereas a flywheel continually builds momentum with every stage. 81% of buyers trust their families’ and friends’ recommendations more than businesses advice. By focusing on the entire customer journey, a single visit can become a powerful call to action for that guest’s connections. 

How do you implement the flywheel methodology?

The flywheel methodology requires you to constantly communicate with guests as they move through the visitor journey. Hence the importance of having the right tech stack at your attraction. 

While your website, social media and email marketing platforms can support your flywheel activity (particularly the awareness and engagement phases), only one technology can be utilised at every stage; your mobile app. Jacob explains:

“Attractions using mobile apps in addition to other digital touchpoints can more effectively move customers through the stages of the flywheel. Direct messaging plays a huge part in this, as it allows marketing teams to influence guests experiences as they unfold – they can minimise known causes of friction and maximise satisfaction with responsive tips and offers that enhance guests’ visits and nudge them toward the loyalty and advocacy stages.”

We recommend developing an omnichannel strategy that uses the app in conjunction with your web and digital channels to provide guests with multiple avenues to engage with your brand. Below we’ve simply outlined how an app supports each stage of the flywheel:

Stage 1: Attract

Use the app in conjunction with your social media and website to provide a one-stop-shop for visitor Information. From accessibility arrangements to directions and pricing, you can add essential prebooking info directly in the app.

Stage 2: Engage

Connect with guests in real-time using push notifications and location-based Bluetooth beacons to drive engagement and participation in on-site activities. You can even send ticket offers, encouraging users to visit.

Stage 3: Delight

Take the friction out of your guests days by introducing virtual queuing and live wait times in the app. Then, use real-time messaging to communicate any changes as they happen, so guests are always informed.

Delight guests with personalised itineraries targeted to their group demographics, offer in-app activity bookings and share exclusive app-only offers that help guests pack even more into their day.

Stage 4: Spend

Influence guest spending with mobile food ordering, targeted offers and fast track upgrades available in just a tap. 

Stage 5: Build loyalty

Put customers at the heart of your strategy. By focusing on improving the end-to-end experience and minimising on-site friction, you’ll enhance guest satisfaction. And by targeting delighted guests with a revisitation offer or season pass upgrade at the optimum time, you can turn day guests into repeat visitors with ease. 

For more on using an app to drive loyalty, we recommend checking out this post.

Stage 6: Advocate

Once you’ve cultivated a core group of loyal guests, use their influence to spin your flywheel: request Trip Advisor reviews and guest feedback within the app. 

Next Steps

Today’s martech platforms and digital guest-facing solutions like the app platform have already changed how we attract, delight and retain guests. By utilising the flywheel methodology, you can make sure you leverage the full power of your customers and build momentum across the entire guest experience. 

Download our free revenue guide for theme park marketers to learn more about using a mobile app to support your marketing objectives.

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Ellen Wilkinson

Marketing Manager and Zoo Enthusiast
November 2021

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