Going paperless - Why more attractions are ditching the traditional map in favour of digital alternatives

We've witnessed many of our customers stop printing their paper maps this year and go 100% digital via their mobile app. Here's why:
Jacob Thompson, ICAP
March 2021

Traditionally, visiting an attraction has meant leaving a significant paper trail behind. From paper maps and tickets to printed food menus and information leaflets, attraction visits were a significant contributor to paper wastage every year.

Thankfully, this negative trend has been slowly changing. Driven by environmental and corporate social responsibility (CSR) factors and aided by the advancement in technology, many attractions have successfully reduced their own and their guests’ dependency on paper. The rise of digital signage and digital ticketing as well as guest-facing apps, have made it easier for attractions to reap the benefits of going paperless without compromising the guest experience. 

Eager to appeal to climate-conscious visitors interested in the natural world, zoos are at the forefront of this movement towards waste reduction. For example, in 2019 our customers, Twycross Zoo ditched their traditional paper maps in favour of a mobile guest app that features an interactive map. Their main driver for going digital? Reducing the amount of waste they produce and ultimately minimising their carbon footprint. 

COVID-19 has further accelerated this trend and is pushing attractions towards paperless guest experiences by necessitating a reduction in physical contact points. So, with all this in mind, why should attractions go paperless?

Benefits of going paperless

While going paperless presents a myriad of benefits for attractions, we’ve singled out the three most important ones (in our opinion) below. 

1. It’s better for the environment 

Paper waste at theme parks

Did you know that we use over 12 million tons of paper each year in the UK alone? To put that into perspective, think of it this way: the trees required to produce this amount of paper would cover the entirety of Wales. As well as reducing deforestation, going paperless minimises CO2 emissions (making one ton of paper emits over 1.5 tons of CO2 equivalent) and saves water (it takes more than 1.5 cups of water to make just one sheet of paper!)

The environmental benefit of going paperless is something your guests increasingly care about. According to a 2017 study on corporate social responsibility, almost 9 in 10 customers have a more positive image of an organisation that supports environmental issues. Moreover, about 9 in 10 consumers are also more likely to trust and be loyal to a company that tries to make an impact when it comes to environmental matters. 

The pandemic hasn’t shifted people’s opinion in this regard, either. If anything, almost half of consumers say that COVID-19 has made them more concerned about the environment. 

2. You can save a fortune on printing costs

Although going paperless comes with a few upfront costs, you’re going to save a considerable amount of money in the long run. Digitising guest-facing and internal materials means you won’t have to print the huge volumes of paper maps, tickets, information booklets, and membership passes that can consume a vast amount of time and budgetary resources as well as natural ones. Instead, you can make everything easily available to guests through a guest-facing mobile app. 

Unlike printed materials, digital equivalents can be updated quickly and easily, making sure your guests always have the most up-to-date information. 

3. It’s a better experience for guests

Today’s highly connected customers want instant gratification. A 2018 PwC study revealed that almost 80% of American consumers say that speed and convenience are some of the most important elements within a positive customer experience. What this means is simple: your visitors don’t want to wait in line for 20 minutes to collect a piece of paper just so that they can enter your attraction. With a digital ticket, they don’t have to. 

Even if you give your attraction guests the option of printing their attraction pass at home, not all of them might have a personal printer. More than three-quarters of British workers reported that they printed personal documents at work, but with the recent spike in remote working, even fewer guests will now have access to a printer. Moreover, some visitors are bound to lose their ticket, which will inevitably lead to a headache on your end and frustration on theirs. 

Going digital also means that your guests no longer have to seek out information in disparate places (i.e., your web site, social media, information brochures, printed maps, the help desk, and so on). Instead, visitors can get whatever information they need in one place. In this way, a mobile guest app is like a digital concierge that gives your guests a unified experience with your brand. 

Interactive map theme park app
The Paultons Park App

Not only that, but with a guest app, you can also personalise your visitors’ experiences. For example, an app can deliver intelligent suggestions and highly-targeted offers as well as highlight activities based on a visitor's demographic and on-site behaviour. For instance, if a guest is close to the penguin exhibit when they’re about to be fed, the app may highlight the upcoming feed as something to stick around for. This adds a whole new personalised layer of experience onto your standard location maps. To guests, this kind of personalisation is critical. A RedPoint Global survey by The Harris Poll discovered that more than half of customers expect a personalised experience as a standard of service. 

Speaking of personalisation, since a guest mobile app features an interactive map, there’s no risk of guests getting lost and spending the better part of their day trying to locate the ride or exhibit they’re most interested in. With an interactive map, guests can pinpoint their exact location and navigate your grounds easily. Navigating a paper map is much harder, especially if it’s outdated. Because it can be updated in real-time and can include things like live wait times, a digital map makes navigation far easier. 

IAAPA recommend digital ticketing, mobile food ordering, virtual queuing in their COVID-19 re-opening guidance

All of the above, as well as other features like virtual queuing and mobile food ordering facilitated by the app, can help support social distancing. In a recent survey by A Different View, 71% of customers said that the physical distancing measures an attraction has in place are the most crucial factor they’d consider when deciding whether or not to visit it. 

This is already happening…

As we’ve already mentioned above, we have several customers whose primary drivers (if not the primary driver) for a mobile guest app was their desire to go paperless. As of September 2020, many of our customers have stopped printing paper maps and solely use their apps for guest navigation. 

This number is likely to keep growing as more and more attractions continue to review their environmental impact and the potential benefits of going paperless. 

This is already commonplace in other industries too

Replacing paper maps with mobile apps

While paper is not yet obsolete, many industries have already gone digital. Here are just a few examples:

  • Road atlases have been largely replaced by sat nav and navigation apps like Google maps, which provide satellite imagery, real-time conditions of traffic, and route planning. Almost 8 in 10 smartphone users regularly use navigation apps. 
  • The paper airline ticket has been replaced by an electronic ticket, reducing airline costs by about $3 billion worldwide and cutting the cost of issuing a ticket from $10 to $1.
  • Magazines and newspapers are moving away from print, too. Seventeen, Teen Vogue, Glamour, O (the Oprah Magazine), Computerworld, and Brides are just some of the magazines that have gone digital-only. Print sales of the UK's national newspapers fell by 39% in April due to lockdown. 

Extending the value

Going paperless is just one of the benefits of digital technology for your guests and your business. The true value of investing in digital solutions is being able to deliver the connected and personalised experiences that customers increasingly want and expect. Paper can’t provide that. 

However, getting technology right isn’t easy. To find out how you can go paperless today, while creating an end-to-end experience that adds value to guests throughout their visit, watch our webinar: Creating a Connected Digital Experience for the New Normal.

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Jacob Thompson, ICAP

Helping attractions to thrive in a digital age
March 2021

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