Mobile apps & the art of the possible – Blooloop V-Expo roundup

We recap the role mobile apps present for attractions to delight their guests and deliver sustainable results in a post-COVID world.

Recently, we presented at the Blooloop V-Expo —  the first virtual conference for the global visitor attraction industry. The event, which took place over three days in October, featured insightful content from more than 50 industry professionals, who shared their take on what trends will shape the future of the attractions industry. 

Unsurprisingly, one of the main topics of discussion was technology. Pretty much everyone seemed to agree that the role of technology in the guest experience is becoming more imperative. From digital storytelling to live streaming and virtual reality, technology is transforming visitor attractions. That, in turn, is driving new and higher customer expectations about how an attraction experience should look and feel like.

As a mobile app provider for attractions, our presentation, titled “Mobile Apps & The Art of the Possible,” focused on the opportunities that mobile apps present for attractions. In particular, we looked at the inefficiencies of visitor attractions today, critical trends attraction operators can’t afford to overlook in the long-run, and — yes you guessed it, how mobile apps can help.

With the average person spending 90% of their time on the phone using apps, it’s becoming evident that a branded mobile app is no longer just about getting ahead; it’s about staying viable. Still not convinced? Here are 10 common myths about mobile apps for visitor attractions, debunked.

The problem with today’s visitor experiences

Most people are excited to visit an attraction — until they get there. Why? Because the experience of visiting theme parks, resorts, and other entertainment venues today is, more often than not, outdated and disjointed. Here are three main issues affecting attraction guests and operators right now: 

1. Guest frustrations

At a typical attraction, guests have to put up with numerous friction points during their visit. In many cases, feelings of frustration surface as soon as guests park their car. That’s because guests generally have to stand in a long queue to collect their ticket before they can even walk through the gate and start exploring.

And that’s just the start of your guests’ day. Other difficulties are bound to arise during their visit, as well. These may include:

  • Not knowing which rides their kids can go on.
  • Not knowing when or where any of the shows are on.
  • Not being able to locate a cafe or toilets on-site. 

It really is a no-brainer. If your guests spend the better part of their visit wandering cluelessly on-site, they’re unlikely to want to return. 

2. Lack of influence

The majority of marketers at attractions have no way of communicating or influencing guests once they’re on site. Because your guests’ time on site is when they’re going to spend money, this presents a serious problem.

If you have no way of alerting guests to the availability of specific offers or to expose them to cross-sells and up-sells, you’re going to be losing out on potential revenue regardless of how much you spend on marketing elsewhere. 

3. Not enough data

Worldwide e-commerce sales grew by 18% from 2019, coming in at $3.5 trillion, and are expected to double by 2023. Far from a new trend, how does e-commerce keep growing so quickly? One word: data. 

If you look at e-commerce sites, they have a ton of data on their customers. Thanks to customer analytics, e-commerce operators can know the number of users that click on a featured offer, which users are the most profitable, where they lose their customers, and much much more. All this helps e-commerce sites optimise the user experience and ultimately, make better operational decisions. 

On the other hand, attraction operators have limited means of making data driven-decisions in business-critical areas. They generally have no way of knowing what guests do at their attraction, the amount of time they spend at a specific ride or exhibit, and the route they take to get there. In other words, attraction operators are effectively blind to the on-premises guest experiences. 

Our changing world

The above isn’t helped by the fact that attractions have to contend with a changing world. Even before COVID-19, which has turned the attractions industry upside down, guest expectations were already changing rapidly.

As Joe Pine explained in his presentation at Blooloop V-Expo; ‘How Can The Experience Economy Respond To The Corona crisis’  the impact or acceleration of fusing digital with the real world is here to stay.

A lot of this comes down to shifting demographics. According to Forbes, Generation Z will be the largest consumer group by 2026. This is important, as Gen Zers are true digital natives. 

Having grown up with smartphones, Google, and YouTube, Gen Zers are less tolerant of friction than other generations. According to the Allianz Digital Generations Study, “for Digital Natives, online and offline is completely interconnected, and the barriers between digital and physical cease to exist.”

Gen Zers are also unwilling to wait and hate the idea of wasting time. While the sheer prospect of having nothing to do makes them feel uncomfortable, that’s not to say that they are inherently impatient. It’s just that the experiences they have had have been very different from the generation before. 

Indeed, while only 53% of Baby Boomers say they expect businesses to offer instant, on-demand engagement, 75% of Gen Zers and Millennials expect it.

And why shouldn’t they? Seamless, connected experiences are already the norm in other industries. Look at Netflix, Uber, Amazon; they’re all personalised, on-demand, and offer an excellent user experience. Personalisation is no longer a nice to have. It’s expected. Today, every customer wants to be treated as an individual.

These are significant changes that pose big questions to our industry. And that’s all before you throw a global pandemic into the mix. COVID-19 has accelerated the pace of change and our reliance on technology in three key areas:

3 key areas communication, social distancing and contactless interactions

IAAPA has issued a comprehensive guide to attractions looking to re-open safely, suggesting that they use different technologies, including digital ticketing, digital food ordering, and virtual queuing. All three can easily be achieved via a branded app experience.

The opportunity 

At the moment, there are two schools of thought regarding COVID-19 and the havoc it has caused on our industry. Some believe that eventually, things will go back to the way they were in 2019 and before. Others see this time as a challenge to do better. 

The truth is: things will never be the same as they were a year or two ago. It’s time to reinvent the attractions experience for the better. 

Within the challenge of meeting today's demands, there’s an opportunity to look at the guest journey from start to finish. In doing so, you can design an experience that both delights your guests and delivers sustainable results over the long term. The best way to do this is to make use of the device that sits in everyone’s pocket. 

A branded mobile app is not only the best but the only channel that can connect the entire guest journey; pre, during, and post-visit. To see how this can be done, read our next post to see a day-in-the-life of a theme park guest using a mobile guest visitor app. Alternatively, watch the full session from the Blooloop V-Expo:

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