From visits to visionary: how experience platforms optimise the guest journey

Your guests want a thrilling experience that is friction-free, tailored to them and memorable for all the right reasons. Let's make it happen!
Ellen Wilkinson
September 2023

How do you measure commercial success? Most attractions base performance on revenue growth or fundraising achievements. And with few obvious ways to influence on-site behaviour, it’s tempting to see increasing guest numbers as the most effective way of hitting your targets.

But if you’re hellbent on maximising the number of guests coming through your door, you tend to spend less time making the most of the ones you already have, resulting in a huge missed opportunity.

Not only is it significantly easier to drive repeat visits from current guests than recruit new ones, but it’s also far easier to influence their spending habits. Less than 50% of revenue at attractions arises from ticket sales; the rest comes from secondary spend.

In short, you need to attend to your guests’ needs during their visit, rather than solely focusing on their pre-ticket purchase.

What guests want

Today’s guests want—no, demand—a level of service from you that’s tailored, thoughtful, and provides VIP treatment.

To dig deeper into this desire for an individual approach, we need to consider why guests choose to visit attractions in the first place. Whilst there are several motivational drivers, two in particular stand out:

  • Escapism. The need to escape the hustle and bustle of their daily lives and immerse themselves in an alternate world that’s centred around their wants/needs.
  • Creating memories. Whether it’s a trip with their significant other, friendship group or family, guests want to experience something extraordinary and build memories that last a lifetime.

Visits should be a welcome escape from the stresses of everyday life and seek to maximise the time guests spend together as a group. The experience should be remarkable. The visit itself, effortless.

Changing demographics

On top of these motivational drivers, we have to account for changing guest demographics. Millennials and Gen Z-ers now make up the majority of the workforce and are soon to have the largest disposable income of any generational group.

Fortunately, these younger generations are wholly on board with the experience economy. A study by Harris Group found that 72% of millennials would rather open their wallets for experiences than material items. However, their expectations of customer service, facilities and digital capabilities on-site vastly exceed those of their parent’s generation.

Young guests expect their digital and physical experiences to complement one another. Growing up as the first digitally native generation, these kids grew up with smartphones and rejoiced when mobile apps turned our handheld devices into pocket computers. They’re used to having the answer to every question at their fingertips and the services they require available on demand.

What creates friction in your guests’ journey?

A consequence of these demographic changes is that guests appear to be increasingly impatient. After all, they’ve grown up in a world where instant gratification is the norm!

Whether it’s buying their ticket, finding information or queuing for a ride, tolerance for friction is at an all-time low—but thanks to the rise of social media, so is the willingness to air frustrations!

According to Esteban Kolsky, 13% of unhappy customers will share their experience with 15 or more people, making it more critical than ever to focus on maximising the visitor experience rather than just driving visitor numbers.

Guests experience multiple points of friction during the day, which affect their experience of your attraction.

Creating seamless customer experiences

Connecting your end-to-end guest journey makes it possible to deliver the friction-free experiences today’s guests crave.

How? You invest in digital technology that links each phase of their visit. Instead of facing a cycle of peaks and troughs, each moment in a connected guest journey builds upon the last, enabling guests to truly embrace the escapist mindset and focus on creating those special moments with loved ones.

At the same time, you’ll benefit from increased guest satisfaction, which leads to better reviews, more brand advocates and increased spending.

This isn’t a new idea. Joe Pine, the author of The Experience Economy, shared his belief that all attractions require a digital guest experience platform in a previous interview for blooloop in 2018. He explained:

“You need that experience platform layer that will allow you to identify the customer, and customise for them. If you take the friction points out of everything, it frees up the staff to serve the guests, and provide that great experience for them.”

A friction-free guest journey

Map showing a friction free guest journey

So what would Joe’s vision of a friction-free guest journey look like? As you can see from the diagram below, using an experience platform like a mobile app minimises the mini disappointments guests can experience throughout their day.

For example, instead of reaching their favourite ride only to discover it’s closed, the app directs them to the nearest open ride and they can queue virtually, saving precious time. Thus, instead of their journey consisting of a series of peaks and troughs, it’s a far more positive experience.

Using a mobile app, you can minimise negative experiences and help guests get the most out of their day.

Less friction, more fun! The benefits of getting it right

For attractions that successfully connect their guest journey using digital technology, the payoff is enormous.

By focusing on the experience itself, rather than driving an individual metric such as visitor numbers, you maximise the potential of every guest. Those that use digital platforms to tailor their experience report higher rates of satisfaction post-visit – attractions using an mobile app, for instance, benefit from an average NPS increase of 11% post-launch.

In turn, high satisfaction creates an affinity for your brand, and that encourages repeat visitation. As it’s six times more expensive to woo a new customer than it is to retain an existing one (think about how much you’ve spent on first dates in your lifetime!), this isn’t a statistic to be overlooked.

Furthermore, these highly enthused guests are more likely to share their experiences with others, so you’ll still grow that all-important visitor number via word of mouth.

When we view the guest journey in this way, it operates as an infinite loop. By perfecting the experience, momentum builds throughout your guest lifecycle, which keeps existing and new guests engaged with your attraction for years to come.

Your connected toolkit

Using a mobile app as your guest experience hub, we’ve found the following capabilities to be the foundations of the best guest journeys: 

Integrated ticketing

Today, 70% of customers expect you to offer self-service purchase routes. So, give them what they want. Let them buy tickets ahead of time by offering ticket and season pass sales via your digital experience platform. When they arrive, they just scan and go to enjoy friction-free entry! 

Optimised day planning

Using a mobile app with interactive wayfinding, guests can check queue times and avoid popular attractions at peak times to make the most of their day. Plus, they can get instant directions anywhere on site, so they no longer waste precious time on navigation. 96% of guests who use the app and leave feedback say their experience was positive.

benefits of connecting the guest experience

Virtual queuing

By integrating virtual queuing with your mobile app solution, you can remove the most significant source of frustration within the guest journey. At LEGOLAND Florida, total rides given per hour increased by 43% when they introduced virtual queuing. Meanwhile, overall ride throughput exceeded their pre-deployment targets by more than 10%.

Mobile food ordering

Hungry? Let guests order in advance with mobile food ordering, so their lunch is ready exactly when they want it. Or, let them order directly to the table and minimise contact during your table service. We’ve seen ATV increase by over 40% using mobile food ordering. So, it’s great for your spend per cap targets too!

Mobile wallets

Consumers expect cashless payments, especially those in the younger generations. Not only that, but 95% will spend more if a park has a dedicated app. Eliminate the need for cash on-site and introduce a mobile wallet.

Instant check-In

Save guests time at the end of a long day and automatically check them into their resort hotel room. Using the mobile access pass, they can head straight on in and collapse into bed dreaming about their day!

Unlock the full potential of every visit.

As guest expectations change, attractions must create seamless guest journeys. Ones that eliminate friction and maximise the potential of every part of the guest experience. Integrated technology solutions, like mobile apps, play a critical role in making this possible.

Operators need to analyse data from previous experiences to remove the hassle and enable guests to have the experience they came for; one that lets them escape from their everyday life and creates memorable moments with their loved ones. Making this possible requires advanced customer engagement that begins before guests arrive and continues after they have gone home.

If you want to learn more about connecting your guest journey to drive visitation, spend and guest advocacy, book a meeting with our experience consultants here. 

This article was originally featured on Blooloop.


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Ellen Wilkinson

Marketing Manager and Zoo Enthusiast
September 2023

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