The 5 most under-estimated benefits of mobile apps for visitor attractions

Guest facing mobile apps can deliver a raft of benefits to visitor attractions, but their true value is often overlooked. Here's why:
July 2020

A guest facing mobile app is just a nice-to-have marketing tool that has limited value and hard to quantify ROI, right?

Wrong! A good mobile app is the most effective way to improve the guest experience, generate significant, measurable revenue and capture unparalleled guest insights to inform operational decisions.

Don’t worry, the true opportunities that mobile apps can bring to visitor attractions often get overlooked. Here are 5 common scenarios where we regularly hear the phrase: “well we didn’t know an app could do that.”

1. Apps improve the relevance and effectiveness of your marketing efforts  

For the first time, a mobile app enables marketing teams to understand what guests are doing while they’re on site with you and communicate with them, in real-time during their visit.

Previously, while marketing teams were armed with infinite segmentation and targeting capabilities to personalise the guest’s experience before and after their visit, the actual visit was somewhat of a black hole.

Through location services, push notifications and integration with CRM systems, a mobile app enables both behavioural and demographic targeting capabilities, enabling marketers to send the right message, to the right guest, at the right time.

2. Apps can help operations teams make data-driven decisions 

Getting live data from guests using your app has the potential to transform how you make decisions. By letting you see where your guests are, an app can help you visualise in real-time where people are and aren't going. That can help you plan layouts, test out new ideas, and make decisions. 

Importantly real-life guest data means you can figure out what works and what doesn't, quickly. 

Getting this kind of real-life insight can even change how you see your theme park or attraction, sometimes in surprising ways. For example, when the University of Cambridge Museum started tracking where their guests went, they realised that people sometimes approach the exhibition from the opposite direction to what they imagined. 

During periods of social distancing, this intelligence will also be invaluable for identifying overcrowded areas and informing decisions about capacity management.

3. An app can help attractions get ahead of consumer trends

Visitor demographics are changing and this has been accelerated by the COVID-19 pandemic, polarising consumer sentiment and confidence to visit attractions across different age groups. Millennials and Generation Z will be more likely to visit attractions sooner, according to research from Visit Britain.

Furthermore, IAAPA’s Global Theme and Amusement Park Outlook attributed the biggest opportunity for growth to increased spending by millennials, who value instant and connected experiences.

Mobile payments

With a sustained impact on visitor numbers becoming ever more likely, identifying opportunities to increase on-site spend will be crucial.

One way an app can help you improve your capability to influence and increase per capita spending is thanks to a rise in mobile payments. Millennials and Generation Z are far more likely to make a purchase from their phone using instant payments than their predecessors.

An app that allows your guests to purchase tickets online, take advantage of special offers, and even order food creates new commercial opportunities for your attraction. An app can also change the way you up-sell across your attraction by allowing you to target deals based on customer behaviour. For example, guests could be offered enticing queue upgrades if they're entering a ride with a lengthy queue time. 

Mobile payments can make visiting your attraction a smoother experience for your guests, too. By reducing the requirement to bring cash as well as making purchasing extras such as food and merchandise easier, an app can make the guest experience frictionless.

Go paperless

Did you know that producing 100,000 sheets of paper from new sources requires over 8 trees and almost 2,000kWh of energy? Using an app to distribute digitised material such as theme park maps or exhibition guides can also improve your environmental impact by reducing the amount of paper your attraction uses annually. Making steps to cut down on paper waste can enhance your appeal to environmentally conscious consumers, as well.

Get personalised

As your customers become increasingly digital native, you need to be too. Research shows that most customers now expect personalisation when it comes to new products and services. An app can help you meet these expectations by giving your visitors a personalised, multi-channel, guest experience. That means that from start to finish, their day at your attraction is aided by a smart digital concierge in the form of an app. 

4. Apps eliminate the biggest sources of friction and guest frustration

Imagine being told that a theme park ride has a 10-minute wait. But half an hour later, you’re still waiting. Naturally, you’d be frustrated. What’s more, you might even choose to skip the next ride and go home early, fearing a repeat of the unfortunate scenario you’ve just experienced. 

Now imagine another scenario. This time, the theme park offers virtual queuing via their mobile app. 

Not only can a guest-facing app eliminate the frustration that is borne out of queuing for hours with no end in sight, but it can also provide new opportunities to increase secondary spend, as guests have more time to explore the other activities and retail options on offer. 

Even without virtual queuing, a mobile app can still improve the experience of waiting. Guests in long queues can be targeted with skip-the-line  upgrades or food and beverage offers. Standing in a long queue might seem like less of a waste of time when you can preorder lunch on the app and collect it when you’re off the ride

5. An app can make next-gen customer service a reality

Guest-facing apps make this kind of futuristic customer service a reality. By allowing you to keep your finger on the pulse of how guests are interacting with your attraction, an app can allow you to respond in real time to rescue someone's day. Done right, this can turn customers that are most likely to complain on TripAdvisor into brand champions.  

With the right app technology, excellent communication benefits everyone. Real-time updates can cut down on nasty surprises like ride closures or changing opening hours. Updates can also help convince your guests to stay at your attraction longer. In a scenario where traffic is slow leaving your attraction, guests might receive a push notification through the app to stick around and maybe go on one more ride while they wait for the traffic to die down.

How to get started

Convinced yet? We hope so. 

The reason why apps can achieve all of these benefits and outstrip the capabilities of other technology solutions, is thanks to their unique ability to span the entire guest journey and all the touchpoints within it. 

An app adds value for your guests at every interaction, before, during and after their visit. It creates a friction free, seamless and personalised experience for your guests, acting as a digital concierge to serve their every need. 

Furthermore, an app adds value for every department in your organisation. It isn’t just a marketing tool, it’s a tool for your operations team, your guest services team, your commercial team and your executive management team. 

The best way to consider an app is therefore as a company-wide initiative. Your guests don’t differentiate between the departmental areas of responsibility while they experience your attraction, so nor should your app. The biggest mistake you can make is to limit the potential of your app by only considering the benefits it can deliver to one department, or as the solution to a single problem.  

To find out more about how to get the most value from a mobile app, download our guide on how to launch an app here.


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July 2020
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