Why a Guest-Facing App Isn't Just a Tool for Your Marketing Department

Guest facing mobile apps are great marketing tools for visitor attractions, but don't overlook the many benefits for other departments too.

Think about the main reason why you might want to invest in a mobile app for your attraction. 

We would wager that "marketing" is one of the first few things that come to mind. Indeed, from our experience, most of the projects we’re approached about originate from the marketing department.

We think that’s great. Guest-facing apps are, indeed, superb marketing tools for attractions. However, it’s all too easy to forget that apps can support more than just the marketing team’s objectives at your attraction. 

Apps Are Great for Marketing, But...

Marketing is where the benefits of creating an app for your guests typically start. From helping you and your team make better business decisions to saving money, apps can do a lot more for your brand, and your bottom line, than you think. 

Ultimately, getting a mobile app for your attraction can be the key to a successful digital transformation strategy. 

So how can an app help you make a real digital transformation? The key reason has a lot to do with why some digital strategies work, and others don’t.

First, though, let's take a look at some of the non-marketing related benefits of guest-facing apps. 

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. 

Get Ahead of Consumer Trends

Although the 2019 IAAPA Global Theme and Amusement Park Outlook forecasted that attraction and theme park attendance numbers are likely to grow over the next five years, it attributed the biggest opportunity for growth to increased spending by millennials, suggesting that admissions revenue will be restrained by the proliferation of season pass and off-peak discounts.

This, of course does not take into account the uncertainty for the 2020 season brought about by COVID-19, however with a significant impact on visitor numbers becoming ever more likely, identifying opportunities to increase on-site spend will be crucial.

Mobile Payments

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 upsell 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. 

Make Next-Gen Customer Service a Reality

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 uses mobile app tracking. Every time a guest queueing for a ride walks past strategically positioned beacons, the queue time changes accordingly — provided that the guest has the app installed on his or her phone.

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 guests with intelligent suggestions on where to go next. For example, if guests see that the ride they want to go on is particularly busy at that moment, they might choose to go on another ride instead — and save the other ride for later, when it’s less busy. 

If a guest nevertheless decides to join a long queue, a mobile app can target him or her with relevant messages, like queue jump 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. 

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.

Why a Holistic Approach Makes True Digital Transformation Possible

Digital transformation is not straightforward. Businesses that want digital transformation but don’t really know what it means risk slipping into the "trough of disillusionment." 

That can happen when digital transformation initiatives are seen as just one department’s project. When this kind of siloing happens, resources and roll-outs get restricted, and disillusionment sinks in. 

An app can help you avoid this situation when approached as a whole company project. The benefits of having an app for your attraction or theme park don't just end in one area of your organisation's business. Operations, customer service, finance, marketing — every department can benefit from a well-designed guest-facing app.

Where to Get Started

There is no doubt that a well-planned app can do all of the above, and more. However, an app is not a magic bullet. Indeed, a poorly planned app can be a complete waste of your time and money. 

Fortunately, we know a thing or two about getting an excellent app project off the ground. To find out more, you can download our guide on how to launch an app here.

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