Better visitor experiences - how to deliver on audience expectations using technology.
Meeting visitors’ demands in a world that is always-on with 24-hour access to a choice of entertainment, can be challenging. The visitor attraction sector is no exception to these high expectations.
Technology has sped up people’s appetite for information and more immersive experiences, as well as paved the way for this content to be consumed whilst on the go and in byte-sized chunks. The choice of how people indulge their entertainment and leisure enjoyment needs is vast.
The trick to standing out and attracting visitors and ensuring that their experience is memorable and meaningful, is to create meaningful connections with them pre, during and post their visit.
It doesn’t need to be complicated, and technology being what it is in the 21st century, software as a service (Saas) solutions present plug-and-play options for audience engagement that can up the ante on delivering experiences that meet and exceed visitors’ expectations. Cloud-based solutions like audience engagement platforms (AEPs) are easy to implement and just as simple to operate, with no technical expertise required.
Why are connections important?
Human connections foster deeper relationships and can increase wellbeing. Today, we live in an always-on world and those ‘connections’ have taken on a different guise and expanded in definition.
Whether we like it or not, we are connected to the digital framework all around us. We use mobile phones to connect to, and communicate with one another. These same devices are also used as cameras, can activate, and monitor our home security systems and even instruct the microwave, oven (and any other IoT appliance connected to the Internet) to switch on when it’s time to do dinner.
Importantly, in the visitor experience and entertainment arena, technology can also facilitate deep and abiding connections between the business and the visitor that benefit both parties. These connections can also happen quite quickly - a lifesaver in the post-covid lockdown maelstrom.
In what we call a ‘personalised continuous feedback loop’, these connections are vital to the overall experience, as they can turn visitors into fans, enrich learning and diversify and grow revenue streams.
Digital ‘connections’ also help in growing audiences. This is achieved by visitors sharing their experiences, which all contribute to the overall sustainability of the attraction providing the experience itself.
5 easy ways to create ‘connections’:
Embrace digital – for many visitor attractions, digital transformation is a distant goal. Yet, in integrating a digital framework into the business, it can help the attraction streamline operations and stimulate exponential growth. Going digital opens up a plethora of avenues to ‘engage’ with your visitors and on multiple levels - some of which we have listed below.
We are the first to acknowledge though, that navigating the technology landscape in search of the right product and provider, can be a minefield. Our counsel is to be as clear as possible in determining what the technology needs to accomplish, and to always ask lots of questions of the potential providers.
We’ve written a blog on this so if you would like to know some of the things you should be looking for in a service provider – read it here.
Simplify Payments – Once a visitor has discovered your attraction and has decided they would like to attend, make it easier for them to securely purchase tickets online (through your own portal.) Having a direct connection with the paying party, also allows the attraction to grow its own direct communication database. These tickets can be digitally stored in the visitor’s mobile wallet and then scanned at the entrance. This saves time (and the environment) on entry and immediately creates a good impression.
Integrating digital payment facilities and eCommerce into the offering, can also enable pre-payment for pre-ordered meals or gift shop items, if the attraction has such facilities, thus increasing revenue opportunities for you, the visitor attraction, but increasing the satisfaction of the visitor too. Another connection made.
Simplified digital payments can also help in making donations and sponsorships easier to affect.
Visitors could, for example, be standing in front of the Snow Leopards, the donkey sanctuary, dolphin pool, even an exhibit at a museum or cultural heritage site that requires funding for preservation, that emotionally connects with them. They may be inclined to want to assist - in the moment - there in front of them is a QR code or other dynamic trigger, and through their app they can donate…
Enabling the visitor’s journey – for some, wandering and exploring without a plan leads to adventure but it can also mean missing out on some great exhibits. Offering visitors the option to pre-plan their visit with a ‘plan your day’ feature, and then giving them the GPS ‘wayfinding’ tools to easily navigate their way to their chosen exhibits, displays, talks etc, helps to streamline and optimise their time. This is all easily achieved through a mobile audience experience app linked directly to a dynamic cloud-hosted audience engagement platform, and again, heightens the experience as you have taken your visitor’s time and expectations into account.
All along the journey and as they are using the app to discover new locations or follow directions, there are multiple connection points with a flow of data that is building up a picture of the visitor’s behaviour. For the visitor attraction this has benefits such as understanding dwell time and in real time, which then allows the attraction (zoo, aquarium, theme park, museum, etc) to serve that visitor more information or content, which resonates with them because it is relevant, thus subtly deepening the relationship between the operator (the attraction) and the visitor.
Post their visit, advances in attraction management software are such that the attraction can remain connected to the visitor and continue the conversation, delivering more content on exhibits that they had shown interest in, or advising them of any upcoming talks and events they might wish to engage with, and which can then be stored to the visitor’s mobile phone calendar. Communications are managed through push notifications (built-into the platform) or Emails, or a combination.
Be Present and Engage – possibly the most important aspect of creating meaningful connections with visitors. The days of being a passive sightseer are no longer. Visitors have voices, they have mobile communication devices, and they are not afraid to use them – whether it’s praising or sharing their negative experiences.
Humans are inherently curious, and in the Information Age, this curiosity has amplified. As you are no doubt aware, it is no longer enough to present them with a wonderful static display, they want to know more, and they often wish to interact with what’s on offer.
However, most visitor attractions such as museums, aquariums, zoos, wildlife and theme parks, and cultural and heritage sites (all establishments that have a live audience), have limited capacity to convey more in-depth material in the moment.
An audience engagement platform (AEP) can mitigate this by linking directly to an ‘experience’ app on the visitor’s mobile device. On what we call the ‘operator’ side (the visitor attraction), layers of content are uploaded – a world of multimedia that can be served to the visitor in increments as they progress through the attraction. Even better, as this is digitally driven, it can also be made available to the visitor at a later stage, as we mentioned earlier – when they are home, back at school, or anywhere, and at any time.
Robust AI and Machine Learning enables the platform to track visitor behaviour to determine what part of the visit they spent the most time at and can then send them more information. This information can be instantly retrieved or incentivised, pending an action on the part of the visitor.
If this was a school visit for example, then asking the students to complete a survey, an interactive quiz, or finish a treasure hunt, (learning new information and making new connections to the information as they go), could deliver a reward of some kind for their participation.
The user (the visitor with the app), can access this content and thus the engagement has empowered a greater connection.
Engagement can also be fun, with the introduction of Bluetooth enabled trigger beacons and object recognition technology, not to mention gamification modules…you think it, you can do it.
Engagement is very much a two-way street and providing the easy means and wherewithal for a visitor to respond (through the app), and that their engagement is acknowledged and responded to – quickly and efficiently – further strengthens the connections between the two.
Know your visitor – customer relationship management in the retail space is well known. But what if a visitor attraction could understand a visitor’s likes and dislikes as they journey through the establishment? What if this could inform the type of information or kind of exhibit that sparks interest? What if the visitor could receive tailored information that is relevant to them?
All of this can be achieved, and more besides, with the integration of the AEP into the operational management of the visitor attraction. As aforementioned, with AI and Machine Learning as standard features of the AEP, the operator can refine communications based on data analytics and deliver them tailored to suit each visitor via push notifications or emails.
The other key aspect of knowing who your visitors are, involves entrance tickets, memberships, and loyalty cards for example. Dynamic QR codes linked to the integrated membership system on the Audience Engagement Platform, can immediately identify whether the entrance ticket is legitimate, valid, for how many people and whether any membership fees are up to date, due or outstanding.
Operationally this decreases the potential for bad debts and creates yet another opportunity to engage with the visitor/member/customer/audience. From a security point of view, visitor numbers can be tracked in real time (provided the app has been downloaded and registered, along with a modern version of an attendance register.
All information is securely stored and the n-gage.io platform offers clients the framework to ensure robust security to protect people’s information.
Lastly, by knowing your visitor and forming a series of meaningful connections with them over a period, the likelihood of repeat visits increases, turning them into loyal supporters. This increases the ability for them to sign-up for additional programmes or benefits. All in all, deeper and better connections between operator and audience will enhance the experience for all parties and ultimately, deliver on their expectations.
Isn’t it time to enhance your visitor’s experience and exceed their expectations?
To discover the full benefits of an immersive integrated AEP experience, request a free demo today or look at some of our other resources and insights.