1. Technology
  2. Attractions Management
  3. Attraction Management Software
  4. Attraction App

How to select the best digital app strategy
for your business.

When it comes to thinking about developing your own visitor or audience experience app, there’s lots to think about. Not just the app design itself, but how it fits into your overall attraction digital transformation strategy. If you’re already digitally mature, how easy is it to integrate? If you’re not on the other hand, what opportunity does this present to look at a completely integrated attraction management software solution incorporating an app?

So it stands to reason that when choosing an app development route, you should consider the bigger picture first. Do your research and understand the art of the possible - are you looking to enhance just the visitor experience, or acquire a mobile application that’s part of a wider suite of software that’ll help to improve operations, enhance audience engagement, gain valuable insights and increase revenues?

Do you buy outright, invest in building your own, or look at ready made SaaS (Software as a Service) solutions? There’s lots of options to consider, but before you leap in, think about the process and how you’ll manage it.

For many, the first route to explore is to speak to a digital agency with expertise in building custom app solutions. Some specialise in the experience economy and will undoubtedly be able to help you build and commission your app. But before you do, there’s other options worth exploring out there, and so, below, we’ve given you some basic information to help you make the most informed decision for your attraction business.

Buy: Digital Agency
There are many excellent specialist app developers in the market, and under the digital agency model you’ll take responsibility for briefing the developers and designers, discussing outcomes, and to an extent project managing the process. Working to your brief, they’ll design and build a custom app for your needs - costs will vary widely depending on things like app design, functionality features, and software integrations. Commissioning an agency isn’t always straightforward, and finding one that’s right for you in the first place can be daunting - look at their portfolio and expertise of developing apps for your market as your first point of reference.

Build: In-house
It’s exciting to know that your visitor attraction can add a layer of digital interaction to what you already offer but perhaps going down the custom build route with an agency doesn’t quite fit the bill in more than one sense of the word, so you’re thinking about building your own in-house, end-to-end solution. Resources in terms of time, team and money are just some of the key considerations when choosing to build-your-own app in-house.

Some plus points include the flexibility to shift gear when required and to cover off those endless revisions and updates at speed. However, one of main drawbacks that often prevent companies from going down this route is the sheer cost of setting up such an endeavour, not to mention that app building is not exactly your visitor attraction’s main business. Building your own app will require a dedicated team of experienced in-house app developers and UX/UI designers that are used to designing and building end to end mobile solutions. If you don’t have a team already in place, recruitment will be costly and time consuming. You’ll also need a qualified project manager to take up much of the heavy lifting in terms of the build process. App development requires specialist expertise and uses operating and coding language specific to this market, so don’t presume your existing in-house marketing or web team expertise will cut it.

License: Ready made SaaS Solution
The ready made app market is growing, giving attractions the flexibility they need to enhance their digital capabilities. Unlike most other Software as a Service (SaaS) products, the n-gage.io solution combines a powerful operator platform with a highly customisable mobile audience/visitor app in the form of a new breed of attraction management software. Where most platforms and apps focus on improving the operational visitor experience only, n-gage.io is helping the global attraction, leisure and entertainment industry to both improve operations, enhance audience engagement, gain valuable insights and increase revenues.

When you purchase a SaaS solution, you are acquiring a licence to use the ready made software and app for your own attraction. Packed with features and functionality, the software can be part-customised to your own needs, including the mobile visitor app that can reflect your own branding for example, and all you need to do is add the content - with commercial services available to assist with that too. Being hosted in the cloud means the platform can be accessed from anywhere with an internet connection, giving you complete control 24/7.

For a monthly or annual subscription, you get all the benefits of a highly customisable app without the high up-front development and investment costs or hassle of building your own app. What’s more, you’ll likely get the benefits of any new features and product updates as part of your subscription - with these quite often being implemented as a result of ongoing feedback from your sector.

Taking time to choose the right SaaS solution should mean you get an app and platform that’s pretty close to your functionality needs, even if you’d built it yourself. Look for products that also support third party industry integrations too with the likes of e-ticketing software and other attraction management functionality.

Once you’ve decided the right way to go - whether to buy, build or license,, there are a range of other important factors to consider before choosing your product. For example, think about upfront investment and costs of development, provision of maintenance and upgrades, quality of performance, delivery lead times, and customisation capabilities.

Below we take each one of these considerations in turn and highlight some key points.

Investment and development costs - think carefully about your approach, commissioning a digital agency to build you a custom app from scratch can be costly. Average basic app development costs can range from $50-100,000 taking between 3-6 months. Anything other than basic features and you could be investing well over $100,000 in build costs and looking at a 6-12 month build time. If you’re thinking about building an app in-house, your first consideration should be do you have the expertise to do it? If not, recruitment will take time and average annual salaries of a developer could be anywhere between $50-$150,000, and you’ll likely need more than one, not to mention design and project management expertise.

Investing in a ready-made SaaS solution will cost far less.

In general, SaaS companies like n-gage.io, can spread the demand across a single market such as zoos and wildlife parks or aquariums, meaning you still get an out of the box solution that is customisable to your brand and needs without the large upfront development costs and lengthy lead times. In fact, the n-gage.io operator platform can be deployed in minutes and average lead times can be as low as four weeks depending upon integrations, app customisation, content creation and any hardware installation such as beacons for triggering content, tracking dwell times and visitor movement.

Also think value for money - can my new app deliver me potential to recoup my investment, and over what time period. In fact, how can my new app help to generate revenue so that it makes a positive contribution to my bottom line.

Maintenance and Updates - when building your own app or commissioning one through an agency, consider how you will cater for ongoing maintenance and future updates. In both these scenarios it’s likely you’ll face additional costs, either through increased agency retainers or in-house resource requirements when building yourself, not to mention a potential backlog of issues and fixes.

SaaS is different however - you can expect to see maintenance and fixes as part of your SLA (Service Level Agreement). Also bear in mind you’ll get the benefit of all the industry knowledge and insight of other users across the industry, so not only should issues be dealt with promptly, but new updates should come as standard, further enhancing the base product whilst keeping you up to date with latest developments across the industry.

Quality - the great thing about SaaS products is that they already exist. By licensing a customisable solution out of the box, you remove many of the headaches and concerns around quality of performance and fit for purpose - most offer demos and some free trials, so do take advantage of getting up close and personal to your intended solution well in advance of signing the license agreement.

Building from scratch leaves much to the imagination - you don’t have anything to work from leaving you exposed to quality and performance issues from the start. Designing these out can be difficult pre-launch and it’s only once live that the real problems begin - often a little too late to rectify quickly.

Delivery and Lead Times - building an app yourself or appointing an agency is going to take time. Speed of deployment may be one of the single biggest critical factors outside of cost - “how much is it, and how soon can I have it” is a regular phrase we hear and you’ll be pleased to know that the SaaS ready made solution will deliver the best outcome against both these questions - it’s both affordable and quick to deploy. As the out of the box software is “oven ready”, all you need to do is some simple customisation and you’re good to go live, usually in as little as four weeks, depending on individual circumstances.

Customisation Capabilities - so how far can an out of the box, off the shelf software solutions and apps go in terms of customisation? Well in the case of n-gage.io, the answer is quite far! Unlike many other out of the box solutions, the team at n-gage.io has built the SaaS platform and visitor app from the ground up with the visitor/audience experience in mind.

Not only does the platform and app deliver a range of operational benefits equal to any of its market comparables, but it also puts as much focus on the customisation capability of the app experience - to the point that some believe the standard product looks like a custom built audience app for their sector. Feature rich in customisation automation, you can change brand colours, logos, fonts and images with ease. You can even modify fixed text in the app to suit your own use case.

So, in summary, is it better to buy, build or license a mobile visitor app?

Well, we would say that depends on a combination of factors and individual circumstances, sometimes also determined by the size of your organisation. If you have a team of in-house developers with previous experience in app development then building in-house might be right for you. Alternatively, a good digital agency receiving a well thought out brief and specification could also feel like the right solution. In both circumstances, weigh up the level of investment in time and resources, and carefully consider your intended timescales for deployment. There are great custom built apps out there, but they will have been subject to significant investment.

Look at what’s available in the market- you may be surprised to find how much functionality exists in SaaS solutions like n-gage.io which go well beyond the app to deliver a wealth of other attraction management software functionality.

There we have it - short of investing heavily upfront with an agency, or recruiting a team of highly skilled app developers, the right product for you could just be the ready made SaaS. An out of box yet highly customisable attraction management software solution that in the case of n-gage.io, incorporates both operator and mobile app functionality in a single solution to improve operations, enhance audience engagement, gain valuable insights and increase revenues.

Interested to find out more? Then please get in touch, or request a demo.

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