Smart tourism and the connected experience
How the visitor attraction sector can capitalise on technology - Kate Dearlove
Life is an experience! Our lives consist of a series of events from the moment we are born, but our everyday experiences are becoming even more connected than ever before as technology constantly tracks our actions and behaviours.
What is a connected experience?
Looking back to 2017, computer giant IBM, released a paper entitled: ‘Ushering in the era of connected experiences.’ In it, they state that: “Connected experiences leverage data from automated processes and self-learning software to build meaningful relationships with customers across channels. Connected experiences are consumable, adaptable, and can enable customers to achieve their objectives anywhere, anytime, and in a personalised and efficient way.”
The same report also issued a warning, saying: “Companies must find a way
to create better experiences for their customers or risk leaving money on the table for their competitors.”
While this may have been aimed initially at corporates, the experience economy is just as much affected by the digital transformation revolution as any business. Not being part of the digital mainframe nor taking advantage of the connected experience and understanding the customer journey - their wants and needs - can quickly lead to discontent and a disconnect. A problem for any brand, including those in the attraction sector that have traditionally relied on more traditional forms of visitor engagement to generate their primary revenue.
Fast forward to 2022 and this 2017 prediction, is a reality in the here and now. Technology is playing a central role in arranging and delivering curated experiences for an always-on savvy audience. One who can easily switch allegiance at the touch of a button if they don’t receive the best experience. Technology has facilitated the ‘connected experience’, a seamless, integrated, and interoperable digital environment over which millions of pieces of code are relayed every microsecond of the day and night.
In the visitor attraction world, the ‘connected experience’ utilising a technology-driven approach to business, has innumerable benefits – both operator and audience side.
Of course, it’s all about the data. It always is. Interpreting it, how quickly this is done and then how fast it can be turned into meaningful information that ‘connects’ with the user, and which over a period, predicts behaviour and helps build a deeper and longer-lasting relationship. The Holy Grail for any brand or business (no matter what their sector).
Does this sound concerning? That an algorithm can interpret your needs, sometimes before you even know them yourself?
We can’t blame you for feeling a little anxiety, but in truth, marketers have been gathering information and analysing consumer behaviour for decades. What’s changed now though, is the sophistication of the data gathering and the speed at which that information is collated, turned into insights, and then interpreted. It’s also processed by smart technology that learns and adapts over time – adaptive engagement.
This can be very useful. Take Amazon for example. Leveraging “habitual purchase data,” the company forecasts when customers are going to run out of groceries, send them reminders, as well as upsell them to complementary items, resulting in a bigger basket. There’s an upside for Amazon who gets to predict what it will sell and plan accordingly, as well as for the consumer, who expects more convenience and seamless engagement.
Smart tourism, smarter visitors
Running over the top of the information age is the perennial age of ‘consumability’ – which in the visitor attraction sector, could be the act of engaging with visitors to increase their consumption of information or learning that is on offer. In essence, we are already programmed to ‘consume,’ so now all the visitor attraction needs to do is learn what will activate each unique visitor to prompt them to ingest this information, whilst generating more data for smart technology like cloud-based audience engagement platforms which gather and interpret data in real time.
But how to obtain that data in the first place…and how does technology facilitate that?
Data gathering, then analytics
As we mentioned earlier, each person engaged in the digital-ecosystem generates millions of pieces of data every day. Just in the ordinary course of our daily lives we generate multiple megabytes of this commodity. In fact, According to Statista.com there were for example, 79 zettabytes of data generated worldwide in 2021. By 2025, it is expected we will generate 181 zettabytes. That’s a staggering 1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 bytes of data! And, as the Internet of things (IoT) gathers momentum, there will be even more, as the fabric of the world around us becomes even more connected.
The graph below, courtesy of Statista.com, depicts the steep rise in data generation, but does the wider experience economy have the capabilities to capture and unlock this data in ways which can benefit the long term prosperity and success of the sector? Do you know how to unlock the data your organisation is capable of capturing each day with each visitor, as each byte of data your audience could create whilst visiting your establishment, is revenue waiting to be unlocked.
For the small to medium sized attraction, there are significant barriers to entry when it comes to digital transformation and taking that leap of faith which, let’s face it, most are now beginning to contemplate if they haven’t done so already.
To unlock the potential all this big data brings, there are a number of key factors to consider including how to capture, what to analyse and what to do with the data once it is collated.
For visitor attractions to create a truly connected experience, they need to collect and harvest the information generated by their audiences in the first place, and then turn it into valuable insights that can create further, more personalised engagement.
Sounds challenging, particularly with barriers to entry around technology affordability, lack of technical expertise and available resources? Well not anymore, as the last two years which have witnessed an explosion of technology and digital transformation advancements, have also included the advent of the ‘audience engagement platform’ (AEP), a relatively new term we’ve aimed to pioneer.
Audience Engagement Platforms can capture the data generated by visitors through their engagement with a highly customisable audience facing visitor app. Powered by an easy to use operator platform, this constantly tracks, analyses and translates audience engagement data into valuable insights for interpretation.
By creating trackable digital engagement, you are in the driving seat to understanding more about your audience's behaviour, and armed with this knowledge, gaining the ability to personalise experiences and marketing communications to drive revenue growth.
Creating two-way engagement with your audience through a variety of features in the AEP such as push notifications, emails, triggered content and feedback, means you as the operator can receive a continuous loop of rich data and insights to help drive further engagement.
As an example, a family arrives with their two children. Traditionally, they would buy a paper ticket and map and then set off to explore. The only information they would consume is what is made available to them through signage and other static information. For the operator, it’s difficult to gain insights into their on-site behaviour without undertaking manual surveys and research.
However, using the power of digital technology, such as an audience engagement platform, results in the family having a considerably more engaging and interactive experience - they arrive at the venue with the app pre-installed on their smartphone (or download it there and then), and are automatically admitted having bought their tickets in advance. They access the interactive map of the venue with built in wayfinding and navigation, and preplan events they want to attend and where they want to go.
As the venue operator has already pre-configured the audience app using simple, easy to use tools that require no technical expertise, they have created a series of beacon triggered exhibits with interactive content and media, and object recognition waypoints as well as deployed gamification functionality that include quizzes (a simple link between the AEP and the app), to make it fun, challenging, and interesting.
Having left the venue, the family continues to enjoy their experience by reliving what they’ve done together and enjoying further interactions such as engaging with unlockable content. In doing so the visitor attraction (with an AEP), can continue the conversation by recognising the unique digital signature of that visitor through their device, having understood which exhibits resonated the most. The AEP can then facilitate pre-programmed highly personalised activations such as push notifications of additional information, upcoming events, new things to see, all based on their visitor behaviour, thus keeping visitors engaged for longer.
This has the effect of conveying knowledge in a manner that has been proven to promote retention, but it is also creating memories for those engaged. For the operator, they have been able to track and monitor this engagement from beginning to end.
In this way, the attraction can determine which of the exhibits resonated better with their visitors than others by measuring dwell time and viewing heatmaps of visitor flow – and over a period, can truly map what works and doesn’t, which leads to informed decisions and better curation.
Paving the way for visitors to download and absorb new information in fun and engaging ways, increases knowledge uptake and retention. It also leads to greater revenue generation.
This is all because of the ‘connected experience’ that has brought everyone together to produce a smarter involvement for all concerned.
For more information on how easy it is to implement an Audience Engagement Platform and all the benefits that can be derived, get in touch or request a demo.