The power of data in
transforming the attractions industry experience economy.
Understanding Your Business’s ‘-ing’
The inventor of the World Wide Web (www), Tim Berners-Lee, has been noted as saying, “Data is a precious thing and will last longer than the systems themselves.” The precise context of what he meant is difficult to find online but, today we know that data is a precious resource on which every business now depends – whether it is generating it, analysing, sharing it, or all three.
Everyday Internet users generate some 2.5 quintillion bytes of data, with more than 92% of users doing so through their mobile phones. It is also understood that more than 90% of this data has been created in the last seven years! It is also predicted that this is just the tip of the iceberg and as Generation Data (Gen D) gains momentum, this number will explode.
In their book, "The Experience Economy," Joe Pine and Jim Gilmore posit that when a company understands its "-ing" factor, it creates a premium experience with mass customization and personalization to service its customers.
Like any other company operating in today’s increasingly digitally driven world, those in the attractions industry can benefit from using data insights to better understand the visiting, viewing, dwelling, shopping, and learning habits and patterns of their visitors.
Beyond the data insights to optimise efficiencies in your attractions business, data can be used to understand the effect your offering has on your visitors in order to build customer loyalty and overall business sustainability. The key here is to gather the data and interpret it, not only that, but then send the right data to the right person and at the right time – customised engagement.
As a visitor attraction, you have probably been gathering information on your customers (visitors) for many years. This will no doubt have been conducted mostly through manual surveys and conversations before the digital revolution. Now, with Software as a Service (SaaS) platforms for operators, and a mobile phone in most people’s hands when they visit your experience, it is easier than ever to interact with your visitors, gather the data you need and decode it to achieve your objectives.
How and Why?
Let’s start with the ‘why’ a visitor attraction, a physical place that invites people to experience what’s on offer, should invest in a data-driven strategy.
Simplistically, if lockdowns in 2020 and 2021 have taught us anything, it is the value of being able to ‘experience’ and explore beyond the confines of our own four walls. This is probably why what is being termed ‘experentialism’ is one of the fastest growing trends today, prompting The Harvard Business Review to note that: "experiences have emerged as the next step in what we call the progression of economic value."
Globally, the tourism market is currently estimated to be worth more than USD150 billion and is expected to increase as lockdown restrictions continue to lessen. Tours and accommodation offerings though, are only a fraction of the overall experience sector, which also includes visitor attractions be they museums, aquariums, zoos, wildlife parks, heritage and culture exhibits, open gardens, theme parks and so on.
Add to that the evidence from several research studies that show that people are now more inclined to pay for experiences, rather than things, the attractions sector is sitting on a veritable gold mine.
This means that the entire ‘experience’ sector is a very valuable piece of real estate and a key reason to explore data as a fundamental strategy to operating today and safeguarding your business for the future – more on that later.
However, hampering efforts by most attraction operators to gather the information necessary, is the fact that many in the sector might consider themselves still behind in terms of technology, and perhaps, their understanding of how important and useful data can be to transform operations. The best has been to create a website, a simple app and bolt on a digital booking and ticketing system. Whilst this is a good start, it falls short of the true scope that technology can enable. The second reason as to why having a data centric strategy is fundamental, is the requisite digital transformation of your visitor attraction to take advantage of those 92% of people engaging through their mobile phones.
Of these multiple millions of mobile phone users, many are Gen D, and if there’s one thing, we know about this generation who live and breathe creation and consumption of data, it is that they expect to have personalised engagement with you. In fact, they demand it and if you don’t make them feel special, they’ll discard you at the drop of a hat.
As to the ‘how’ a visitor attraction can get in on the data track to understanding their ‘-ing’, create personalised experiences for visitors, diversify revenue streams, and deliver continued profitability, that’s the easy part.
In our world, we call it the audience engagement platform, or AEP for short.
A short explanation. The AEP is specialised attraction management software that has been designed and developed to specifically assist the global visitor attraction sector to gather, interpret and then deliver customised and targeted data to underpin business objectives.
Hosted in the cloud, the n-gage.io AEP for example, is a SaaS system that is simple to install and easy to operate – no technical experience necessary.
The best of both worlds – the AEP is hybrid attraction management software consisting of operator platform and mobile app, combining CRM and CMS with data analysis. This gives the operator (you the visitor attraction), the ability to intelligently engage with your visitors, pre, during and post their visit, enhancing their on-site experience as well as keeping that experience top of mind long after they have left, whilst collecting valuable data on their behaviour which can be used to improve operations, increase engagement and drive new revenue growth.
Apps are now ubiquitous and fortunately, the AEP fits the bill for attractions operators too. Content is uploaded to the AEP and is immediately replicated on the visitor’s downloaded app (that mirrors all your branding as it is your customised app).
Through the app and each mobile phone’s unique data signature, the operator can gain invaluable insights such as tracking and heat mapping where the visitor spent most of their time (dwell time). Because this is real time data and you have set it up on the back end, your AEP can then send this specific visitor questions, a survey, or a poll as to why they remained at a particular exhibit and what they enjoyed, or ask them to crit the speaker at a talk they had attended etc.
The data gathering however, begins from the moment the visitor downloads the app. If not already done so, the visitor can also choose to buy their tickets through the AEP, adding yet another layer of information. The AEP sends the visitor a dynamic QR code which is automatically populated in their mobile phone’s wallet, helping to minimise waste. On arrival, the code is scanned, and the data journey continues.
As to enhancing the experience you provide to your visitors, there are numerous ways in which the AEP can assist. Take for instance, your on-site information boards, they can only relay so much. Yet, just as it is becoming customary for restaurants to QR code their menus, you can QR code additional information for the visitor. What’s more, this can come in the form of multimedia further enriching the interaction.
The n-gage.io AEP also comes with Bluetooth-enabled beacon triggering technology that can also be utilised to enrich the surprise and delight factor for visitors as they pass certain displays for example.
Wayfinding tools, another component of the AEP, help to smooth the journey and gamification modules up the ante on the interactive engagement – for all ages.
There are many more tools and benefits delivered by the AEP, but the point is that each interaction propagates another layer of information, which helps to build a picture of your visitor’s likes and dislikes. Armed with this, you can now segment your visitors and serve them the personalised content they want – in the moment and even keep them in the loop long afterwards.
The real power of data though, are the insights that can help you better define your business, curate it, map out audience flow and where those choke points are and how to overcome them, and of course, to plan, even to an extent, prediction models.
When used responsibly and with the right intentions, data has the power to not only transform and enhance a business but empower and enable audiences for the better too.
In Sir Francis Bacon’s published work, Meditationes Sacrae (1597), the saying: "knowledge itself is power", most likely refers to the idea that having and sharing knowledge is the linchpin of reputation and influence, and consequently, power; all successes are derived from this.
So, with all the correct data privacy and security, and transparency measures in place, and with you generating lots and lots of information, isn’t it time you invested in an AEP?
To discover how to know your customer and enhance your experience, please get in touch, or request a demo.
Photo by Alexander Sinn on Unsplash