By Mel Taylor, chief executive, Omnico Group
For visitors, the draw of a theme park has always been the promise of adrenaline fuelled thrills and an immersive, out of the ordinary experience.
For theme park owners, the focus has been on advancing the technology that powers those rides; providing bigger and better thrill-seeking attractions than their competitors.
Although this remains the primary focus for operators, the paradigms are shifting in how technology can be applied to improve the overall guest experience.
Across the UK, US and China, theme park visitors have expressed their expectations for an all-in-one experience utilising integrated digital technology.
Visitors want, at their finger-tips, to be able to manage their bookings, payments and other options prior to the experience taking place, with access to real-time data on queue times and availability of VIP shows and promotions throughout their visit.
In order to satisfy this visitor demand, theme park operators can take inspiration from today’s retailers and the growth of omni-channel technology.
In recent years, retail destinations have maximised revenues by offering visitors a streamlined and seamless experience through the implementation of omni-channel technology.
This rapidly evolving customer-focused technology simplifies the process of transactions, placing orders and searching for available stock.
The sheer ease of online transactions has caused a rapid incline in customer expectation. From ordering takeaways to booking holidays, the simplicity of the e-commerce transaction has become the basis for customer expectation in the physical world.
No longer do we find ourselves scrambling for change at the ticket machine; with a simple mobile transaction we can pay for parking in advance. No longer do we find ourselves queuing for boarding passes; we simply scan our phones at the security gate.
Omnico’s Theme Park Barometer collected data across these regions and found that 89% of visitors to a theme park would expect to be able to pre-book their entire trip, while 85% would expect the ability to choose a limited number of specific deals relevant to them.
Cashless experiences are a high expectation, with 82% of guests expressing the requirement to buy anything in the resort using a cashless device, while 79% require the ability to split restaurant bills however required.
82% of guests would like the ability to order a table in an on-site restaurant and the same percentage would expect information on the best times to go to restaurants for the quickest service.
The primary concern for theme park operators is retaining their customers, especially in areas such as Orlando, home to more than ten major theme parks. It’s not just a question of inspiring visitors to return again and again, but ensuring visitors stay on site instead of straying towards other nearby parks, shopping centres, hotels or restaurants.
Creating a seamless, integrated experience that allows visitors to virtually curate their visit will empower the visitor, handing them the ability to craft their own experience.
Disney’s MagicBand successfully provides guests with an omni-channel experience through the use of a wristband embedded with an RFID chip.
It enables visitors to book slots on rides, schedule meet-and-greets, pre-purchase meals and souvenirs, and each transaction is automatically added to the final bill.
Disney has now taken this functionality to its new Shanghai resort but delivered through a mobile app, with no wristband in sight. A sneak peek into the future of this omni-channel theme park world.
In the build-up and anticipation of visiting a theme park or destination resort, it’s unlikely that visitors will be dreaming about lengthy queues and long waits for restaurant tables.
Offering an integrated experience, one that allows the visitor to determine when restaurants will be the emptiest, pre-book meals, order personalised merchandise to their rooms and seamlessly shape the entire experience at their own convenience, will ultimately improve footfall, revenue and competitiveness of that theme park.