The phenomenon shows no signs of abating and offers a valuable marketing tool, says Dan Maunder, chief technology officer of Picsolve
Since the dawn of the camera, consumers have enjoyed capturing special moments. With the rise of smartphones and social media platforms such as Instagram, Facebook and Snapchat, the process of capturing and sharing images becomes both easier and more sophisticated. This is reflected in the arrival of the ‘selfie’ – a self-portrait of the digital age that celebrates social gratification and provides a visual diary at the click of a button.
The selfie is a force to be reckoned with. Awarded word of the year in 2013 by Oxford Dictionaries, 24 billion selfies were uploaded to Google Photos in 2016, and according to a recent study by Frames Direct, the average millennial will take around 25,700 selfies during their lifetime. According to TIME Magazine, the Philippines financial centre Makati City is the “selfie capital of the world” – beating Manhattan and Miami with the highest number of selfies per capita.
And so, world-class destinations are beginning to recognise its power. Visitors take snapshots throughout their stay and share them as badges of honour – making their presence known to their contacts. But how are destinations responding? Here we explore attractions are embracing the phenomenon to improve overall experience.
Scene setting for instantly-sharable images
Theme park planners are carefully considering layouts to ensure locations of their visitor selfies are instantly recognisable. For example, designers of SeaWorld Orlando, Florida, know the entrance is a popular photo point and ensure the iconic SeaWorld ‘wave’ is clearly visible in the background – adding to the picture’s depth while subtly branding the guest’s content, whether for a selfie or regular photo.
Other destinations incorporate content-capture points within attractions themselves – notably in queue lines. Our research found that 97 per cent of guests want more entertainment while they wait, with 45 per cent demanding dedicated ‘selfie stops’.
Meeting consumer demand, Alton Towers implemented Picsolve technology to create the ultimate ‘space selfie’ for its virtual reality rollercoaster ‘Galactica’, where guests’ images are seamlessly captured as part of their ‘pre-flight check-in’. VR rides present a challenge for traditional in-ride photography, and this solution is appreciated by industry professionals and visitors alike.
Theme parks must be mindful of visitors’ obsessions with capturing the ultimate selfie – a quick snap during a hair-raising rollercoaster ride might make for a well-liked Instagram picture, but it’s a safety hazard. Despite never allowing selfie sticks on rides, Disney also banned them from its US, Paris and Hong Kong parks entirely, due to fears they could accidently strike someone. Similarly, many parks including Universal Orlando operate an ‘empty pocket’ policy, asking visitors to leave belongings and smartphones in lockers provided before embarking the ride.
To combat these issues, parks offer hundreds of image-capture opportunities, from dedicated digital content capture points to on-ride images, all of which can be viewed and downloaded by guests instantly, or later.
Creating selfie hotspots
According to CyberLink research on social media habits, 25 per cent of Americans post photos within one hour of arriving on holiday.
From the ‘sunglasses selfie’ to the ‘beach-feet brag’, hotels, casinos and resorts recognise the marketing potential of an image to improve guest experience. While some of our partners recruit on-site photographers to capture spontaneous moments, others install green-screen technology for guests to interact with. The content can be shared instantly, via a branded app, enhancing guests’ experience and giving them the opportunity to share it with everyone via social platforms.
Perhaps the most obvious selfie opportunities are found at Madame Tussauds, where image capture and shareability play a leading role in visitor satisfaction. Having a selfie with the world’s top movie stars or selfie-queen Kim Kardashian is a must. As Merlin Entertainments’ digital content-creation partner for over 70 of sites in 12 countries, we provide innovative imaging technology so visitors can capture and instantly share their best moments. In Nashville, green screen technology powers an interactive experience where fans pose with instruments and imitate music icons, providing valuable social bragging rights.
Facing the future
As technology and consumer behaviour evolves, a key challenger to the traditional selfie will be facial recognition. Consumers will want to experience moments without staring at their smartphones, and wander hands-free and empty-pocketed. The technology will identify facial features and clothing to detect individuals and capture multiple images throughout their stay, served instantly via wearable technology or apps. Visitors will enjoy instant access to digital content seamlessly captured on their behalf, and allow instant sharing with whoever they want, wherever they are.
The worldwide selfie phenomenon shows no signs of abating and offers many industries a valuable marketing tool – an opportunity to solidify customer relationships, improve visitor enjoyment and boost brand engagement. Ensuring there are photo opportunities for anything of significance is half the battle, but the secret to success is ensuring the right technology is in place to capture it on guests’ behalves. Smart world-class destinations ensure photo opportunities are fully-integrated within attractions, increasing guests’ enjoyment and eliminating safety concerns.