Written by Paul Whybrow
A day at a theme park can be truly magical. A chance for family or friends to enjoy some fantasy and fun in the way they want, whether it is pushing the adrenalin rush in the latest heart pounding ride or simply being able immerse in a world of make-believe for a fixed daily entry price.
Our Australian climate has generated a number of home grown parks that compete strongly with the large well-known global parks.
Competition for the theme park dollar is growing though.
Looking at the deals on US airfares, it seems that the California parks are getting more affordable than ever. The dream of spending multiple days at the megaparks is well within the grasp of Australian families swapping a 14hr drive to the Gold Coast from the south, to a 14hr flight.
Then add the perception of wet summers, along with the growth of home entertainment and accessibility through broadband and NBN: there are a number of distractions that could keep families from bothering to leave home at all.
Finally, digital disruption is giving easy access to tools and videos to compare experiences and consumer sentiment, which means potential visitors, are more savvy on the value they expect from a day at a park.
Disney, for example, has spent over $1billion dollars transforming their resorts into a digital data delight. The core of the success is the creation of the MagicBand, a simple plastic wearable that collects and shares all the data to allow visitors to enjoy a highly personalised journey through the park. From accessing rides, entry to hotel rooms and restaurant reservations, all is handled in this one device. It has been a big bet that has really paid off in customer experience reinvention.
Competition is not just in the US. With the rapid growth of Dubai as a European holiday stop over, a day at a theme park could be the perfect jet lag remedy. Opening later in 2016, there is a set to be the first integrated smart park for the United Arab Emirates. The goal is to create an extraordinary park experience underpinned by digital smarts working with the brand power of Dreamworks , Sony Pictures and LEGOLAND.
The good news for Aussie theme parks is that they can use the benefits of digital disruption to compete strongly against the global competition in many ways.
Essentially the core reason to go to theme parks is the thrill and sense of achievement when you overcome your fear: true whether you are an 8 year old going down a water slide or a 40-something mum braving the latest rollercoaster with her teenagers. The laws of physics drive the core thrill experience in all these cases, tricking the mind you are doing something far more dangerous than you actually are.
Adding a digital wrapper takes the experience way beyond the minutes you are on a ride into an extended emotional event well beyond the day.
This falls into three clear areas: Understanding your guest, creating the adrenalin and delivering the promise.
Understanding your guest
With smart CRMs and access to data analytics, it is much easier to understand your customer. With theme park visitors there is complexity to be got and acted upon. A family group can consist of many customer journeys from the needs of the young kids to the demands of teenagers and grandparents coming along to share the fun. For a successful day all must be understood for their different needs. Contrast that with a group of mates out for a thrill-seeking birthday celebration. Through every stage from marketing, ticket sales, park experience, geography location, all need to be understood and given different consumer conversations.
Creating the adrenalin
Whether it is using digital to drive ride immersion through creating more believable fantasy environments, adding virtual reality to rides or managing the traffic and line management, it all has a part to play that can be enhanced through digital capability. Mobility and smart phones open up far more opportunities in all these areas for new solutions, to maximise the experience per ride and drive more rides per visitor
Delivering the personalised promise
People are now expecting a personalised experience in going to a park. I expect the original offer to suit my needs, the ticket purchase to be smooth and available through platforms that suit me. I want to feel anticipation for the day with those I am going to share with, mentally prepare for the thrills, read the reviews and share the feedback.
When I arrive, I want to be able enjoy every moment, move from ride to ride without fuss, without too much waiting, I want to eat when I want and be offered the right food for me, the right gifts for me, and share the experience with my friends both on the day and afterwards.
If I have a personalised and valued day, then I will influence my friends positively, I will be tempted by multipark and year-long upgrades. In today’s social world if I don’t get hooked in though, I can soon put others off.
Our Australian theme parks have a very exciting challenge. Digital disruption allows digital wrappers to surround the thrills that parks give us, and deliver a personal valued experience focused for our Aussie tastes, that will live well beyond the visit and want us coming back for more on our home turf!
Written by Paul Whybrow