Touchless technology is a must as parks and destinations reopen, but it has to be backed with powerful, personalized engagement if guests are to come back after the initial buzz of excitement
Touchless is not enough. It sounds like the title of a cheesy pop song, but it’s a simple message that the theme park sector needs to remember like a real “earworm” you cannot shake out of your head.
The point is this: touchless technology is vitally necessary to reassure guests in the aftermath of Covid-19, but it will not be enough on its own to rebuild visitor numbers and encourage repeat visits.
While visitors will want to see every effort is made to reduce the chances of spreading infection, more sophisticated use of technology and sustained, personalized engagement is necessary. Venues and destinations must do more than send out the occasional limp, generalised money-off deal if they are to generate meaningful revenues beyond the initial buzz about reopening.
When we talk about touchless, we mean the use of dedicated smartphone apps and smart ticketing. Apps enable cashless and cardless payments and the ability to organise much of a visit or experience beforehand online. Smart ticketing is similarly free of physical contact for users, but downloads an electronic ticket to a device, rather than an app.
The future is touchless in much of the world
Contactless is the future. Even before the pandemic, 69 per cent of UK adults used contactless payments and research shows the experience of lockdown will only increase the trend, with 44 per cent of respondents saying they will use contactless more. Statista estimates total transactions through digital payments worldwide will increase 15 per cent in 2020, with the pandemic acting as a considerable catalyst.
Increasing numbers of consumers value the ease of contactless payments and the hassle-free way apps and smart tickets allow them to organise and enjoy their experiences, visits to theme parks, destinations, leisure facilities or shows. Visitors can order food and merchandise before they enter a restaurant or store and they can even use the app to have it brought to them. Using apps or smart tickets downloaded to their phones, they can make extra purchases, add extra experiences or gain entry to attractions, rides and shows without ever having to make physical contact.
We certainly know apps work for both visitors and destination operators. In Omnico’s Theme Park Mobile Barometer, 95 per cent of the 3,362 respondents around the globe said an app’s features would make them spend more, with many using it to beat queues or avoid checkouts.
Got the technology – now start real engagement
This is great, but in the recovery from lockdown, destinations will have to work harder to make sure visitors don’t delete the app after one visit. In the research, 53 per cent of park visitors would keep an app if they could store and use loyalty points on it and nearly half (49 per cent) wanted offers for future visits.
Consumers want a relationship with a park or destination and they want engagement to be meaningful and consistent on any digital device they choose. As we have said before at Omnico, retail has been ahead of the game on this.
Grocery retailer Co-op Denmark, for instance, has developed its use of a scan and pay app which enables customers to scan a product once with their phone, then skip the till queue by paying automatically through their device. Customers accumulate loyalty points and receive offers. But the level of engagement, powered by the Omnico Commerce platform, is now far more sophisticated and personalised. It is a channel for news about new produce and products in the specific store the customer visits, along with recipes and personalized offers that relate to the customer’s food preferences. On top of this, a strong element of gamification has further increased engagement, with prizes on offer provided by suppliers. Customers who win, pick up their prizes in-store and almost always end up spending more.
This is a great example for the theme parks and destinations market. Operators must more fully engage with their guests and potential customers, hitting the right note every time by using transaction and activity data to achieve real personalization.
Updates, offers and discounts all have to put together so they keep the customers interested. The park must show it is taking social distancing seriously but is constantly upgrading its technology and customer journeys so visits are easy and friction-free and visitors can use their own devices to remove all the hassles.
Even before Covid-19, removing the hassles was a big feature of the touchless customer journey. In the aftermath it will be bigger than ever – and rightly so.
But that can only happen if parks and destination have the digital technology such as Omnico Commerce, that pulls multiple capabilities and channels together seamlessly via a single transaction and engagement engine.