How to increase engagement and dwell time at your visitor attraction.
Whether you’re a theme park, museum, tourist destination or heritage centre, the longer people spend at your site, the more likely they will spend money and increase your revenue. Dwell time is, therefore, an established leading indicator for economic performance. Of course, it should go without saying that this time needs to be quality time and not the kind spent standing around in a long queue. Together, quality time and visitor retention is known as visitor engagement – so how do you measure and improve this?
Engagement – what is it good for?
The relationship between visitor and attraction forms an engagement of both parties, where the attraction aims to deliver the experience the consumer seeks. Good engagement with your attraction optimises the overall visitor experience and enhances its value proposition. Research has shown that consumers with prior knowledge demonstrate higher levels of engagement with their experience (hello outbound marketing!) Prior knowledge influences tourist behaviour and decision making. Familiarity, awareness and knowledge of attractions will determine a tourist's preference for specific destinations.
Who are your visitors?
It states the obvious, but if a customer walks into a shop and sees nothing they want to buy, you will not make a sale. In the case of tourists and visitors, how can you know what they want from their visit? Your customers are not a homogeneous group, and likewise, experiences should be as varied as your visitors. It is crucial to identify your key visitor segments and gain a comprehensive understanding of their behaviour and background. This research will enable effective decision-making, the creation of tailored services and products, and improve your competitiveness. You can then get creative in targeting those groups, be they locals, overseas tourists or staycationers. You need to put yourself in your visitors' shoes. Why would they want to come to your attraction? What do you offer that is appealing or interesting enough to get them to visit? What can your attraction offer that people need right now?
You may already have plenty of quantitative data on your visitors, such as age, gender, and location. Still, it’s qualitative data that will prove to be the most helpful in maximising your engagement. Gain insights and compile data about your existing visitors through your customer metric gathering and feedback tools. Analysis of data (e.g. mobility data), and real-time communication with visitors (e.g. via social media) enable venues to customise offers or personalise services and experiences. Use surveys and collect visitor feedback, whether in person or digitally, and monitor online reviews to understand what has made the most significant impression on them. Incorporating a tool to collect feedback within your mobile app is a great way to gather this information while it’s still fresh in your customer’s mind or at the point of delivery. Discover what they have enjoyed the most about their visit, was it a particular exhibit, ride, perhaps an insightful talk or helpful staff member? This knowledge will fuel any future decision making and inform you best on how to further engage with your visitors. Think creatively about making more out of these areas or replicating them across the site. Digging deep into this data will enable you to obtain new customers or enhance repeat visits, memberships, and loyalty.
Managing the guest environment
Now more than ever, the guest journey around your site needs to flow with safety first and then the visitor experience in mind. Since the Covid-19 pandemic, visitors are more concerned for their health and safety within busy environments than before, and indoor attractions in particular where managing flow can be challenging. Controlling visitors' spatial and temporal distribution is an essential management tool to avoid overcrowding or achieve full occupancy. Solutions range from simply limiting the number of visitors (e.g., timed or pre-book only ticketing), one-way systems, new attractions/exhibit development, changing marketing and promotion strategies and use of the latest technologies such as our XplorIT product. By adopting the right mix of tactics and tech, destinations and attractions can address overcrowding issues.
Once you have the site flow mapped for safety, you can then see how people will move through an area, mapping out the main thoroughfares and pinch points to help plan the best layout of your experience. Orientation and navigation within a space impact how visitors engage with exhibits and experiences. Storytelling is crucial in creating a more meaningful and impactful experience with your attraction. There should be an underlying story that threads its way through; this is usually the brand story or vision in a retail space. Think about the story you want to tell and take your guests on that journey of discovery.
Once your site flow has considered safety and access to the experience, you can then consider the best locations for revenue-generating opportunities. For example, suppose lunchtimes/evening mealtimes coincide with bottlenecks of a one-way flow experience. This type of congestion can impact spend per head at peak times. With careful planning and positioning of retail outlets and F&B stalls, you can maximise the opportunity for visitor spending and increase profitability.
Communicating with your customers
Interaction at the start of your visitor’s journey is vital to their enjoyment and their spend whilst on site. Influencing levels of contact during a visit is challenging if you are not in touch with the customer as they commence an experience, such as at a zoo or theme park. Mobile applications can help facilitate the guest journey in this instance, using nudge notifications to disseminate important information and communicate with your customers when a physical staff member can’t. If you do not have in-app technology, it is up to your team to liaise with the guests as they travel around the site. In this new online and contactless environment, it’s even more important to have visible staff on-hand who understand their part in influencing the guest experience.
Ensuring that your visitors are well prepared and in the best position to enjoy their experience is key to ensuring maximum engagement. Ensure that your visitors are:
· Confident – do they know where to go, what to expect and how to find the information they need? Have you got plenty of signage around the site? Is there a map on your website and is it mobile responsive?
· Happy – are you delivering excellent customer service and meeting everyone’s needs as best you can? Are staff visible and readily available should they seek help with a problem?
· Clear – have they received all the relevant communication in advance? Is there a chance to communicate with them effectively on-site?
· Relaxed & Comfortable – are you monitoring capacity levels and optimising visitor flow to prevent overcrowding and congestion?
· Excited – Have you done enough effective visitor research to ensure you are delivering what they want? Have you marketed your experience sufficiently to boost that level of prior knowledge?
When you connect all your activities (marketing, data analysis, research, storytelling, curation) in a meaningful way, there are considerable benefits to be seen from the power of engagement. The integration of tech solutions will also help increase operational efficiency and cost savings.
If you’re interested in seeing how our technology can address concepts such as visitor distribution, crowd management, and methods to influence guest behaviour, then get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org