7 ways digital tech is enhancing the visitor experience.
Updated: Sep 20, 2021
The visitor experience should be considered the core product provided by the attractions industry. A good experience can determine how long someone stays on your site, how much money they spend, whether they will return and just as crucially, what they will be telling other people. Prioritising visitor satisfaction, therefore, is a key factor in winning the hearts and minds of your customers. They want to be entertained, educated, and informed within a comfortable and safe setting.
COVID-19 put visitor attractions and the resulting customer experience well and truly under the spotlight. Constant pivoting by visitor experience teams from ongoing closures, capacity restrictions and safety concerns has seen them facing some of their biggest challenges to date. Hand sanitiser dispensers, one-way systems, booking time slots, online booking, cashless payments: these measures were quickly established as essential for a safe visit.
If there were any lingering doubts about the necessity of digital transformation to business longevity, COVID-19 has silenced them. Even prior to the pandemic, technology had begun to play an increasingly important role as a means of engaging with customers, allowing some workplace flexibility, and for a way to introduce automation and faster processes. The desire for technology advancement isn’t new; the pandemic has simply accelerated the urgency.
We decided to look in more detail at how technology products are redefining the visitor experience.
1. Artificial Intelligence (AI)
Artificial Intelligence leverages computers and machines to mimic the problem-solving and decision-making capabilities of the human mind. Providing online customer service is probably the most common, and critical, advancement for the tourism and leisure industry. AI-powered chatbots sitting on social media pages and website instant messengers enables attractions to respond to questions and provide useful information to customers even when there is no human staff available. Chatbot translators can also quickly identify languages used by website visitors based on their location. They can translate scripts as they happen and manage simultaneous guest inquiries from all over the world. It’s important to remember most visitor experiences now begin online before they even reach your site so these early interactions need to be seamless and helpful to ensure the experience will be a positive one.
2. Augumented Reality (AR)
AI naturally leads to AR. This is a type of digital technology that superimposes images, text or sounds on top of what a person can already see. Using a smartphone or tablet, you can show them an altered version of reality (think Pokemon GO!) and it’s been particularly well adopted by art galleries and museums. These projects can bring something new to existing collections and attract wider audiences. Art of London recently joined forces with the National Gallery, National Portrait Gallery, Royal Academy of Arts, and Sky Arts to create an augmented reality works of art exhibition around London’s West End. Visitors download the Art of London Augmented Gallery App to unlock the QR codes and reveal 20 works of art that can be found on an accessible mile-long route. The public are able to discover art masterpieces from their phone for a unique virtual art experience.
3. Virtual Reality (VR)
Some of the most popular apps for virtual reality are VR roller coasters. The user can experience a thrill ride from the comfort and safety of their own home. But it’s also possible to enhance an actual roller coaster with virtual reality. This requires syncing a VR headset with the track of the actual ride. Going virtual is a way for theme parks to offer visitors new experiences without the financial drain of trying to offer the tallest or fastest rides that have ever been made. Galaxy Water Slide World in Erding, Germany has the VR Slide where riders wear VR glasses with 360° panoramic vision. This enables you to perceive a virtual environment, such as a galactic journey through space or explore a tropical jungle world, all whilst riding the water slide. China has even built the world’s largest theme park dedicated purely to VR. The VR Star Theme Park cost an estimated $1.5 billion to build and features a massive assortment of VR rides for visitors to try.
4. Footfall tackers
Measuring people who pass into a space with footfall trackers, is one of the most important metrics in managing visitor attractions. Technology such as turnstiles, beam break or laser, under path sensors and cameras can be used to accurately measure how many visitors you have and track the customer journey. Innovative technology such as Data Duopoly’s products that use GPS and WiFi triangulation can maximise insight about your visitors. By augmenting footfall data together with information on dwell times, customer routes and most popular exhibits, provides a foundation to predict and analyse visitor behaviour that drives growth, conversion and loyalty so venues can effectively plan for the future.
5. QR codes
Whilst certainly not a new technology, QR codes (short for ‘quick response’ codes) have seen a rise in popularity since the pandemic. With health and safety concerns a top priority for many of the attraction-visiting public, how we interact with our surroundings has quickly accelerated the growth of this contactless trend. The mass adoption of smartphones along with advances in cloud native-enabled tech enable consumers to supplement the touching of common surfaces with just the use of their personal device. From the ordering of refreshments, paying for car parking to activating your floor request in a lift, QR codes can help alleviate fears and automate processes that saves your visitors’ time. The fewer processes that must be handled directly by employees, the easier it is for attractions to create positive, safe experiences for their customers. QR codes are also a fantastic low-cost way to integrate media into exhibits and can improve a visitor’s ability to pull up extended information quickly and easily. The Cartagena Roman Museum and Theatreto in Spain is using QR technology to improve accessibility. Posters along the museum's route,detected by mobile app Navilens, warn of possible obstacles or communicate the distance to displays with information on each room. This allows people with visual impairments to move completely independently throughout the museum.
6. Digital wristbands
In 2013, Disney's MagicBand burst onto the scene, replacing paper tickets and wristbands. The bands, which use Bluetooth and RFID technology, communicate with electronic sensors and are used for accessing rides, room keys at hotels, and to access the FastPass queue-jumping system at select attractions. These cutting-edge state-of-the-art contactless passes have now been adopted by many other attractions to enable cashless payments, allowing guests to pay for drinks, food, and merchandise with a quick and easy 'tap'. Visitors can also choose to link their wristbands to their social profiles where guests can post photos to Instagram, or 'check-in' on Facebook, all by tapping their wristband against a touchpoint. Venues choosing digital wristbands can collect intelligent data and deep analytics to streamline and improve experiences. Grandy Zoo in Quebec use Connect&Go wristbands to raise awareness of the plight of endangered specieswith a unique treasure hunt. Seven stations are hidden in the zoo’s different habitats and when visitors scan their bracelet, lights and music confirm that they have found the animal. More information on the endangered animal is also next to the kiosk.
7. Digital displays
Technology can also be adopted to create exciting, one-of-a-kind experiences and grab people’s attention to draw them in to visit. The National Museum of Singapore launched its “Story of the Forest” exhibition, whichoffered visitors a chance to step into another world with colourful projections and breath-taking displays. With the help of a smartphone app, visitors can also access detailed information about the animated creatures leaping among the illuminated trees. The Geo-Cosmos is a famous digital display in the National Museum of Emerging Science and Innovation in Tokyo. It’s the world’s first spherical display using electroluminescent (EL) panels that reflect daily data photographed by meteorological satellites so visitors can see the constantly changing aspect of Earth. This sort of digital technology is helping to increase visitor numbers and get more younger visitors engaged.
Attractions and venues should be using this time of reflection and planning to consider their digital strategy. Embracing this new era of technology advancement to engage and connect with visitors can not only add value, but maybe even more crucially, emotion to the visitor experience.