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Identity swaps: The consumer trend confusing the attractions industry

“How do we know whether our guests are going to eat healthy when they get to our attraction?” This was the question posed to me at my recent IAAPA webinar as I spoke about the industry consumer trends of 2022.

It followed my introduction to a new phenomenon that is particularly playing out amongst the younger generations. An identity swap, is the act of an individual consumer (or group of consumers) drastically changing their purchasing and consumption habits regularly to meet their social, economic and wellness objectives.

Identity swap examples

To explain the consumer trend further, here’s three examples:

The act of going to a theme park or visitor attraction, typically loosens the purse strings of visitors, we know that already. In their relaxed state, they of course are more willing to treat themselves and their family and friends to sweet treats – delicious ice creams, topped with cotton candy, chocolate-dipped strawberries with popping candy, chewy sweets in 35 mouthwatering (and something awful) flavours.

Yes, consumers still want this, despite being more considered around their dietary habits and sugar intake. But it is the act of these consumers wanting ‘healthy’ snacks too, that begins to build this phenomenon of identity swaps. Vegetable sticks instead of crisps, salad wraps instead of ham sandwiches, fruity flapjacks instead of chocolate cake – we have all seen this trend in practice.

Millennialls and younger generations crave identity and belonging, which is why social media is so intrisically part of their everyday. The act, then, of being sophisticated, grown-up and living their ‘dream’ means that they want to take part in experiences that make them feel this way. Take the image above (top-left) as an example – the suave Park Row restaurant and cocktail bar, inspired by DC Comics and offering a classy environment to boot.

Yet, these are the same consumers that want to become a child again. Yes, they want to dive head-first into a ball pit, just like they did over 20 years ago in a soft play centre. They want fun, nostalgia, a unique venue, but a chance to feel as free as they did as an 8-year-old. How can these two behaviours go together?

There’s always that blip in the revenue spreadsheet that throws off the average daily intake from your retail and merchandise stores, isn’t there? Those people that seem to live and breathe your attraction and use their money to further immerse themselves by buying a lot of products from the stores.

But… these are the same people that are prudent in their everyday life, saving up to spend the amount of money they do, with you alone. Likewise, they will look for ticket offers and vouchers and deals, saving as much as they can, because they’ve already spent their ‘leisure’ budget for the year.

Confused?

Regardless of whether you’re working in operations, marketing, visitor management or other functions of a visitor attraction, we all think about consumers in the same way – siloed groups who rarely deviate from what they like and dislike. The consumer trend of identity swaps, however, is telling us to look again at the market. The same guests:

  • Want to have sweet treats and be healthy
  • Want to be treated as an adult and also as a child
  • Want to spend both extravagantly and prudently

Responding to the trend

Insights

Understanding your audience, your guests, your consumers is an ever-evolving body of work that should be shaped by the data at your disposal. Their spend, behaviour, accompanied guests, dwell time and enjoyment during their visit, should be analysed alongside their typical demographic details and day-to-day life. This level of insights won’t tell you whether your guest is going to ‘feel like treating themselves to a bowl of ice cream today’ but it will provide additional context into why they have visited you.

Strike a balance

Imagine the most amazing looking burger that filled your heart with pleasure from both the taste and the Instagram likes? Now, imagine if that burger was vegan and relatively healthy? This is the journey that many start-ups and new ventures are seeking to strike a balance over – healthy food that feels like a treat. Oumph Burger is a great example of a brand pushing the boundaries of what it means to eat vegan food – and even better still, they are already collaborating with industry partners to bring their products into the visitor attraction environment.

We’re here to support you

Myself and the Katapult team work with visitor attractions globally to better understand the performance of their attractions, the guests they welcome and the operational flow too. Speak to me today to find out more about our GX Audits, Market Insights Reports and Throughput Analysis Models.

Robbie
Jones

Insights Analyst Lead at Katapult. He works on providing data-driven audience and market trends, as well as operational insights, to assist the client and design team in creating immersive, commercially-successful experiences. Robbie has over 10 years' experience in the leisure and tourism industry and has worked with iconic brands, theme parks, family entertainment centres, museums and visitor attractions around the world.