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Insights Driven Design For Visitor Attractions

Most people would say that creating stand-out visitor attractions is more art than science – and yet, the benefits of using guest insights to inform great design is a powerful, and an often overlooked tool. Kelly Herrick, Creative Strategy Director at Katapult explains the benefits of using this approach to develop both commercial and creative goals. Originally published in the Experience UK Annual Guide.

What are guest insights?

Guest insights are anything and everything known about the guests. Having an understanding of this data helps designers move away from assumptions and bias to a more informed method of attraction design, that helps raise the bar. By using insights to inform design briefs, investment plans, or creative partner selection, companies can feel more confident in developing attractions that resonate with the target audience and stand out amongst competitors. 

Anything known about a guest is powerful but here are five key topics the insights team at Katapult have put together to explore:

  1. Why do the guests choose to go out at all? And why visit this attraction?

  2. What are their biggest pains and gains?

  3. What are their expectations, both immersive and practical?

  4. What is their emotional and physical journey through your attraction?

  5. How do they feel after they have visited the attraction, and what does this prompt them to do?

Using insights to deliver on your commercial goals

Commercial goals and creative design are not mutually exclusive. In fact, insights driven design can amplify the commercial results. Footfall, spend per head, dwell time, repeat visits, online engagement, and reviews can all be improved by smart attractions design. Being guest- orientated means you are in a relationship where guests exchange their precious time for the experience; and where guests choose to spend their time is where they will also spend their money. Just look at how much people spent on in-home entertainment and home improvements during lockdown, as an example. 

The commercial goal could be to increase dwell time at the attraction, but perhaps the graphics are displayed too high for children to engage with, leading to boredom and a rushed, disappointing visit. Undertaking a guest audit and observing families in the space could uncover this issue and lead to a really simple, low-cost fix. This is a real life example found on a recent guest audit by the team at Katapult.

Perhaps the goal is greater footfall to fill the attraction, which requires widening the drive time reach. Maybe this could be as simple as giving clear directions and accurate satnav codes on the website, embellished with fun in-car activities for the kids, getting the whole family to the attraction in a happy state of mind, ready to have a great time. The guest experience starts when they choose the outing, not when they reach the gates!

Creating a unique attraction

Many attractions are similar, but that doesn’t matter. It’s the way key elements are layered together into something unique that creates a stand-out experience in a busy market. 

Storytelling is a critical part of being desirable and memorable. From immersive world-building stories, to simple practical ones, all the messaging used by the attractions and marketing teams need to be original and in sync with the guests. For example, the Eden Project and Kew Gardens are both garden attractions, yet both are so different and both are amongst the UK’s top visited. This is because they create experience and messaging aligned to their authentic personalities and their guest profiles.

A family entertainment centre, a farm park, or a museum may be similar to many others, but it will be the way the designs and stories align to the guests that will set it apart. Ask first ‘what is it the guests really want?’ before jumping into what you want to build or what you assume will work. Starting the creative process with guest insights is a way to challenge assumptions and be truly open-minded, resulting in the very best design for the guest and the very best commercial results.

By using an insights driven design approach, companies will develop stronger, longer-lasting relationships by putting guests first in the design process. It will become a more successful attraction, beloved and uncopyable.

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