This blog, written by Kelly Herrick, originally featured on Blooloop. To read more themed attractions industry blogs and the latest news in the theme park world head over to blooloop.com
Being over entertained, overstimulated and forced to take part is turning our guests off in their thousands. But we know best right? Wrong. The consumer we’re used to is changing, and it’s happening fast.
The only way to future proof your guest experience is to understand the new human behaviours and evolve your attraction in line with them. If we keep insisting that guests enjoy our type of fun the way it’s always been done, then they will vote with their feet.
Three big trends that put guests in the driving seat:
We all know what FOMO is, that fear of missing out, it’s used to sell tickets for pop-ups, to build anticipation for special events, or to build a raving fan base after a sell-out.
Today’s consumers are swapping that fear for joy – the joy of missing out or JOMO. Guests are choosing to declutter their lives, cancel their social media accounts and spend more time in nature. Euromonitor International identifies this as a key trend in its 2019/2020 report.
How can we capitalise on this in themed attractions? “Don’t buy tickets for today, come back another time” is hardly the best marketing campaign, is it? The beauty of JOMO is that it gives people back their time to do with as they please.
We can use JOMO; we can give people the time and space to make the real, face-to-face social connections they long for. Even in a busy theme park or FEC we can design a space for people to disconnect so they can reconnect.
Maybe it’s a walk between rides through lovely landscaped grounds. Maybe it’s a chill-out corner in a play centre. Or maybe it’s just creating some spaces with a less overwhelming interior. Paul Jackson of Longleat recently revealed its new pared-back, relaxing restaurant design for just this reason.
Forcing people to take part and be ‘on’ at all times is exhausting and it can lead to real social anxiety. If we allow people to check out from time to time they come back to us refreshed and raring to go again. This brings me to the next trend…
2) Neuroscience and biology
OK, so that might not be a trend, but the recent popular understanding of neuroscience, mind/body connection, and biology hacking certainly are. In fact, Marketwatch predicts that the biohacking market will grow at CAGR 19.4% up to 2023.
We are all learning more about how our bodies work and using that knowledge to make choices for our wellbeing. From the huge rise in meditation to calm our stress hormones to lighting designs that match our body clocks, to personalised nutrition, we are customising our world like never before.
DnaNudge. Image: Retail Week
Understanding your guests’ biology unlocks the real potential to give them an outstanding experience and to get the best responses from them.
If you have a storytime experience don’t do it after the kids have had a sugar-loaded lunch. If you want people to engage in your live shows, then catch them when they are at their best and awake. Or, if your resort promises a wonderful night’s sleep, then ensure the room lighting prompts their sleep response.
We can go one step further and create spaces for our guests that help them optimise their personal rhythm throughout their visit. From high energy areas to calmer ones, from bright colours to natural tones, from staff engagement to being left in peace.
If you can, design your attraction with free-play or exploratory zones; let people find their own fun, matched to how they feel in that moment.
3) I can look after myself.
This is another highlighted trend from Euromonitor International. Guests want to be in control of their visit. They want to feel empowered not babied. They want to do things in their own way and in their own time.
The advent of systems such as the Disney MagicBand has really helped drive this change. Guests can access show times and ride wait times instantly, they can book fast passes, view on-park photos and buy merchandise all without interacting with another human being.
This is a huge opportunity to enhance the role of your front of house teams. Instead of being a human signpost, your staff can now engage with guests, help set the atmosphere and entertain.
A great staff member can read the mood of the guest and tailor that interaction to suit them too. This plays straight into the trend of ‘I got this’.
Quick wins could be as simple as clear wayfinding, self-service F&B, and ‘before you visit’ emails. Consider your disabled guests too, give them details about your facilities and accessibility, ensure they have all the information they need to be independent during their visit.
Move over FOMO, it’s time for JOMO
Consumers are changing faster than superman in a phone booth! The tech fatigue, Instagram pressurised, product placement backlash has begun.
This is what we really mean by guest-centricity; they are truly in the driving seat and giving guests the experience they deserve is the only way for you to drive footfall, create fans and generate income.