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Jumping the Queue: An Operating Framework for Theme Parks

Feb 11, 2022

Executive Summary

To win and defend their share of minds and wallets today, theme parks have to get serious about digital transformation: Leveraging customer data, connecting their system landscape and building out dedicated technology capabilities are not optional anymore.

To get these projects right, we are sharing the three-point framework that we use in our work with innovative theme park operators around the world:  

1. Connectivity is key
2. Deep data insights drive in-park spending and repeat visits
3. Bespoke solutions make all the difference  

Every year, more than 500 million people around the world flock into theme parks. They arrive in packed vans with children giggling in anticipation of a day filled with exhilarating rides, great food, and quality family time. They will create memories that will last a lifetime – and almost certainly make them come back for more in the future.  

The roughly 500 theme parks in the US alone serve tens of millions of visitors every year. For park operators, from household names like Disney and Six Flags to regional champions like Cedar Point, capturing customers and turning them into repeat visitors in the face of so many options has always been part of the game.  

In the distant past (that is, 20 years ago), consistently commissioning novel attractions and advertising them was the sure-fire way to stay ahead of the competition.  

These times are long gone. Today’s guests are more mobile, more discerning, and more technology-savvy than ever before. With countless options for their free time competing for a share of their attention and wallet, theme parks are finding themselves increasingly under pressure – and are looking for ways to up their game.

The good news is that the same advances in technology that have propelled visitor optionality also hold the key to success in this new environment: Harnessed smartly, theme parks can leverage cutting-edge tools and infrastructure to power digital and in-park experiences that surpass guest expectations, keep them engaged from the first touch point, and successfully entice them to visit more often and stay longer.

Many industry leaders have already started acting on this realization, investing significant resources into fully digital operations and customer-facing interactions. With companion apps, sophisticated targeting, dynamic pricing, and finely tuned discount schemes, they are well underway to maximize revenue, drive visitor engagement, and build long-term brand loyalty.  

Getting there starts with the right framework. To choose the tools and processes best suited to the task, operators first need to define what result their technology push is supposed to yield. Without this framework, digitization efforts fail, projects get delayed, and the guest experience suffers.  

To help theme park operators think through their technology journey, we are open-sourcing the three-part operating framework that informs how we work with our theme park customers. Using these touchstones to evaluate buying decisions guarantees digitization efforts are unified from the start – and maintain momentum throughout the process.

1. Connectivity is key

Dysfunctional patchworks of siloed software solutions are a silent killer for theme park operators: They stifle progress, necessitate hacky workarounds – and will definitely break without extensive maintenance. With specialized application vendors for every process in theme park operations, from food and beverage administration to ride queuing, we have seen many theme parks wrestling with this problem.  

This is why open platforms are the cornerstone for successful digital operations in theme parks today. With connectivity between systems as a default, operators reap process efficiency, build a unified customer identity, and ultimately lay the foundation for future data-driven initiatives in visitor attraction and retention.  

2. Deep data insights drive in-park spending and repeat visits

Capturing more in-park spending and enticing repeat visits is the holy grail of theme park operators everywhere. This is a game won through a deep understanding of visitors, smart marketing – and providing clear value throughout the guest journey, starting with the first search query, extending through the visit, and targeted communication afterwards. Continuous engagement is the winning mindset for the digital theme park experience.  

All of this starts with rich data on your customers, their needs, wants, and interactions with the park’s brand. Capturing, supplementing, and using this data across internal systems, therefore, is mission-critical to a successful marketing and engagement strategy. Consequently, all tools should be evaluated for whether they possess these capabilities.  

3. Bespoke solutions make all the difference

Just like every park’s theme is unique, so are their needs when it comes to the technology infrastructure powering their guest-facing experiences. Features like digital queuing, in-the-moment in-park promotions, and raffles in exchange for social media posts of the park experience are part of an ever-growing list of specialized applications that excite customers, build long-term relationships, and give operators access to more data on their customers.  

Building and integrating these bespoke solutions used to be exceedingly complex – until programming interfaces and ready-made software development kits came along. Together, these technologies are currently redefining the development process sophisticated for operators, making it easier than ever to leverage existing customer data, provide individualized experiences, and feed the resulting new data back into a unified platform. With APIs and SDKs, delightful customer-facing experiences get to production faster, deliver more value to guests, and act as essential data sources for true one-of-one digital journeys that turn them into loyal advocates.  

Using this framework as the north star, many of our customers made sure they never lost sight of what they were trying to accomplish in their digital transformation journey. Instead, by constantly assessing new initiatives through this lense, they maintained the strategic focus that is necessary for driving far-reaching change projects.  

To find out how you can transform your park’s operations with the powerful vivenu platform, please visit vivenu.com/sales.