“A Theme Park In Your Pocket:” How Parks Are Going Mobile

Each year, the entertainment design firm Thinkwell Group conducts a survey focused on how theme parks can improve the guest experience. The 2013 survey focused on trends related to mobile integration and theme park visitor behavior. Over 1000 people responded and the results were released on the Thinkwell Group blog earlier this week. The big takeaways from this year’s Guest Experience Trend Report confirm that integrated mobile technology will be a hot trend at theme parks in the year ahead.

The survey explored mobile devices and how theme park visitors are using their tablets and smartphones at theme parks. Thinkwell was interested in measuring whether park goers would like to see more mobile technology at their favorite parks. According to the survey, the interest level is actually quite high. 67% of those surveyed reported that they would like to see more mobile integration and they felt it would enhance the theme park guest experience. Less than 10% of respondents felt that there should be much less mobile integration at parks today.

When it comes to mobile features, park goers reported that their experience would be enhanced if they could use their smartphone for both functional and fun purposes. Guests were especially interested in improvements that streamlined queues and long waits for popular rides. Respondents ranked using mobile to move ahead to the front of lines and check queue length from anywhere in the park as the top two features they’d like to see. Park goers also reported that they’d be interested in having the option of creating a mobile itinerary for their day at the park and using GPS to locate family members.

The survey also explored how mobile technology could be used to make parks more interactive and stories more engaging. Fun features that ranked high in importance were using mobile to take part in a scavenger hunt, play games with others while waiting in line, and participate in interactive experiences with characters.

As far as mobile engagement is concerned, 72% of those surveyed reported that they checked out their smartphone a few times during their day at the park. While most respondents indicated that they only spent a few minutes on their mobile, the fact that nearly three-quarters of those surveyed used their smartphones is telling. It represents a large, untapped opportunity for theme parks that have been exploring the channel as a means of engaging with guests.

For parks considering making investments in mobile technology, the signs point to yes. Disney’s long-anticipated MyMagic+ program will be rolled out in the coming months, introducing a more customizable guest experience. The MagicBands, which are custom Disney RFID devices, mimic mobile apps by storing guest data and preferences to allow for a more convenient and personalized visitor experience. While innovative, the MagicBands will likely not replace mobile technology in the Disney parks; people will still be taking pictures, going on social media and playing with their mobile devices. In the future, mobile devices will be at the forefront of integrating customer preferences and driving customized experiences, making RFID bands unnecessary. We expect more theme parks in 2014 to feature high profile mobile initiatives that mimic MyMagic+, as well as countless smaller beta experiments as theme parks test the limits of mobile and visitor engagement.

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