Mark Locker is the Founder and CEO of Attractions.io, a mobile app platform for visitor attractions. Mark has been involved in the industry professionally for more than 15 years, but began as an enthusiast as a teenager. After collecting and studying theme park maps as a child, Mark later bridged his passion for the industry with his proficiency as a software engineer. Today, Attractions.io is a supplier to the attractions industry and works with brands all around the world. In this interview, Mark talks about digital engagement, the importance of a holistic strategy, and getting out of the way when it comes to the guest experience.
“100 years ago parks didn’t have apps, but guests didn’t have the same expectations or values.”
The year 1984 is considered a turning point in digital engagement. Those born prior to 1984 are considered digital immigrants, while those born after are digital natives. Younger generations naturally are more tech-savvy as they grew up with more technology around them, whereas digital immigrants often gravitate toward more analog methods with which they are more familiar.
A mobile app, including the data it collects, and what it enables is a fantastic tool that connects with digital natives. This includes marketing, but also guest service and operations. Digital natives expect more things to be instantaneous and sustainability-driven, and a mobile app resonates with digital natives and the things that they desire. Brands like Amazon, Netflix, and Uber have shifted expectations for personalized experiences on demand, and have set expectations for experiences everywhere. Attractions are brands that can embrace that and deliver the same level of digital experience.
“To take advantage of an app and everything it can offer, you need to look at it holistically.”
Oftentimes, a project like building a mobile app falls under the marketing department. While this may be the most fitting, Mark stresses the importance of involving multiple departments across the organization. The app is a means to an end. This includes understanding your guests’ behaviors, as well as influencing them to have a better experience and spend more money. The app stays with the guest throughout the entire journey.
By connecting ticketing, food, hotel, photography, and other departments, you can enhance the experience while at the same time learn more data about your guests that tell you about their behaviors. Rather than looking at a mobile app as a channel that marketing looks after, look at it as the lynchpin of the park’s digital strategy.
Getting out of the Way
“Our philosophy is getting out of the way and making the most of their experience.”
Most theme parks want guests off of their phones and fully immersed in their surroundings, and that can lead to pushback when discussing the implementation of a mobile app. However, the way that Mark sees it, if it can help guests plan their day, locate areas of the park, and answer questions quickly, the app actually serves the goal that park operators set in place. While most apps measure their success by engagement and length of sessions, Attractions.io focuses on the opposite. The user experience should be designed so that guests can utilize the app when they need it, and once their need is met, the phone goes back in their pocket. Having the app be a quick solution for way-finding and information replaces the time that a guest would spend deciphering a paper map or asking an employee.
Mark claims that it should not detract from the guest experience, but rather elevate it. If the guest wants to order lunch to avoid lines or find their way to an attraction, the app can help do that quicker.
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