American attractions face an increasing number of challenges as competition for visitors, membership dollars, charitable gifts and brand recognition rises. Destinations once at the top of any tourist’s trip itinerary must find new ways to stay top-of-mind with visitors and membership alike, and many organizations are accomplishing this through a robust, native mobile app. With a branded app, marketers, program and membership directors effectively create better brand engagement, grow membership and grow revenue. Here are 6 reasons why mobile apps are the most valuable platform for building brand affinity for guest attractions.

  1. Mobile is the single best place to capture your visitor’s attention

    Did you know 98% of Millennials use a smartphone? Often overlooked GenXers have a 96% smartphone adoption rate. That’s no surprise as we have become more dependent on continuous connectivity — whether that is for work, communication, personal organization or entertainment. But don’t think smartphone penetration has only affected younger generations – 61% of Baby Boomers don’t leave home without their smartphone.

    Not only do we spend more time on our smartphones than on any other device, but 90% of all smartphone activity is spent in apps. Brand marketers know that to reach these important audiences where they are most often, they must incorporate an app into their digital strategy. This is critically important for attractions and sports arenas where mobile has the potential to revolutionize the experience for all types of visitors.

    Recently named the nation’s Most Mobile-Friendly City and one of Forbes’ Top 3 US Cities Poised to Become Tomorrow’s Tech Mecca, Atlanta is emerging as an innovation-driven city passionate about providing industry-leading fan experiences powered by technology. Venues like the Mercedes-Benz Atlanta Falcons Stadium and Atlanta Braves’ SunTrust Park are leading the way, beginning with unmatched, in-venue network coverage that ensures fast, reliable Wi-Fi coverage that enhances the fan experience.

    “We know that creating the ultimate fan experience means meeting fans where they are, providing them with the platform to interact in a seamless way and introducing them to new offerings that exceed expectations.” – Rich McKay, President  & CEO of the Atlanta Falcons


  2. A great app will keep them coming back over and over again

    It’s not enough to build an app; you have to create constant value. Far too many apps are opened once and deleted immediately; in fact, the average app loses 77% of its users in the first three days after downloading. That may seem like a good argument against investing in mobile software, but the ultimate marketer sees this as an opportunity since 90% of all smartphone activity is spent in apps. So how do you make a product so sticky that users come back to it over and over, engaging more deeply with your brand?

    It’s time to stop asking “What?” and start thinking about “Why?” Marketing must see beyond the marketing message and novelty campaign tactics. Consumers don’t care about your brand. They care about what you can do to help them. Why should they use your app?

    Think about your potential users: local visitors, members and tourists. Did you know that 95% of tourists use digital tools to search for the best experience before, during and after taking a vacation? Most use a combination of 19 sites and apps during their visit. Flight and hotel booking make up the majority of mobile searches with trip itineraries following closely behind. By providing your own mobile app as a stand-alone product that also integrates with other popular travel planning apps, you’re making it easier for tourists to include your destination in their travel plans.

    What about members? How can you enhance the experience of your most loyal customers? Research shows that members who interact with an organization or attraction through mobile are more engaged and active and overall spend more money and time at the venue. Especially when involved with a non-profit, members who use mobile feel like they make a greater impact on the organization. Mobile is key to turning your members into brand advocates since 90% of app users will recommend your app to others if the experience is seamless and rewarding. Who better to help increase membership awareness and fundraising efforts than your most loyal fans?


    Related: How marketers can navigate the mobile app maze

  3. Mobile collects valuable, actionable data

    “Through every interaction with an app, users are screaming out their personal preferences, interests and desires — this is truly big data delivered on the individual level.” – Josh Todd, CMO for Localytics

    Data is helping drive better customer experiences across industries. We know where our customers spend most of their time online, in apps, where they spend money, where they drop off and what devices they are on. But often marketers forget about this insightful, critical information when it comes time to plan and build apps.

    Take a look at how your website visitors engage with your brand and determine where they take high-value actions. How can you leverage an attraction mobile app to ensure visitors purchase tickets or membership packages? How can you prevent them from leaving your site before making a purchase? When is the best time to deliver promotional offers? Or what kind of promotional offers should you push? Analyzing this user-level data ensures the mobile experience you offer mirrors what your customers want.

    Once your app is deployed into the hands of users, app analytics provide ample information on how your users interact with it and can help you determine what refinement may be necessary to provide an engaging mobile experience. Analytics can also provide concrete measurement of the app’s effectiveness – something necessary for gaining buy-in from your organization’s stakeholders.

  4. Bleeding-edge technology enhances the guest experience like never before

    Attractions, stadiums, concert venues, even retail and restaurants are looking at bleeding-edge technology as a means of differentiation that provides a deeper, more personalized experience for each visitor or customer. Beacons, live streaming, augmented reality, wearables, push notifications – these are some of the many ways brands are connecting with their audiences.

    While the use of beacon technology is still nascent, it’s becoming more popular and valuable. In sports arenas alone, 93% of all MLB stadiums in the US have deployed beacons, along with 75% of all NFL stadiums, 53% of all NBA arenas and 47% of all NHL arenas. Beacons can help venues create contextually-aware experiences through proximity, such as exclusive offers, restroom and concession location information, enhanced tour experiences and messaging that incites action or purchase. One of the number one use cases for beacons is to cut down the time visitors spend in line.

    “We attribute the use of proximity technologies to our dramatic increase in fan engagement, ticket sales and season ticket holder renewal rates,” said Orlando Magic CEO Alex Martins

    Live streaming allows users to engage with your brand on a deeper level from outside of the attraction or in the case of parks and attractions that are off the beaten path, build brand-awareness from the ground up. Katmai National Park in Alaska discovered the benefits of live video when more than 2 million users tuned into the park’s live stream to watch grizzly bears fish for salmon in the park’s many streams.

    Augmented reality (AR) offers an attention-grabbing way for brands to set themselves apart, especially for live experiences and attractions. By layering digital enhancements over a physical reality, brands can deliver relevant messaging and create real-time value to app users. Both the New York Botanical Garden and the Sunshine Aquarium in Tokyo have award-winning AR integrations that serve two different objectives.

    The New York Botanical Garden app used AR to overlay historic images like landscape plants and plans, as well as quotes, over Garden exhibits and collections. “The [New York Botanical Gardens] app puts the expertise of the most knowledgeable tour guide at every visitors’ fingertips, which makes going to the garden an even more rewarding experience,” said Michael Bloomberg, philanthropist and past New York Mayor.

    Tokyo’s Sunshine Aquarium – my favorite attraction mobile app – solved both a visitor and business pain point using AR. The organization created an experience that entices visitors to its doors to help visitors find the aquarium and drive more foot traffic. The app incorporated penguins as tour guides in its AR experience, guiding the way for tourists to travel from the train to the aquarium just a few miles away. Since deploying the app, the Aquarium has experienced a 152% increase in traffic!

    Related: 9 Things Every Marketer Should Know about Mobile Apps


  5. Apps offer your users a personalized, two-way communication channel

    “Optimized digital platforms…respond to the needs of our audiences and engage a generation that experiences content digitally and on demand.” – Bruce Kovner, Vice-Chairman, Lincoln Center

    Loyal customers will spend up to 10 times the amount of their first purchase over the course of their relationship with your brand – far more than casual customers. Eighty-six percent of today’s consumers say personalization plays a role in their purchasing decisions, and 56% of marketers report higher engagement and response from personalized mobile experiences, especially when enhancing a real-world experience. But again, you need to create value for them to become loyal.

    Always ask your users for suggestions in building a better experience. By leveraging data to segment your audiences, you can ensure you are tailoring your responses to individual users’ unique feedback. For instance, when a user provides positive feedback on social media or through an in-app prompt, ask them to rate your app in the app store. If they have submitted negative feedback, ask them to fill out a satisfaction survey and then plan to make improvements based on that user feedback. If users are providing you with feedback, you’ve already engaged them. But, 55% of consumers won’t continue being a customer of a company that ignores their feedback. The key to building loyalty is ensuring your customers stay engaged. When brands acknowledge poor user ratings and demonstrate an effort to improve user experiences, they leave a positive impression with users, keeping them engaged with both the app and your brand.

    Mobile provides the fastest way to communicate with your most loyal audiences. An app offers your customers a continuous brand experience in their pocket whenever they want it, wherever they are. No longer constrained by access to a desktop computer, hours of operation or physical location proximity, your customers can seek information and offer feedback in the moments they need it most, creating a deeper affinity for your brand.


  6. Great, shareable content empowers loyal users to become brand advocates

According to Entrepreneur, “89% of Millennials plan travel activities based on content posted by their peers online.” Additionally, “97% of Millennials share photos and videos of their travels online, building an influential web of peer-to-peer content that serves to inspire potential guests.”

A branded mobile app is the perfect platform to distribute content that is easily consumed and shared by your loyal users with their personal audiences. Making it easy for them to advocate on behalf of your brand through social sharing can amplify your marketing team’s efforts – with no additional budget required of you!

Building in a loyalty program for sharing content is an excellent way to incentivize loyal fans to spread the word about your destination. You also give brand fans a reason to return to your destination to redeem loyalty points. This strategy is working well for the Marriott International loyalty program that enables customers to receive hotel points for sharing their vacation and engaging them with the brand.

“Through travel, Marriott Rewards members pursue their passions sharing their experiences via social media along the way… we’re able to surprise and delight our members at scale, while personally recognizing and interacting with them in real-time,” said Amanda Moore, senior director, social and digital marketing loyalty at Marriott International. “Plus, the platform gives members another easy way to earn Marriott Rewards points, keeping them engaged with the program in between stays.”


“The aim of marketing is to know and understand the customer so well the product or service fits him and sells itself.” – Peter Drucker  

While there may be more competition than ever to attract visitors to your destination, creating a sound digital experience that enhances their interaction with your brand and real-world experience is the key to cutting through the clutter of available entertainment destinations. Attractions are only scratching the surface with mobile apps – giving you an opportunity to claim an industry leading position as a forward-thinking technology leader in travel and tourism.

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