When it comes to the customer experience (CX) and the desire for brands to strengthen their ties to consumers, the past few years have dramatically changed how we view this topic. During the pandemic, even the best-prepared companies were caught off guard in their ability to be agile and responsive. There was also a renaissance in creativity around brand messaging with the rise of new digital and social media platforms. Digital transformation is about moving from the physical to the digital world. It’s about re-establishing processes and modernizing legacy systems to enable engagement with customers in an entirely new way.
The result: a brand-new customer experience that seamlessly connects the physical and digital worlds.
In speaking with Jakob Wahl, President and CEO of the International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions (IAAPA), I gained insight into what it means to tie the digital journey with the physical journey when it comes to consumers from all over the world.
I first asked, “What are some of the changes that are here to stay regarding the customer experience?”
Wahl explained that the pandemic has influenced how today’s consumer expects their customer journey to be laid out. “For instance, consumers expect an ideal way of traveling though the use of technology simply because they have less patience, among other things.” Wahl also explained that brands must remember the human touch as they pivot to the new digital reality. Wahl pointed out that the convergence of physical and digital experiences will evolve rapidly. In this new world, brands will move beyond understanding how consumers engage with the brand to how consumers interact in their own world; and then realize how the brand aligns with the customer’s view of the world. All in all, there will be an increasing focus on the context of consumer interactions.
I explored further by asking, “What are some of the examples attractions companies are taking unique approaches to CX that have impressed consumers lately?
Wahl said that big attractions brands such as Disney, Universal’s Volcano Bay are becoming more innovative in the way they think about the customer journey. Another example is one of the most famous music festivals, Tomorrowland, which takes place in Belgium. With an attendance of more than 200,000, they have incorporated a wristband to all festivalgoers that serve multiple uses. The wristband itself is an entry ticket and serves as a cashless payment device. This reduces delay when it comes to entering the festival, eliminating physical currency, and digitizing the purchase journey. Wahl also pointed out that entertainment brand, Topgolf, has also learned that digitizing the initial touchpoint of the customer journey has proven beneficial. Consumers can book their visit beforehand via mobile app, eliminating the hassle of calling and speaking with a representative. Instead, booking with the mobile app allows the user to see available times.
Regarding the best brands handling the challenge of blending digital with the physical journey, Wahl brought up Universal Studios’ Nintendo World. Nintendo World has incorporated something called the “Power-Up Bands,” which will allow attendees to have both a physical and an interactive experience. Combined with a phone app, these bands will enable users to collect coins and character stamps as they travel throughout the park. In addition, the wristband and app can be used to complete “key challenges” that will lead to working together with other attendees in “boss battles” According to Universal Creative CCO Theirry Coup, “Think of Super Nintendo World as a life-size, living video game where you become one of the characters. You’re not just playing the game; you’re living the game, you’re living the adventure. Nintendo’s most iconic locations and experiences will be brought to life, including Mushroom Kingdom, Peach’s Castle, an incredible Mario Kart ride, Bowser’s Castle – and more.”
So what does the future hold for brands that merge the physical with the digital world? Expanding into something more than just an interactive experience. For one, brands will begin to see an overlap of customer with sustainability and the need to balance both.
Wahl had further insight into this. He brought up the fact that as companies explore ways to provide better and better customer experience, sustainability should be a part of that equation. By working to improve customer experience using the lens of sustainability, brands have the ability to find novel solutions that meet customer expectations, both in what that they experience and what they expect.
Understanding the most critical customer journeys and where opportunities exist will help a brand maintain focus and have the most significant impact on the satisfaction of its customers and its own success. Physical experiences will become seamless extensions of the online customer experience—you won’t know where one starts and where one ends.