Digital Migration

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Technology vendors serving the adventure park segment have made great strides in the past decade in addressing the needs of the industry. The field of technology providers remains broad and diverse—and these evolving systems have reached a level of functionality that allows operators to better manage their business and also provide guests with a better experience.

Outsourcing the infrastructure for core business functions always triggers dialogue about convenience versus control, cost to serve, and everyone’s favorite: What kind of process are we automating here? After consulting a handful of experienced technology vendors, we’ve identified a few areas of change worth talking about, and picked up a few pieces of helpful advice for operators on how to manage change when migrating to one of these systems.  

What’s New for Guests?

Fortune called 2021 “The Summer of Reservations.” The adoption of online booking has now become nearly ubiquitous as a result of both organic consumer behavior and pandemic necessity, which is a welcome change for operators and guests alike.

“These days, everything we do requires a reservation,” says The Flybook co-founder Megan Langer. “From public pool lounge chairs to tables at restaurants—it needs to be reserved in advance.”

Consumers hope this trend will stick around even as Covid restrictions are lifted. “It’s more controlled, organized, easier to plan around and a better overall experience,” says Langer. 

But it has its pitfalls. “Because people are reserving their entire weekend—and life—now, they are doing so further in advance and making ‘just in case’ reservations around the best guess for their weekend plans. This has interesting impacts to operations and overhead,” she says. 

Self-managed reservations. With reservations on the books, operators staff up to meet the demand. However, if a reservation doesn’t fully come through, it costs money—both in lost revenue and staffing expense. To mitigate this, The Flybook has a new feature that allows guests to self-modify reservations; they can change the date, time, and number of people themselves.

“Without tools where guests can very easily self-manage the reservation modifications, three guests will show up for their five-person reservation,” says Langer. “Even if operators only give credit rather than refunds, had those slots become available sooner, they could have been sold to someone else. The combined cost of additional staffing and missed sales is estimated by some to be easily well over $10,000 annually.” 

User-friendly. In addition to more powerful advance bookings, guests are enjoying the efficiency of parks with a cohesive technology workflow—and that results in positive reviews. 

“We’ve seen a lot of progress in elevating the overall guest experience,” reports Singenuity COO Adam Thompson. Singenuity software combines a number of critical functions—inventory, reservations, point of sale, digital waivers, and so on—under one solution, so guests enjoy a smoother and more personalized experience when they arrive. “We’ve seen guests comment that the check-in was a big part of their five-star review,” he says.  

Singenuity, top to bottom: A clean user interface simplifies training; software combines multiple functions (POS, waivers, reservations) under one solution for a smoother guest experience.

Since most of the searching and shopping is done online, experienced consumers expect an attractive and simple website. Checkfront is offering a powerful website-builder tool as part of its core offering, which allows an operator without in-house web design skills to have a high-quality digital presence. 

Mobile offerings are reaching a new level of sophistication across the spectrum of vendors, effectively putting the full range of customer service tools in the pockets of employees. The power of mobile-first interfaces for adventure park operators is huge since it means staff have the ability to upsell, modify, handle waivers, and free up inventory in real time if they encounter a no-show.

Contactless. The tech world has also evolved to offer contactless digital waivers, which, among other advantages, is a sustainable choice—and guests appreciate it. “With a growing interest in sustainability and new health and safety measures becoming normalized, adventure parks will likely see a more conscientious and apprehensive thrill-seeker as they return to full capacity,” says Checkfront COO Mark Holder.

With everything completed in advance online, reservation technology with digital waiver management capabilities provides a contactless and environmentally-friendly solution. One of Checkfront’s clients, for example, reached carbon neutrality after removing paper systems, an effort that “included collecting over 25,000 waivers digitally per year,” says Holder. 

Checkfront, top to bottom: The website-builder tool allows for website creation without web design expertise; a clean dashboard presents booking data in a simple, user-friendly format.

What’s New for Operators?

Motivating guests to come back for repeat business is one of the challenges in the adventure park space. Once the guest has a good time, what motivates them to 1) share that positive experience with others, and 2) plan another visit?

To invite guests to spend more time on site, many operators have expanded their offerings and services. “In recent years, nearly every park we work with is doing very creative things to add new features,” says Langer, “often with low overhead and costs, but enough to entertain people longer, encourage repeat visits more often, and increase overall average ticket prices with the ability to package items and upsell. Technology will be an important component to support the trend.” 

Flexible add-ons. There has been a considerable increase across platforms in the flexibility to offer additional services, add new rules or logic, and utilize website design tools and powerful features to digitize what was previously “offline.” Digital waivers are a popular example, which points to a broadening scope for these systems overall.

The Flybook, says Langer, is making it easier for operators to create and publish to a website new bookable services and special seasonal events, such as fitness classes or food and beverage options. As well, says Langer, in addition to standard ticketing features, specific features like The Flybook rental tool enable parks to sell a picnic table or yard game, for example, for a certain number of hours, with hourly pricing.

The Flybook, top to bottom: Mobile tech allows users to modify their own reservations, minimizing no-shows; a flexible platform simplifies the publishing of bookable services; a Swell integration adds new review functions.

Another good example connects back to the importance of user reviews: The Flybook recently developed an integration with Swell, a customer engagement platform. Swell has an automated reviews feature, which has turned out some impressive results for The Flybook user base, reports Langer. In two months of use, “lifetime reviews on Google have more than doubled,” she says, and monthly review submissions have more than quadrupled for some users.  

Integration has also improved drastically—and not too soon, either. Vendors are integrating with new hardware options like wearable RFID wristbands, card readers at the point of sale, and third-party sales channels. Experienced operators might know that opening new system integrations takes some effort, which may or may not yield the expected results; however, it must be said that in 2022, it is simpler to add or delete new services (such as new point-of-sale hardware, or the Swell integration mentioned above) from these systems than in the past. This means a greater level of agility to keep costs rational and avoid missing out on sales.

Reporting tools. The subject of integration capabilities leads to third-party distribution, where parks can grow sales and impressions—if the price is right. It is crucial to monitor the performance of sales channels to see which is proving most effective. Similarly, operators should use timely and accurate reporting to monitor conversions from mainstream (and sometimes expensive) pay per click (PPC) channels such as Facebook or Google AdWords. All of the vendors we spoke to are offering reporting tools with clear data dashboards, which help identify what is performing and what is not. 

There is certainly no “one size fits all” approach here; parks will have to learn and assess where their guests are and how those guests want to shop by using what they already know coupled with the powerful new reporting available from the booking systems. While operators are able to define what price points work through which channels, a dominant model for channel distribution within the experiences sector is yet to reveal itself. 

How to Manage a Tech Implementation 

Detailed requirement gathering, functional workflow definition, critical milestone—like most examples of impressive-sounding corporate jargon, these terms represent common-sense processes. Wise operators will take advantage of a technology implementation as a chance to define and improve steps in their business processes, not just adopt a cool new system. 

Some advantages of adopting a new system simply come pre-packaged with the change. Singenuity’s Thompson describes a client’s reduction in training time for new hires from two to three weeks down to just as many days, owing to the simple user interface and integrated systems approach of the solution. For an operation with high turnover, that’s a considerable staffing cost upside—and a signal that the new technology is truly delivering efficiency in contrast to older, harder-to-use, legacy tools. 

Define your processes. Regardless of any “baked-in” benefits, it is a worthwhile exercise to get your team in a room, bust out the dry erase markers and do the work to define—and ask hard questions about—a given process. For example, when determining how to present your menu of services, should the guest see everything all at once? Or do you want to offer options at certain points in the shopping experience? How does this differ from an in-person interaction? Should there be a difference? 

In a large enterprise business, changing out any one of these components like reservation, inventory, a third-party integration platform, and so forth would be a major initiative worthy of the ubiquitous-yet-apocryphal term “digital transformation.” For smaller operations with fewer obstacles, it may seem overdramatic to sit down and pick apart the product bundling, back-office bookkeeping, or the point-of-sale workflow. Be advised that large enterprise organizations would (and do) skip these things, too, but the cost is always higher to go back and fix something that was not addressed during implementation.

Get the full picture. Changing systems is also a time to question whether and how other ostensibly unrelated initiatives might intersect. This could be a planned change in branding, expanding ancillary services like gear rental, or opening additional locations. It’s important not to isolate a technology implementation from other important changes in the business, so as to avoid duplicating efforts and to ensure the workload and pace is achievable. 

When it comes time to work with your chosen vendor, get a clear understanding of what the product can do. Read the documentation, and if possible, speak to other users of the system as a reference. Ensure that you are taking full advantage of the feature set, too; lots of value gets left on the table during system implementations due to a focus on only replacing what exists today. To do so with the current technology available would be the same as turning away business. 

Booking Tool Suppliers

Checkfront checkfront.com

Fareharbor fareharbor.com

Peek peek.com

Resmark Systems resmarksystems.com

Rezdy rezdy.com

Rezgo rezgo.ca

Singenuity singenuity.com

The Flybook theflybook.com

XOLA xola.com 

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