Everyone wants to know what’s around the corner. Anticipate the future needs of your visitors, and you’ve unlocked the secret to success. We’ve built our business around helping people understand the future, but it might surprise you to learn where we find our answers. We look at the present. Specifically, we look at the innovations – often in other sectors and markets – that are exciting customers today, and use these to understand what your visitors will want tomorrow.
This counter-intuitive approach works for a simple reason. Once established, customer expectations spread. To take a well-known example, consider hailing a taxi with Uber. You summon a car with one touch, receive the driver’s information in advance, watch it arrive minute-by-minute, and simply exit without reaching for cash. Crucially, the expectations created by that seamless experience won’t stay neatly in a box. The next time your customers queue for a museum exhibition or theme park ride – consciously, or perhaps just subconsciously, they’ll be dissatisfied.
By understanding these emerging points of tension, you’ll be well-placed to resolve them. So, let’s dive into three emerging behaviours and expectations rippling through customers’ lives in 2019.
One truth we see repeated again and again: expectations set in the online world soon ripple into the offline world. The last decade has seen people become familiar with digital services that respond, adapt and customise themselves to individual preferences, and now we’re on the cusp of seeing the same happen in the physical world too.
Take, for example, the São Paulo subway in Brazil. In 2018 a sensor added to the platform doors detected the number of passengers in front of them and estimated their age, gender and mood. Based on this data, targeted personalised adverts could be played to commuters. Ask yourself, how could attractions capitalise on this technique?
To coincide with the 2018 New York Fashion Week, New Balance used AI to identify and reward people on the street who defied fashion trends. The sneaker brand’s computer scientists gathered data on current fashion trends and launched a ‘Be The Exception’ campaign. Cameras scanned the streets and flagged (in real-time) pedestrians whose outfits looked different, rewarding them with a pair of the brand’s sneakers. New Balance’s global marketing director says: “The idea is to celebrate people who go left when everybody else is going right.”
Yes, these examples may sound like they’re from a dystopian sci-fi movie, but think back to the Uber example: the idea that people would welcome having their travel mapped would have sounded equally dystopian 20 years ago!
So ask yourself, how can digital technologies that respond, adapt and customise to individual preferences be used at your attraction?
A painful dichotomy is opening up. On the one hand, every startup or product that delivers a positive impact drives customers’ aspirations for sustainable and ethical consumerism ever higher. At the same time, traditional governmental and bureaucratic institutions are increasingly either unwilling or unable to meet many people’s basic needs.
We don’t welcome this state of affairs. This fracture is one of the tragedies of modern society. However, we remain optimistic. In 2019, committed brands will need to reach even further in their efforts to enact positive change, including taking an active role in setting the regulations and laws that shape their behaviour.
Take the example of Beautycounter, a US-based direct sales skincare and cosmetic brand with a network of 30,000 consultants, similar to Avon. In 2018, 100 Beautycounter consultants went to Washington D.C. to lobby members of Congress about the Personal Care Products Safety Act: a bipartisan bill that aims to give the FDA authority to regulate cosmetics ingredients. But they weren’t opposing the bill. They were lobbying for the bill to be passed, because it raised standards in the industry (that Beautycounter’s natural and ethical products already exceed!).
WeWork, the global coworking space provider, announced in 2018 that it would no longer be serving meat at company events, and neither will it reimburse employees for meals that include meat. It is estimated that the move, which aims to reduce WeWork’s carbon footprint, will save 445.1 million pounds of carbon dioxide emissions by 2023. In an internal memo, WeWork explained that ‘avoiding meat is one of the biggest things an individual can do to reduce their personal environmental impact – even more than switching to a hybrid car’. The initiative will affect 6,000 employees.
Reading about these moves from Beautycounter and WeWork should make you nervous. Yes, these are polarizing moves, but what a powerful way to demonstrate your commitment to a cause? The boundaries keep on moving. The question is, within the attractions sector, where will you push them to? How can your industry make its mark?
The media landscape will enter a new phase. According to the Q1 2018 Nielsen Total Audience Report, US adults spend 11+ hours per day interacting with media!
Our near-total immersion in media is blurring the boundaries between the real and the imagined. That means new, deeper, sometimes fantastical forms of play. And opportunities for the brands that understand this shift.
Many of you will know Fortnite, the massively popular online shared shooter game; while the game is free to play, its players spend over US$300 million per month on optional in-game objects. In June its creators, Epic Games, started dropping iconic objects from the Fortnite world into the real world. The Durr Burger appeared in the California desert, while the Fortnite mascot llama made appearances in Paris and London. These cryptic clues were quickly picked up by fans, who took to social media to try and understand the meaning of the objects. Later, Epic Games revealed they were part of the promotion for the launch of season 5 of the game.
A similar blurring of media and the ‘real’ world can be seen at The Louvre in France. In 2018 the museum began offering JAY-Z and Beyoncé at the Louvre, a self-guided tour. The tour stops at each of the artworks featured in the couple’s music video for APES**T, which was filmed at the museum. The 17-stop tour explains the history behind each artwork, but not specifically why JAY-Z and Beyoncé displayed them in the clip, leaving fans to construct their own theories.
Next up, it’s your move: which online worlds could the attractions industry help bring IRL (in real life) in 2019?