There’s An App For That


Best Practices for Building an Effective In-Park App

Apps are everywhere. Some help us to save time and be more productive (e.g. shop for groceries, navigate to an important appointment, plan our day) while others help us to pass the time…. But whether an app enables you to be productive or to simply kill time, a well-designed app is defined by its ability to be intuitive, engaging, and to be an experience for the user.

In the hospitality and leisure services industry, a well-designed app can move the needle, both by growing revenue and enhancing the guest experience. An effective app might engage guests pre-visit, building excitement and anticipation. During their visit to a facility, apps can enhance a guest’s experience by providing added value and useful information. And post-visit, apps can collect valuable metrics (for example, measuring post-visit feedback including How satisfied were you with your visit? and Were our employees polite and professional?) as well as enticing the guest to visit again. Native apps download directly onto the user’s mobile device while browser-based apps require the user to navigate to the site’s specific web address before they can begin their experience.

Regardless of whether an app is being developed to engage guests pre-visit, during their visit, or post-visit, if the app is to be successful, it must be designed to get the job done. And for that, someone from the facility’s leadership team who has a stake in the app being successful must take ownership of the development process.

1. Demographics and Data Collection. The app must effectively mine data that is useful to the organization (e.g. name, birthday, zip code, phone number, email address). This can often be done as the app is being installed as a function of the permissions that the app is granted.

2. Voice-Responsive. The best apps are becoming more and more interactive. When appropriate, including voice-activated commands within an app’s design can enhance the user experience.

3. GPS Activated. The app responds differently when the user is visiting the facility. It can detect location and, therefore, accompany the user through the facility as they explore, providing added value.

4. Interactive. Using a combination of Bluetooth, RFID, NFC, and WiFi technologies, the user might be invited to play an interactive game or take a quiz that incorporates features of the physical facility (including upsells!)

5. Integrated. The app functions together with other apps including social media (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, etc. to post photos and instant messages) as well as having a direct link to the facility’s eCommerce platform (see last week’s blog, MMM_6.3).

6. Responsive Design. The app adjusts to the user’s screen, making the experience engaging, intuitive, and enjoyable, regardless of the device they are using. Adobe reports that on Black Friday 2019, smart phones were the number one way that people did their online shopping. So the app has got to be done and done well!

7. Market-Tested. Prior to release the app must be thoroughly tested by multiple users who have meticulously vetted all functionality.

When these components are considered and adequately built into an app’s design, the app will have a much greater opportunity of being accessed and used often. The facility’s marketing department will have the opportunity to build a stronger database from which they can continue to refine and improve the app. But app development must not be rushed; take time to ensure both the quality of the design and that it is as an engaging and intuitive user experience. It’s always better to be late to market with an excellent product than first with a terrible one. The better an app’s design, the higher the return.