Can Experience Mapping Help You Create a Winning Attraction?

Posted by Elizabeth Alton on Tuesday, April 21st, 2015

Disney FastPass and Experience Mapping

One of the universal truths of visiting a theme park is the long waits. From spending hours with cranky children waiting to meet their favorite characters to sweltering as you stand in roller coaster queues on a hot summer day, long waits are also one of park visitors’ most common complaints. How much does something like this affect the overall guest experience? The Walt Disney Company understood the potential negative impact of long waits, listened to customer feedback, and created its groundbreaking FastPass program. FastPass is a great example of mapping the guest journey, identifying a roadblock, and offering solutions that help improve on the overall theme park experience.

Today, a wide variety of entertainment venues from museums to parks are relying on tools like customer experience mapping to better understand how visitors see their attractions and how they can be improved. As one business expert said, experience mapping can help designers and product developers take a good experience and make it great. Experience mapping captures specific elements of a guest’s interactions with an attraction or brand, based on the idea that this experience includes a wide variety of channels, touch points, and connections. As a result, designers are able to see what’s working and identify problem areas for improvement.

Experience Mapping

It’s important to realize that the visitor experience begins as soon as a guest has the idea to visit an attraction and can last for days afterwards. The experience flows from any online brand touch point such as websites and social media accounts and then continues in person with a visit to the actual attraction, park, or museum.

What does an experience map encompass? There are different approaches to the methodology and leading firms in the space each have their unique spin. But there are several factors that underpin these approaches:

Understanding the channels: Channels point at specific areas where customers interact with a brand. For example, at Disney World it might include booking the trip through a branded travel agent, staying at a themed hotel, enjoying theme park rides, and visiting retail and dining establishments.

Uncovering the motivations and goals behind each action: What are your guests trying to accomplish with each action they take? The specific “touch points” might include the desire to buy a souvenir, connect with a beloved character, or give feedback on their experience.

Explore customer behaviors: Across the different elements outlined above, now take a look at current customer behaviors. What are customers thinking, feeling, and doing at specific points? When they’re on a fantastic ride, they may be thinking how innovative your company is, enjoying the ride, and feeling a sense of exhilaration. When they’re back in that queue mentioned above, they may be thinking about your inefficient logistics, feeling tired and frustrated, and simply standing around. Information related to these topics can be gathered through surveys, interviews, roleplaying, analytics programs, and participant observation.

Emotional Aspects of Experience Mapping

Get input from diverse players: Different customer segments have unique experiences at attractions. A family with young children, a group of teenagers, a lifelong brand fan, or a retired couple are all going to experience, perceive, and judge an attraction or theme park in a distinctive way. But understanding the individualized journeys of each of your key target groups – and connecting that to your “most important audiences” – you’ll be able to better create customized content and experience streams. Get feedback directly from members of these audiences. It’s also helpful to call upon a wide variety of different individuals within your organization. For example, your IT team might note that overburdened WiFi systems are frustrating while a retail clerk could speak to long waits due to understaffing. Small details that escape the notice of general designers or managers could have a significant impact.

Draw conclusions: What’s working well, that you want to dial up or replicate in meaningful ways? Are there clear pain points that can be identified and resolved to help improve the overall experience? Do the pieces fit together in a cohesive flow, or can you more effectively curate your guests’ progression through the attraction or the park?

Get visual: The idea of “mapping” the experience isn’t rhetorical. In some businesses, it’s as simple as using post-its or a design program to create a rudimentary map. In others, it leads to a professionally designed and shared document that becomes the basis of future experience design. The map allows your team to have a shared visual and to develop a common language to discuss your goals.

Connect insights with your underlying experience design goals: Often, one of the most useful elements of mapping the guest experience is helping you identify gaps. How does the current customer journey look when compared with your “ideal” or your plans for future growth? The gaps can help you focus on specific elements and opportunities for growth and improvements.

Experience Mapping Process

Attractions need to maximize guest experiences. But it can be difficult to do this successfully when you’re taking a one-off approach. Experience mapping is one methodology that some organizations – from the largest theme parks to small regional museums – are using to gain insight into their guests’ visits and identify areas for improvement. The designer’s toolkit needs to be consistently expanding and growing to meet the needs of an increasingly competitive marketplace. Whether you’re looking to improve a very specific part of your attraction such as the gift shop or you’re ready to tackle the overall cohesiveness and flow of an entire park, experience mapping can be one avenue that allows you to do this.

Images sourced courtesy of Now the End Begins, Pinterest, Karo

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