I had the pleasure of hearing every detail of my niece’s recent theme park tour in sunny, and unseasonably hot, Southern California. Hearing this twelve-year-old talk about what she found amusing and troubling was not just exhausting, but it was also informative. Through the eyes of a pre-teen, I heard a lot of what would make the experience better for her and her parents.

Her story started with the long, hot line that she had to wait in, at a couple of the parks, just to get admission tickets. Not one of the places she visited had anything that would entertain her while she waited in line. She thought it would have been fun to have something she could interact with – digital displays with cartoons, touch displays she could engage with, or even some sort of digital display running video of the rides she might enjoy. Her perception of time is probably not keen, but she told me that it took her “like, 2 hours” to get tickets at one park … even though her Dad said it was inside of 30 minutes.

Interestingly, her Dad had another perspective on the admission line experience. “It was probably 30 minutes but it felt like we spent the whole morning in line.” He went on to tell me that they should have had something that entertained them and passed the time. Dad’s comment was “what kind of theme park doesn’t even show you the score of the USC game?” The same was true while they stood in lines at roller coasters, water rides, and even concession areas.  He’s right – people go to amusement parks to be amused, not bored out of their minds.  It needs to be exciting. And making the whole trip, from ticketing to exiting, needs to be a memorable experience. How does a theme park operator do that?

I think I found the answer, just by asking this Gen Z (we call them “Perpetuals” because they are perpetually on their mobile devices) youngster and her Gen X father. As different as these generations are, they came up with very similar suggestions, making me believe that these two could actually replace many Ivy League educated Marketing Departments. Check these suggestions out for theme parks, amusement parks, museums, and attractions, then let me know what you think:

  1. Ticketing lines are really boring for the kids, so make them go faster by creating mobile connectivity with something that is relevant with that theme park. A game, information, a map, a planning guide, a social media connection … something that gets the kids occupied and excited and gives the parent a break. Perhaps even show something fun on digital displays in the lines that is managed by digital media software.
  2. Ticketing kiosks can keep lines from becoming overwhelming traffic jams. Let your visitors arrange ticketing on their smart phone and quickly retrieve the tickets at the amusement park entrance.
  3. If you have special tours and events that are available, then advertise them on dynamic digital signage in the lines, so Dad only has to get his credit card out at the beginning. Seeing the unusual “back stage” of an aquarium was their favorite experience of the trip.
  4. Put up digital wayfinders, featuring the theme park map, in the parks so people can more easily find their way around to shows, rides, concessions, and shops.
  5. Add digital menu boards to all of the concession stands and make the menus fun for the kids. Maybe they’ll finally make a quick decision about what they want to eat. The concession operators might even learn that they can influence purchase behavior and drive revenue by the intelligent use of digital menu board software.
  6. Make your “advertised specials” more easy to see and understand in your merchandise shops. Maybe even advertise a loss-leader on a digital merchandiser or a video wall to get folks into the shops to see what you have.
  7. Develop some interactive displays with content that kids can interact with or even take with them on their mobile device and social media. My niece’s favorite memory was the virtual photo booth where her picture was inserted into a dinosaur environment, which she shared over and over and over and over and over.

Some good ideas from folks not in the digital signage or digital signage software industry, huh?  I think so.  Our theme park and attraction clients have said that they have heard some of the same things – they just have to get on the ball and get some of these initiatives going.  With the cost of outdoor digital signage dropping and the increased enthusiasm for immersive theme park experiences, it seems like a win/win!