Tech Revolution at the Zoo, Part 1: Beacons

It’s true what they say: beacons are for the birds …and monkeys and elephants and tigers and everything else you will find at the zoo. We say this because notable animal sanctuaries like the LA Zoo and SeaWorld are starting to implement beacons throughout their parks.

These devices link with a specialized app to improve the visitors’ experience while sending them dynamic, location-based offers. According to people like the Greater Los Angeles Zoo Association’s (GLAZA) VP of Marketing Kait Hilliard, these beacons will become an integral part of improvements to guest relationships.

Which Way to the Hippos?

In May of last year, the L.A. Zoo opened their ambitious 2.2 acre Rainforest of the Americas exhibit. To help guests learn more about each of the animals on display, beacons were installed that facilitate a self-guided tour with information on each habitat.

Strategic placement of the beacons throughout the exhibit helps the L.A. Zoo deliver rich contextual insights into the animals contained within displays, including their habits and any interesting facts about their place in the ecosystem. Guests are prompted to move from one display to the next and steered back on the path should they get turned around or lost.

This summer, the L.A. Zoo is expanding both their use of beacons and the capabilities the beacons will provide by installing the devices throughout the park. Kait Hilliard anticipates all sorts of advantages to the program. “With more beacons,” she explains, “we can provide more information.” With beacons and the specialty app, guests will not only be notified about an elephant training show starting in 15 minutes, but they will also receive the quickest route they can walk to get there.

Other capabilities are aimed at reducing congestion on days when the park becomes crowded. Beacon platform data can determine where guests are clustered and send targeted messages that will hopefully divert traffic to less-packed areas. Notifying guests of the delicious food in the park restaurant, an interesting exhibit away from the crowd or a special offer can pull people away from the group and spread foot traffic more evenly throughout the park. Barring that, guests can be told to avoid certain areas or given alternate routes if the jostling becomes too hectic to, say, push a stroller through.

Fishing for Conversions

Like the L.A. Zoo, SeaWorld intends to leverage beacons in order to connect better with guests. Using their existing Discovery Guide app, SeaWorld is adding beacon capability with the plan to deliver dynamic, personalized offer messages to patrons.

Using behaviors gleaned from the Discovery Guide’s history, dining and merchandise areas can send targeted offers to help convert customers towards added payment services. Factors like dietary preferences and the age of their children can help pinpoint these messages to suggest a certain dish or stuffed animal that the family is most likely to purchase.

“For kids, this is their life,” states SeaWorld Parks and Entertainment CIO Darla Morse in reference to real-time information delivery. “They think nothing of the immediacy of information. In fact, if it’s not there, that’s a big deal.” Currently, beacons are only being used in three pilot locations where they are installed near extra-cost vendors. Morse intends to expand the beacon program to make way-finding and exhibit information more accurate.

Use cases like these will likely only grow more common in theme parks and hospitality industry sites. Digital Social Retail can be an eager partner in your brand’s ambitions to implement a beacon program and add value to the guest experience. Our beacon platform can tie into other channels like loyalty programs, social media and digital signage. Discover more about what beacons can do by visiting our beacon ad server product page.

You can also click here to read part II of this post and learn how zoos are using digital signage to increase conversion rates and sales lift.

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