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How Merlin Digital creates personal and seamless guest journeys

Merlin Digital Bear Grylls

Attractions are increasingly using technology to enhance the visitor experience. From booking to departure, operators want to create personal, seamless journeys for guests.

Merlin Entertainments Group is the world’s second biggest attractions operator after Disney in terms of visitation.

The UK-based company owns and operates over 120 attractions worldwide. Its portfolio includes 18 hotels, six holiday villages, and major theme parks such as Thorpe Park, Alton Towers and Heide Park.

Mark Allsop Merlin EntertainmentsMerlin Digital has consolidated marketing and technology into a single function – Merlin Digital, headed up by Mark Allsop, Chief Digital Marketing and Information Officer.

“It is the best of online digital marketing, combined with the best of digital innovation and technology, and we bring those elements together to focus on the guest journey and drive guest satisfaction,” says Allsop in an investors’ presentation.

Providing seamless and personalised guest journeys

Merlin Digital

Merlin Entertainments Group reported that a record 67 million visitors were welcomed to Merlin attractions in 2018, up 1.4 percent on 2017

77 percent of people now purchase admission tickets on a smart device. 1.1 million people downloaded Merlin apps in the last year.

Merlin Digital reveals that 77 percent of people now purchase admission tickets on a smart device. 1.1 million people downloaded Merlin apps in the last year.

“We now need to make sure that all websites and systems and content and imagery is mobile relevant and mobile friendly,” adds Allsop.

30 percent of app users sign up to active marketing from Merlin, and that 32 percent of revenue is now delivered online.

30 percent of app users sign up to active marketing from Merlin, and that 32 percent of revenue is now delivered online.

Merlin Digital hopes to get that figure to 50 percent by 2021, by steadily growing its online presence.

Supporting consumers by becoming more digital

Merlin Digital

Merlin Digital wants to respond to a shift in consumer behaviour, creating personal and connected experiences through three key elements:

  1. Seamless guest journeys (taking the friction point out)
  2. Personalise journeys through data (using data like Netflix and Amazon for suggestions)
  3. Make sure journeys are connected through technology

“In the future, the way our customers access our brands will be increasingly digital,” says Merlin Entertainment Group’s CEO Nick Varney, who recently spoke to Blooloop about the company’s international growth.

“The cooperation between IT and Group Marketing means we are on course for closer integration and championing of the digital guest journey.”

Merlin Digital is able to drive revenue growth through online, trade, and short breaks, and support the productivity agenda through innovation.

However, Allsop says that much of Merlin Digital’s time and energy is spent on improving guest satisfaction through the digital journey.

Taking out the friction points

Merlin Digital

At the stage where people are considering an attraction or resort, Merlin Digital engages with consumers, via email or social media, making sure to serve up products and offers, encouraging potential guests to make a reservation.

Merlin Digital then aims to make the booking process as simple, clear and easy as possible, with payment options including PayPal and Apple Pay.

At the attraction itself, Merlin Digital takes out the friction points, providing an itinerary planner, ride booking, remote F&B ordering, easy entry, contactless pay, and live wait times in a Merlin app.

“Via the app, via live wait times, we are beginning to help our consumers do more see more ride more and queue less,” says Allsop.

Merlin is also rolling out admissions kiosks and touchscreen tech to short break attractions, hotels, and F&B outlets, with a high proportion of users preferring to use kiosks when checking-in, or ordering food.

Bear Grylls Adventure

Most of the aforementioned technology is available at the Bear Grylls Adventure in Birmingham, where Merlin recently launched the Bear Tag – using tech to provide a convenient and personalised experience.

The Bear Tag manages visitors’ itineraries and gives alerts and notifications for when they need to move on to the next activity.

It also includes one-tap payment for F&B, retail, and photography.

As technology becomes increasingly integral in creating unique and memorable visitor experiences, Blooloop has predicted six attraction tech trends as ones to watch in 2019.

Images: Merlin Entertainments’ investors’ presentation

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Bea Mitchell

Bea is a journalist specialising in entertainment, attractions and tech with 10 years' experience. She has written and edited for publications including CNET, BuzzFeed, Digital Spy, Evening Standard and BBC. Bea graduated from King's College London and has an MA in journalism.

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