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SpeedSnake coaster Fort Fun

AI-powered solutions help Pleasurewood Hills & Fort Fun thrive post-COVID

The two Looping Group parks use the Convious platform to drive more traffic and enhance the guest experience

Convious is eCommerce for the experience economy. With an end-to-end sales & marketing platform, powered by Artificial Intelligence, it drives online traffic to attractions while delivering a quality customer experience. The Convious platform also implements dynamic pricing in real-time.

It is used by many venues including theme parks, museums, zoos, FECs and more.

Father-Son-on-theme-park-ride convious platform

To explore how this cutting-edge technology is helping attractions adapt after COVID-19, blooloop spoke to two popular Looping Group theme parks where the platform is in use, For Fun and Pleasurewood Hills, as well as getting insights from within the company. 

The Convious platform

Bernard Kochen Convious
Bernard Kochen

Bernard Kochen is VP of Sales at Convious. He begins by explaining the services that the company provides, and the technological solutions that underpin them.

“Our main goal is to connect venues to visitors,” he says. “And not only by offering a ticketing solution. We are there to optimize the whole customer journey, before, during and after the visit. We employ data-driven solutions where everyone else is still doing things manually. This is the power of our technology.”

Throughout the customer journey, Convious helps venues to not only reach and engage their customers but also to retain them. This helps to create lifelong, loyal fans.

“It all starts with the awareness phase,” explains Kochen. “Here, our data-driven software helps venues to reach the right audience, with the right message, at the right time. All the venue needs to do is place our script on their website. From that moment on, the power of data will start to kick in, tracking every interaction.”

This is the fuel to Convious’ algorithm, allowing attractions to know who is coming to their venue and when, as well as which channels they are coming from.   

“We know who is buying, so we can create different segments based on all the data we collect,” says Kochen. “Then we can strategically use that data for marketing and other purposes. Operators can target customers in a highly personalised way, therefore significantly increasing conversions.”

Helping visitors decide

The Convious platform also helps potential visitors make their decision. This is thanks to a feedback collector, which brings all the attraction’s reviews together in one place. These reviews can help visitors’ decision-making process, when they are comparing attractions before purchasing tickets. 

“For example, with COVID regulations, if the venue scores highly on health and safety measures, we can show that in the decision-making stage,” says Kochen. “This allows attractions to gain people’s trust and convince them to visit.”

Real-time pricing

Kochen then describes the purchase phase, where, he says, “the magic happens”, as Convious enables attractions to leverage the power of real-time pricing. This more advanced modality of dynamic pricing was developed by the company in-house. 

“Real-time pricing takes multiple criteria and data points into account,” says Kochen. “For instance, external factors like the weather forecast, as well as how many people have already purchased tickets for a specific day, or the trends compared to recent and historical sales.”

Family-on-merry-go-round

Pricing is a key business factor that can make or break an attraction’s season. With Convious’ real-time pricing algorithms, operators can ensure they are always setting the optimal price, according to market conditions. No matter how rapidly these change. 

“Although dynamic pricing is pretty new to the attractions industry, it’s already very widely accepted by consumers elsewhere,” says Kochen. “We’ve seen it in other industries for some time; in the airline industry, in hospitality, even in supermarkets. 

“Dynamic pricing is a key strategy to maximise revenue while keeping a safe visitor spread. Therefore, it is likely to grow in popularity.”

Communication is key

The Convious platform also helps attractions to communicate with their guests and build more direct relationships. Last year, Convious acquired Tap, enabling it to further enhance the customer journey. The addition of this mobile app to its portfolio means that contact with guests is now easier than ever.

“For example, attractions can send visitors push notifications, helping them to prepare for their visit the day before or reminding them to purchase add-ons, such as parking tickets, meals or equipment,” says Kochen. “They can also remind visitors of COVID regulations. This results in maximised fun and safety.  

“Or, on the day itself, the attraction can send them a message saying ‘Hey, want to have lunch with us? Check today’s special promotion!’

grandfather-on-ride-at-amusement-park

In addition to this, the app helps attractions to keep in touch with guests after their visit:

“Via our platform, venues can send specific targeted messages to different demographics following their visit. For attractions, nurturing and incentivising a loyal audience is key. For example, if somebody visits for the second time in the season, the venue could then offer them a special season pass offer.”

Fort Fun and Pleasurewood Hills

Pleasurewood Hills logo

So how does this technology work on the ground? We spoke to Andrew Fuller, Sales and Marketing Manager at Pleasurewood Hills in the UK and Andreas Sievering, CEO of Fort Fun in Germany, to find out.  

Pleasurewood Hills in Lowestoft, Suffolk, is one of the largest attractions in the East of England and was founded in 1983. Now, as it approaches its 40th anniversary, it has grown from a small park with a handful of rides to a hugely popular destination. It became part of Looping Group in 2011.

FORT FUN_Logo

Meanwhile, Fort Fun is a mid-sized regional park in the centre of Germany, founded in 1972, which has a Wild West theme.

This is a modern park with theming around the American continent, between Mexico, Canada and Alaska. For the past five seasons, it has been part of Looping Group.

The immediate impact of COVID

Andrew Fuller Pleasurewood Hills
Andrew Fuller

When the pandemic hit last year, Pleasurewood Hills had to delay opening from April to July.

“Financially, it did have an impact,” says Fuller. “Thankfully, we’re part of a larger group and have a support network. It also delayed things like recruitment and training. One of the biggest impacts was as a result of the limits on social gatherings. We were looking forward to a good year with lots of schools and group visits booked. Suddenly, that went to zero.”

Like Pleasurewood Hills, Fort Fun also had to delay the start of its 2020 season.

“Normally we start at Easter and we were not able to open until 16 May,” says Sievering. “That was the initial impact. We were one of the first parks in Germany to be ready to open. But all the school and group trips were gone, the whole B2B business was gone. “

Rollercoaster Pleasurewood Hills
Pleasurewood Hills

“However, we did see some positive impacts last year. Domestic holidays here were very popular, and we have our bungalow park which was well booked. Tourism also increased during the summer vacation, so the number of individuals visiting us rose. Ultimately, the financial impact at the end of 2020 was only 5% less than 2019.”

A partnership

The story at these two parks echoes what happened with attractions all over Europe, where most venues had to close for at least part of the 2020 season in reaction to the pandemic. 

“The whole industry suffered,” says Kochen. “However, we also saw a big difference between different regions in Europe.”

Guests on ride at Fort Fun
Fort Fun

“In Spain, Portugal, Italy, and the southern part of France, a lot of venues didn’t open at all. But in the Netherlands, the UK, Belgium, Germany, and the Scandinavian countries, attractions were able to reopen. There, we saw that venues adapted quickly to the new way of operating. In fact, some had a season, in terms of revenue, almost comparable to 2019.

“We don’t see our venues as clients. They’re partners, and they see us as a partner too. They consult us, we help them and when they are successful, that’s when we are successful. So their success is really important to us.”

The new normal

Once the two parks were able to reopen, they put several measures in place to keep guests safe.

“The biggest change was going completely contactless,” says Fuller. “We also had pre-bookings. So, we had x amount of slots available where guests could stay for the whole day but only arrive at certain times. That worked well here.

Andreas Sievering Fort Fun
Andreas Sievering

“Our COVID-19 safety measures were accredited by Visit England. As well as deep cleans, we enhanced the regular cleaning of all our facilities including the rides. We also made sure there was signage everywhere.”

Meanwhile: “Fort Fun only sold online tickets, people had to register and buy online beforehand,” says Sievering. “We had to reduce capacity and implement crowd control at the entrance. 

“Within the park, our indoor attractions had reduced capacity. We didn’t open our big restaurant, instead focusing on snacking stations. We couldn’t offer a big show so we made some street entertainment and focused on some bigger events and entertainment events during the summer.”

Pent-up demand

Following the first lockdown, people were excited to return to theme parks again and Fort Fun and Pleasurewood Hills saw a lot of pent-up demand once they did open. The solutions provided by Convious helped both parks keep these visitors safe, as well as offering them the best possible experience. 

Fuller says that Pleasurewood Hills has been using Convious’ dynamic pricing since 2019. Last year, in the wake of COVID-19, its value was clearer than ever:

“We’ve been using their algorithms, which bring together different factors, such as time of the season, historical data and customer-centric data, to affect our pricing. “

Swing Ride at Pleasurewood Hills which uses the Convious platform
Pleasurewood Hills

“This pricing method is fluid and encourages people to purchase early. Plus, rather than having two really busy days, and the rest are relatively quiet, it helps spread out that demand. That helps us to manage our resources and operations better.” 

To be honest, [the Convious platform] is imperative for success

“Convious also does all our booking management and this was great when the need to pre-book came into effect. Through their system, we can tell who has turned up and when, how many people we can still take on any particular day, how they purchased and so on.”

“With the Convious platform, venues know exactly how many tickets have sold,” says Kochen. “Plus, we can accurately forecast how many people will be in your venue tomorrow and the coming days, based on what happened in the past days and how many tickets are sold. This helps with planning as, for instance, it means operators know how many employees they need on a specific day.”

“It keeps track of our revenue and of how many visitors are coming and when,” says Fuller. “To be honest, it’s imperative for success. Also, it allows us to upsell. For instance, it allows visitors to purchase things like Extreme Scream tickets for the Halloween period, or food packages. It’s an all-in-one solution.”

Capacity management made easy with the Convious platform

Fort Fun was also able to reopen last summer, welcoming visitors from May and capacities sold out fast. It began using Convious’ dynamic pricing three years ago and was one of the first parks in Germany to use a total dynamic pricing system, with no fixed price online. This meant that the park was already strong in its digital ticketing, as Sievering explains: 

“We had between 20 and 25% of our tickets sold online before 2020. This was a very good starting point for when COVID hit.”

Fliegen_WildEagle at Fort Fun which uses the Convious platform
Fort Fun

Last year, Fort Fun also integrated Convious’ Crowd Control System, with time windows for entering the park so that guests don’t have to queue at the main entrance for long periods:

“It works fantastically and meant we were well prepared for reopening. Nobody had to wait more than five minutes in front of the cash desk. Everyone was in quickly and we had no crowds gathering.”

When we are better prepared, we can deliver a much better guest experience.

“Convious’ solutions and platform help us organise the day. We know exactly how many people will visit us over the next day, week, month. That makes it easier to manage the food and inventory, as well as planning staff, opening times, showtimes and so on. When we are better prepared, we can deliver a much better guest experience.”

“By using real-time pricing based on urgency and demands we saw that, for example at Fort Fun, the average price increased considerably last season,” adds Kochen. “Thanks to dynamic pricing, venues can sell at the optimal price and maximise revenue, reaching their box office price easily.” 

Technology is key

Fuller and Sievering both agree that technological solutions, such as those offered by the Convious platform, will be the key to future success, the pandemic having accelerated the digital trend.

“Whether we like it or not, you can do anything on the phone now,” says Fuller. “You can pay for something, you can find whatever you need. So, we must go down a digital route. Technology helps us to stay relevant.”

The crowd control makes things run smoothly right from arrival…Guests are much more satisfied from the first touchpoint.

“The crowd control makes things run smoothly right from arrival,” says Sievering. “Guests are much more satisfied from the first touchpoint. Because, when their parking goes smoothly, they know they are up for a good start to their day.” 

Sievering believes that crowd control, combined with capacity reductions, might be key to improving the guest experience in theme parks:

“We all know theme parks have to manage waiting times. This has been a big visitor friction point in recent years. People want to queue less and have more fun. So, everyone was talking about how to make new queue areas more fun. But why don’t we reduce waiting times altogether, by having reduced capacity and a smarter visitor spread?”

Los Rapidos at Fort Fun, which uses the Convious platform
Fort Fun

“Of course, there are still financial goals to achieve. But maybe there are other ways to run a theme park. For us, working with crowd control and spreading visitors from peak days over to less popular days poses an interesting solution.

“That is one of our main goals for next season, to find out what the best capacity is for our guests’ satisfaction while still optimising for revenue.”  

COVID-19 speeds up the trend for digital

COVID-19 has accelerated the adoption of digital guest interactions, with both Fort Fun and Pleasurewood Hills seeing a jump in online transactions.

“For instance, as Andreas said, Fort Fun has jumped to around 80% of sales taking place online,” says Kochen. “With the Convious platform, we do the heavy lifting. While attractions can focus on what they do best: creating memories and experiences. Our goal is to help them make the most out of their visitor experience and to do it safely.”

With the Convious platform, we do the heavy lifting. While attractions can focus on what they do best: creating memories and experiences.

2020 was a very different season. Safety, crowd control and direct revenue became more important than ever and new capacity regulations posed a challenge. In response, Convious offered a solution with limited capacity, based on time slots. This makes sure that guests can safely enjoy the premises.

“With this system, operators reported that guests had a much nicer start to their day,” explains Kochen. “Normally, they had to wait in line which is not an exciting way to kick things off, especially with kids. But now it all goes smoothly, everything is optimised for maximum convenience on their mobile phones. They can just go to the gates, scan their ticket and then get into the venue.”

Better planning

In the experience economy, businesses should focus on delivering a memorable experience at every step of the guest journey. This means, Kochen says, that the future is digital: 

“When we look at the businesses we cater to in the Netherlands, 85% of tickets and reservations are made on a mobile phone. With our reservations and time slots, our partners were initially sceptical. But after using this system for a season, they have seen first-hand how beneficial it is. Both for them and for the guest experience.”

pirate ship ride at Pleasurewood Hills, which uses the Convious platform
Pleaseurewood Hills

“People are planning in advance and the lead time, from the moment somebody purchases a ticket to the actual visit, has doubled in most verticals. Before, most people bought on the day itself, or one day before. But in 2020, for some venues, they were already sold out five days in advance. From a venue perspective, that is very positive, because they can plan much better.”

A hopeful outlook for theme parks

Many parks are hoping for a successful season this year as restrictions begin to ease. And for these Looping Group parks, having the Convious platform in their arsenal will help them to adapt as visitors return.

“Restrictions will be in place probably at least until summer,” says Fuller. “But there’ll be a lot of demand for people to go out to see friends, to enjoy social activity and visit places like us. And with the vaccinations, there’ll be increased confidence. I think we will have a good summer this year.”

People will feel as safe as the venue makes them feel

“This kind of technology is vital,” concludes Sievering. “But the team behind it is also important. We have to work with these new tools. We have AI helping people to find the right price but we still have to be on the job. After all, we are in a people business.”

“We’ve seen, over the past year, the importance of socialising and being in contact with nature,” says Kochen. “A day out has been one of the most exciting things for a lot of people. So, as soon as attractions can reopen for the new season, the demand will increase.”

Father-and-son-at-amusement-park

“People will feel as safe as the venue makes them feel. If they see a good visitor distribution and clear measures communicated, starting on the website and throughout their journey, they will feel safe. Building trust is key and will cause demand to rise. This goes back to our main goal; connecting venues with visitors.”

Future plans for Convious

The company now has just over 100 partners in 12 European countries. It is also planning to expand to the US at the end of this year.

“Our goal is to help venues get those lifelong fans and to connect with their visitors in a meaningful way,” says Kochen. “Convious can do that by offering our help and our platform, by aiding this period of digital transformation that we are all in. We have only just begun. There is so much to do, and so much to gain for all of us.”

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charlotte coates

Charlotte Coates

Charlotte Coates is Features Editor at Blooloop. She is from Brighton, UK and previously worked as a librarian. She has a strong interest in arts, culture and information and graduated from the University of Sussex with a degree in English Literature. Charlotte can usually be found either with her head in a book or planning her next travel adventure.

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