RocketRez Wrap-Up: The Sights and Sounds of IAAPA

April 16, 2024

RocketRez had a fantastic week at the IAPPA Expo Conference and Trade Show in Orlando, FL from Nov. 14 to 18, 2022.

If you could not attend the conference, missed one of our sessions, or could not link up with us for a chat, we've put together this summative blog of the trends and takeaways from the week.

Day One

Our first day started off strong. Though the show floor wasn't open yet, the conference sessions and EDUTalks were well-attended (close to pre-COVID activity!) and full of great content.

Over 215 people registered to attend RocketRez CEO John Pendergrast’s presentation ‘The Incredible Customer Journey — Following the Data Through Every Digital Touchpoint’.

Attendees left with the key message that customers operate within a flywheel that becomes self-propelling, and that automating processes and streamlining operations are not at the expense of the guest experience, but can actually work to enhance it when making decisions based on real data captured from the digital touch points.

‘How Your Digital Experience Impacts Your On-Site Experience’ from Joshua Liebman of ROLLER offered tips and tutorials on building an effective digital strategy for your attraction, and drew parallels between the experience that travelers are expecting from attractions and the digital experience they receive everywhere else, also using the “customer flywheel” analogy our CEO mentioned in his session.

Lastly, we also watched ‘Optimizing your eCommerce Performance’, presented by Todd Andrus of Island H2O WaterPark and Stephen Davis of Integrated Insight, which focused on how to best approach whether your attraction is gaining incremental revenue or diluting present revenue. By targeting specific audiences and creating urgency towards fresh ways to generate revenue, measured results will show your creative revenue streams eventually generating profit.

Day Two

The second day was packed tight with roundtables and sessions that showed the consensus is clear: implementing a great tech stack reduces the need for cash, makes offers easy to redeem, captures fascinating first-party data, and ultimately makes your guest experience flow with ease.

‘Digital Marketing in a Mobile World: Transparency, Trust, and the Value of Exchange’ from Frank Vertolli of Net Conversion touched on three core ideas; digital and mobile accessibility is key, marketing must be personalized, and ultimately you must connect with your customers. Vertolli’s key takeaway was to capture as much first-party data as you can. It’s your most reliable data, and your best representation of current and future customers.

Later, ‘Marketing Technology Innovations For Your Attraction: Four Real-World Opportunities to Grow Revenue and Attendance’, presented by Anthony Palermo and Ted Molter of Connect&Go and John Morey of the Digital Performance Group, saw careful examinations of dynamic pricing, performance marketing and data/performance capturing. Ultimately, the entire panel concluded that they have never seen a negative result of implementing their discussed tech or strategies, and that performance marketing, dynamic pricing, promotions, and an integrated tech stack in a cashless environment will always increase revenue.

And one of the timelier and pressing topics came from the session ‘Is Cash Dead? The Present and Future of Currency in the Attractions Industry’ from Joe Cleary of Morey’s Piers and Beachfront Water Parks, Mike Bengston of Splish Splash/Palace Entertainment, Eric Summers of Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk and Jim Forrester of Seaward Parks & Entertainment. While cash might not be dead, the sentiment is that just the fact that while sessions like this exist, it’s at least on life support. The overarching sentiment though, is that going cashless is worth it. Operations will improve, guest experience and guest satisfaction will go up. All in all, life is better for both the visitor and the operator in a cashless environment.

Day Three

Our third day saw a lot of faces visiting our booth. The day moved so fast that we had to do a rush order of our TouchPoint Magazine. It seems like people couldn’t take their hands off it. But can you blame them? Especially after the day’s talk from RocketRez Marketing Director Scott Riddell, who had 200-plus people register for his talk, ‘Digital Sales and Guest Experience Solutions: Online or In-Person, it’s all eCommerce’.

The overarching tone of Riddell’s EDUTalk was that the experience of going to an attraction hasn’t changed all that much, but what has changed is the technology that enables operators to create a better experience, and track data from every touchpoint along the customer journey. We can now see a clear picture of every guest activity, and we can calculate their true per-cap — not siloed per-caps for ticket or retail or restaurant spend; one single true per-cap for each customer. These objectives are no longer mutually exclusive efforts; it’s all e-commerce.

‘How to Guide Research Tactics Within the Attractions Industry’ from Mark Kupferman of Ruth’s Hospitality Group explored how to run a research campaign to learn about your customers. Research can help drive attendance, guest satisfaction and revenue by learning what the average customer thinks, showing how to compete against fellow attractions, and ultimately inform decision-making among management. It’s best to use your branding, be honest about why customer feedback is needed (but keep it short) and offer incentives for your customer’s time and words.

Later in the day, we witnessed a packed house for ‘Maximizing Revenue: Thoughtful Ways to Incentivize Spending’ from panel Cameron O’Connell of ZooTampa, Kristy Chase Tozer of RumbleBuzz Marketing, Aimee Becca of Atlantis Paradise Island, and Todd Andrus of Island H2O. Can you blame them? Any session titled “Maximizing Revenue” is sure to draw a crowd, especially with a panel of lifelong professionals from well-known attractions and destinations. Some of the panel’s revenue-generating ideas were to create products or events around a theme; give something away, but get them to pick it up at the back of the gift shop and go past everything else; add a reservation fee to increase spend in your attraction; sponsored kids’ events, because they’re low-cost, easy to execute with a great ROI; and if you have entertainers on-site, let them use your merchandise in their exhibition.

And the last EDUTalk, ‘Why Linking Marketing and Sales to Operations Makes Sense’ from Mark Lebouille of BMI Leisure, examined why marketing and sales need to be aligned with their operators. This is done by collecting data where you can, sharing insights across your teams, making time to discuss said insights and actions, focusing on joint creativity, testing the impact of your actions and automating wherever possible.

Day Four

And then came Day Four; our most jam-packed and talk-heavy day of the week. But, of course, not before a few rollercoaster rides at Universal Studios. When in Rome — that’s the saying, right?

‘Ask the Experts: Using Data to Drive Results’ saw presenters Jennifer Santos of Merlin Entertainments/Legoland Florida, Bryan Hardmand of Herschend Family Entertainment, and Vanessa Lewis of Aquarium of the Pacific explore every who/what/where/when of making use of data. There are so many ways to capture important data from guests, and it should be captured at any possible instance. And ultimately, once you have that data, the goal should be to escape the “Data Silo” – marketing data for marketers, operations data for operators. These details should be shared. The more you know, the more you grow! A great quote from this session was “You can drive them to data, but you can’t make them think.”

I’m not sure if everyone would concede to this, ‘To TikTok or Not’ is certainly a hot-button question. Presenters Camila Carvalho of Experience Kissimmee, Natalie Alvarez-Taylor of Winchester Mystery House and Sondra Woods of Santa Cruz Boardwalk left no doubts in the room — TikTok is the future.

Though people generally aren’t converting to sales on TikTok, branding is a very appropriate goal for businesses on the app. It’s so easy to consume large amounts of information in a short amount of time and discover new target audiences. Some tips from the panel are to jump on the fun trends, use the popular sounds and hashtags, engage with your audience and respond to comments, tell a story (best to hook someone into said story within three seconds), work with other content creators, and take creative risks. The best thing about TikTok is that because it’s so new and ever changing, it offers limitless potential.

One thing that can certainly limit the growth of your operation is your corporate culture. ‘The Guest Experience: Culture vs. Department’ EDUTalk by Pedro Olivarez of the San Antonio Zoo examined how the Guest Experience starts with the employee experience. When you train and treat your employees well, they will provide that same energy to your guests. This is because the Guest Experience is a social experience; a business product from the point of view of the guest, not you. It encompasses the things you don’t offer, that your guests think you should.

Your organization either has culture, or departments. Culture being: positive employee experiences, purposeful duties, a supportive environment and creating moments in each employee’s careers. Or, on the other side of the coin, a department: lukewarm employee experiences where each employee keeps to themselves, saying it's “not my job description/department,” doing solely what is expected and following the rules in order to survive another day on the job. Ask yourself what your organization has.

That last session we’ll recap is ‘Measuring the ROI of Your Marketing Strategies’ by TJ Christensen of BlueGator. Return on Investment (ROI) is what it’s all about, especially when you have shareholders in the fold. In order to measure ROI, you need to get hands on with your numbers; building a marketing budget and uncovering the insights from your spend.

It’s not always easy to calculate, though. Spend on radio, TV, print, social media, email, direct mail, Google, etc. causes traffic to come from a lot of places. And not all of that traffic converts to immediate revenue. Ultimately, there are four types of actions (impressions, clicks, purchases and revenue), three types of metrics (CTR, CR and AOV) and two main types of cost (Cost per click, Cost per acquisition).

It's essential to track and analyze the numbers All metrics tell a story, and if you can’t see it right away, you need to find it. Keep experimenting and testing as you go along, and if you’re on a creative blank, look at other industries (such as retail) for inspiration.

Thanks again for a wonderful week in Orlando, FL, and for all your support at our sessions. We look forward to seeing you throughout the year, and taking our brand-new RocketPass on the road in 2023. See you then!

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