Addressing “The Paradox of Choice” for Theme Park and Resort Guests

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In my role as Product Evangelist at The Experience Engine (TE2), I often reference The Paradox of Choice – Why More Is Lessa renowned 2004 book by American psychologist Barry Schwartz.

In the book, Schwartz outlines how eliminating consumer choices can greatly reduce anxiety for consumers. Since reduced anxiety undoubtedly will lead to a better overall experience, I apply this same principle when advising TE2’s resort, theme park and other customers on how to use our experience management platform to deliver personalized recommendations throughout the guest journey.

Resorts, theme parks and other venues attract visitors by offering a range of attractions, dining, events, activities and other options. But, as described in Schwartz’s TED Talk, many consumers are unable to make or enjoy the results of their decisions when presented with too many options. Others experience less overall satisfaction with their choices, since having multiple alternatives makes it easy to imagine how other choices may have been better in retrospect.

When applied to theme parks and resortsthese impacts compound for decision-makers within a group; for example, a parent who is responsible for ensuring that family members of various ages all have equally good experiences.

Imagine a family arrives for the first time at a theme park with just one day to see and do as much as they can. Everywhere they look there are options for what to do — but the clock is already ticking away the minutes they have to spend onsite and decisions must be made for what to do first, and next.

According to Schwartz, the pressure to make the “right” choice in situations like this detracts from the overall experience.

Theme park and resort marketers know that ultimately it is these decision-makers who control how much is spent in venue and control the decision to return and, therefore, how important it is to ensure that their experiences are positive.

To support positive experiences for decision-makers, venues are using customer experience (CX) management tools to influence positive interactions with their brand. CX tools such as content personalization platforms and recommendation engines can simplify the consideration process through the delivery of recommendations personalized to each guest’s circumstance. Self-reported interests, CRM and system of record (SOR) data such as group size, demographics, special needs, frequency of visits, length of stay, dining and other preferences can be used to curate such recommendations.

For example, even before leaving home, a theme park guest may select from a number of recommended activities resulting in a personalized “must see” list including rides, restaurants, shows and character meet-and-greets. When combined with a venue’s operational data such as average ride wait times and event schedules, that same guest can walk through the entry gate with a personalized day itinerary of the things they most want to do, hour by hour — and bypass “the paradox of choice” and its consequences. These recommended itineraries can become increasingly intuitive over time through the use of AI tools and machine learning by leveraging historical data from other guests. Further, a venue can use recommendations tools to suggest activities that positively impact its operations; alleviate crowded attractions, amortize traffic evenly over the course of a day, or promote overlooked options.

The end goal for theme park and resort experience management programs is to ensure that guests have positive, frictionless experiences. Simplifying the decision-making process and alleviating “the paradox of choice” for guests supports that goal, and helps guests maximize their time in venue.

Danielle Chapman is The Experience Engine’s Product Evangelist.