Transforming Visitor Centers into Experience Centers


Transforming Visitor Centers into Experience Centers

Picture of By Erin Rheinschild

By Erin Rheinschild

The visitor center traffic is decreasing, the next generation of travelers doesn’t see the value in the VIC as with previous generations. Utilizing their phones to give them direction and recommendations for travel is now commonplace. Just as with retail, there is a huge shift in the way consumers interact with brands and this is no different with travel. In retail, for many years it was known as the death of brick and mortar, but we all know that is not actually the case, it’s the evolution of these industries, and if you don’t evolve you die.

Visitor Centers into Experience Centers

One of the problems we are seeing is visitor centers are waiting too long to evolve, and with this delay and the increase in technology adoption cycles if they don’t change fast it will be too late.  Communities and even visitors still want the VIC, they just want it to evolve in their terms just like retail.

The economics of the visitor center like retail doesn’t make sense unless you have a plan to be relevant and connect with your consumer. In retail, conversation rates are studied extensively to ensure it’s at min. of 25% level. This could be used as a rule of thumb at your VIC’s – if you are working your digital services program correctly you should be able to see at least 25% of your foot traffic convert to views, likes, shares, and other types of engagement on your digital service touchpoints. If the average VIC has 100,000 visitors a year, 25,000 new points of reportable data would be a big win for your organization.

See some of our other blogs on Visitor Center technology and solutions you can implement to attract the next generation of travelers.  As well a good article on studies on this topic

Ways to Increase Conversion

1. Set up your center for success.

The very first thing you’ll want to look at is how your space is set up. Where are the displays? Here are some ideas:

    • Use your “power wall” wisely. If you’re in the US (or a country where people drive on the right side of the road), use your right wall to make a big statement, because customers naturally turn to the right when they walk in. This is an opportunity for an art display or photo experience, or high impact digital visuals like a video wall. 
    • Remove excess merchandise from the floor (i.e., only have one of each size or product on the floor) to keep the store from looking cluttered.  This is a good example of brochure walls, organize them and keep them lean start pushing more toward digital content.
    • Mind your decompression zonewhich is the first 5 to 15 feet inside your front door. Shoppers who are in this part of your store are prone to distractions, which is why most experts agree that retailers should keep the decompression zone simple and uncluttered. Avoid placing too many products or fixtures in this area, as people will likely just walk right by them.

2. Reduce Inconveniences and Roadblocks.

Customers can be easily turned off if they see a lengthy queue, wall of brochures, or other barriers to the discovery that overwhelm them. The good news is that there are a number of ways to fix this.

    • Put your registers in the back. You’ll notice that many stores do this. New York & Co., for instance, places their registers at the center-back of the store by the fitting rooms.
      • This could mean opening up your center to allow easy connection points and utilizing technology while people wait in line, reducing perceptions of wait times.
    • Get rid of the registers altogether and go mobile. By allowing your employees to host customers anywhere on the floor, you’ll get rid of your queue altogether.
      • This could mean “Hosted” Kiosks on the floor or on standing height touchdown tables throughout your space. Your listings, content, and POS can easily be integrated into a countertop or freestanding kiosk for the team and visitors to select, share, or purchase together.
      • Concierge and countertop kiosks that collect data from shared digital exploration of things to do, is the future, say goodbye to manual processes that don’t benefit your customer. 

3. Recognize that your employees play a huge role in boosting conversions. Examples: “Let’s start favoriting things and put them in an itinerary.” “Let me help you get these in the right order.” “Let’s look at this plan on the map” – Etc.

This point is part and parcel of the previous point. Not only do you need to be well-staffed, but it’s essential that you train your employees well. In terms of increasing your conversion rate, there are some important things your staff can be taught to do:

    • Have them greet and engage each and every customer in the store.
      • An easy method to ensure that your staff is greeting everyone is to have someone work the front zone specifically to greet people.
    • Train your staff on how to prompt customers to share what they’re looking for.
      • The bulk of this is to ensure that they don’t ask yes or no questions. For instance, “Can I help you find something?” will most often be met with “No.” But “What are you looking for today?” requires the visitors to engage with the question a bit more, even if the answer is negative. Some other examples – “let me help you get a list started” – “let me put these in the right order for you in an itinerary” – “let me show you this on a map.”
    • Think about special maps, hiking guides, things for kids or animal

4. Use social proof.

Social proof means showing your customers that other people have bought or want to buy your products. The most obvious example is when an online store offers reviews of a product on its page. You can replicate this in your store as well!

    • Look at ways to engage visitors through UGC or ways to show them other people or families enjoying this experience
      • Ratings and reviews are not a bad way either. In Amazon’s physical locations, for instance, each printed product tag contains a snippet of a highly starred review from their website, clearly demonstrating that others have bought and loved the product. 

Allowing customers to connect in the manner they like is core to any retail-based organization, allowing kiosk look up of inventory items or visuals and videos of people interacting with products increases engagement by over 50%. Utilizing options for mobile engagement allowing customers to search their phones connected to your inventory and giving them reasons to build points or rewards will allow you to get more favor. Finally providing traditional models that allow your staff to engage on the floor or behind the counter using tablets and technology that make the experience faster and more personalized.


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