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Houston Zoo turns to mobile to drive ticket sales

October 20, 2010

houstonThe Houston Zoo and Schlitterbahn Waterparks have launched branded mobile platforms to further engage their guests before, during and after their visits and drive ticket sales. 

Both attractions tapped Avai Mobile Solutions for the launch of their mobile Web site and applications. Now through an exclusive partnership between Avai Mobile Solutions and Accesso, a specialist in ticketing and electronic commerce for the entertainment industry, Accesso will launch an integrated mobile visitor experience and revenue enhancement platform.

“We created the app for several reasons, including the addition of a mobile site along with the app, to sell tickets, additional interaction with our guests and potential guests … and to sell more tickets,” said Jeffrey Siebert, director of corporate communications and sales at Schlitterbahn Waterparks, New Braunfels, TX.

“The target demographic is primarily moms with kids, and the secondary target is teens and young adults,” he said. “We are using our social media channels to drive awareness along with in park marketing, brochure and park map inclusion.”

Accesso provides ticketing and commerce products and services for theme parks, water parks and zoos, including Six Flags theme parks across North America, the Columbus Zoo, Zoombezi Bay water park and Elitch Gardens.

Mobile CRM, content, commerce
Houston Zoo and Schlitterbahn Waterparks the ability to dynamically can communicate with their visitors through branded iPhone and Android applications, as well as a mobile-optimized Web site.

With half of all Internet traffic now coming through smartphones, the attractions industry is clearly going mobile.

Accesso Mobile is helping attractions launch their own mobile-optimized Web site, provide comprehensive guest service information via a branded downloadable application and have the option to monetize their entire program through mobile commerce for ticket sales and in-park revenue opportunities.

To remain relevant, it is increasingly important for attractions to use technology to provide a richer and more engaging guest experience, per Accesso.

Visitors can use the application or mobile Web site to find the next exhibit, locate the nearest restroom or find their friends through a GPS-enabled map.

The mobile platform also supports multimedia content such as video, audio and integration with social media applications such as Facebook and Twitter.  

Columbus Zoo and Aquarium will also launch Accesso Mobile in the coming weeks with the goal of improving guest satisfaction and driving visitation.

Through Accesso Mobile, attractions can also choose to monetize their entire mobile platform by implementing strategic revenue opportunities such as sponsorships or ticket sales.

Attractions have the ability to sell tickets, memberships and donations through an integrated interface with accesso’s ticketing platform, letting guests make secure purchases for products through their mobile phone and have a scanable bar code delivered to their mobile devices.

Houston Zoo goes mobile
First and foremost, the Houston Zoo’s reason behind launching its mobile applications is and always will be to enhance the guest experience.

The applications give the zoo a chance to do that both through content, such as a giraffe birth video, as well as through practical tools, such as zoo maps.

“[Via the apps,] we can provide all of the information on the paper version of our guests maps times a thousand,” said David Brady, spkesman for the Houston Zoo. “We hope that in the not-too-distant future our phone apps can completely eliminate any need for a paper app, and that is good for us as an organization that is very focused on conservation.

“While we are still a ways away from, this our ultimate challenge is to eliminate all paper maps at the zoo,” he said.

The Houston Zoo has not spent any hard dollars promoting the iPhone application, as it has relied mostly on internal mediums to spread the word: signage on grounds, at the ticket windows and especially its Web site and social networking sites.

The Houston Zoo’s initial target demographic was simply guests who own iPhones, as its leadership felt that it was a very active and engaged group of people and that they were looking to do things specifically with their iPhones.

An iPhone user may not have visited the zoo in a while, but this hopefully gave them an excuse to use their new toy and visit the zoo, per Mr. Brady.

“We took a very hard look at moms with small children as we laid out the strategy for our first app and that proved to be a good move,” Mr. Brady said. “There are a lot of moms with children that use the app.

“The apps allow us the opportunity to provide content for our guests as they are here at the zoo,” he said. “They can be standing at the elephant habitat and seeing the animals but also watch a video of our baby elephant playing in a kiddie pool. 

“We can also add conservation messages to our app that would be too busy or get lost in the signage at the zoo.”

Final Take

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Dan Butcher is associate editor on Mobile Commerce Daily and Mobile Marketer. Reach him at

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