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What is Post Visit Awareness and why does it matter?

Not heard the term Post Visit Awareness or PVA before? Likely because it's brand new, I coined it today - yet the phenomenon is far from new - it started emerging as soon as Facebook and even more so, Instagram, became a staple part of our lives, and in particular how we share the fun stuff that we get to experience and enjoy.

TiKTok has made this even more prevalent with it fast approaching Google as the most used search engine - it may be a part of the problem, but could equally be a part of the solution too.

Post Visit Awareness (PVA) describes the scenario where you've been on a day out to the theme park, or visited a city for the first time. You've had a really good time but on returning, in the days or weeks afterwards, you see content from a friend or someone you enjoy following, having been to that same attraction or location, and having had a FAR BETTER TIME.

This isn't about how they've presented the experience on social media - we're all capable of careful editing to only show the good bits and emit the parts where your child had a meltdown, you got stuck in traffic or you forgot the picnic.

This is about becoming aware post-visit of something special that you failed to notice, find or plan for. This could be for all sorts of reasons - it was a last minute decision to visit, you only had limited time to explore, or simply that you followed your feet - or the kids. And when it comes to the visitor economy and visitor attraction marketing and customer engagement, PVA is a big deal.

Regardless of reasons, there is nothing more annoying that going to a museum, coming home and seeing it in your feed the following day with people raving about the secret exhibits in the basement that you missed. Or coming back from a weekend in Cardiff to see that in the North of the city, there was an amazing parade on whilst you were exploring the South.

So as an attraction, experience, operator or destination, what can you do to not only inform your audience about the must visit reasons to choose you, but also to keep them engaged in the lead up to their visit with more reasons, and if you can - be accessible during their visit with content.

Of course AI tools as they evolve will make this far easier as we'll also have our virtual assistants plugged into your websites and socials, as well as scouring everyone else's socials for content about you to make sure we don't miss a thing.

It should be simple, your audience would spend an hour online ahead of their trip looking at your content and seeing what other people have posted. But life just isn't like that, we rarely have the time to do the research - it's taken us long enough to decide where to go, to book the time off work and figure out the logistics and costs involved.

And because the fight for consumer attention is fiercer than ever, you're having to ramp up your events schedule like never before, making sure that you always have something new and different on to entice people, entice new and diversified audiences, and generally stand-out.

Understanding Post Visit Awareness

1. The Role of Social Media:

Social media platforms are the primary drivers of PVA. They serve as a highlight reel where people share the best bits of their experience. I mentioned TikTok as a problem and a solution - because of the intense-real time style of TikTok videos, you are more likely to come across user generated content on places and experiences that you're interested in ahead of a visit due to the way the algorithm serves up content on the For You Page. And, because of the way people, especially Gen Z and Gen A, are using TikTok, it's capabilities as a search engine to find content on any given destination are immense and again connect people with content far faster.

2. The FOMO Effect:

The Fear Of Missing Out (FOMO) is a significant factor in PVA. When visitors see others having experiences they missed out on, it can lead to a feeling of regret and a desire to return. But that doesn't create positive sentiment for the consumer. And whilst they may return, the chances are, the brilliant thing they missed out on is a transient or seasonal offering that you only run for a limited time or during certain weekends or school holidays. It serves as a great reminder that good social media marketing follows these two principles - as Aristotle said, 'tell them what you're going to tell them, then tell them, then tell them what you've told them'. Consistency rules. The second is simplicity. Don't dress it up with clever ditties or alliterations, just tell people the brilliant bits not to miss out on.

3. The Power of Word-of-Mouth:

Word-of-mouth remains one of the most potent forms of marketing. When friends share their experiences, it naturally carries far more weight than traditional advertising, leading to increased awareness and interest. But when your visitors aren't in the orbit of this type of content, how do you feed it through to them more successfully? Can you incentivise visitors to share content with a certain hashtag - with bonus points for sharing it on the day of their visit? From there, it gets easier - include a big, bold call to action with your booking confirmation, inviting people to see what other guests loved about their experience with #whatpeoplesayyourattractionnamehere.

Yes it's open to abuse, but that opens up a wider conversation about whether your guest experience is up to scratch.

4. The Discovery Dilemma:

Attractions often have hidden gems that are not immediately apparent to all visitors. These could be special exhibits, unique photo spots, or local secrets that only become apparent through post-visit discussions or social media revelations. Are there ways you can better signpost those things during the visitor experience so they're not missed? Can gate staff be better informed to ensure customers are told about these things?

5. Enhancing the digital visitor Experience:

To further combat PVA, attractions can enhance visitor experience by providing comprehensive digital guides, interactive maps, and social media integration that highlights all features and experiences available. This is really in its infancy in our industry, but believe me - it is coming! Software partners like Fluff (discloser: client), are helping visitor attractions to transform the onsite experience by increasing consumer engagement and therefore ticket sales, as well as dwell time and spend. I know I've missed feeding times at the zoo on many an occasion because the only place they're detailed is on a chalk board by the main entrance.

7. Customer surveys and feedback

Engaging with visitors both during and after their visit through surveys, feedback requests, and social media interaction can help reduce the incidence of PVA as well. Leave sending this type of follow up until a week after the visit to truly capture answers to this question. As well as asking for the standard likes and dislikes, ask if people ran out of time to see or do anything, or whether they subsequently saw or heard about something that they didn't know about when they visited.

8. The Anticipation Factor:

Building anticipation for all aspects of an attraction before the visit is a tricky part of the customer journey to master when it comes to marketing and communications, but it can really help ensure that visitors are excited about and aware of everything there is to see and do. Brands who do this well send emails or push notifications with subject headers like 'only 1 more sleep until...' with useful information on things to see and do.

10. The Return Visit Incentive:

For those who experience PVA, it can serve as an incentive to return and explore what they missed the first time around, especially if you're a large-scale attraction or a destination. This is a great opportunity to incentivise the return with a discount or value-add, as well as to recommend a friend for an reward.

In conclusion, Post Visit Awareness is a challenge that has existed for decades for attractions and destinations. But the positive is that with a combination of a clear brand strategy, tailored marketing, social media integration and AI, there is a whole load of stuff you can do to combat it.

By understanding and leveraging the concept of Post Visitor Awareness through strategic marketing and visitor engagement, brands can turn PVA into an opportunity for growth and heightened, more conversational visitor interest.

If you want to talk about where PVA tactics find in your brand proposition, let's talk.

Catherine Warrilow, brand proposition expert and founder of The Plot

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