Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium Uses IBM Big Data Analytics to Better Engage the Millennial Visitor

Increases Ticket Sales by 700 Percent; Expects to Boost Online Sales by up to 25%

ARMONK, NY and TACOMA, WA - 19 Jun 2013: IBM (NYSE: IBM) announced a collaboration with Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium to use IBM Big Data analytics to engage visitors with a more enriching zoo experience based on data generated from mobile devices and social channels.

Using IBM Big Data analytics, PDZA's online ticket sales have grown more than 700 percent with online sales expected to increase by up to 25 percent by the end of this year. 

Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium, with just 80 full-time employees, is the only combined zoo and aquarium in the Pacific Northwest. The 29-acre zoo, which promotes and practices wildlife and ecosystem conservation initiatives, is one of the top tourist destinations in Pierce County, Washington and attracts more than 600,000 visitors a year.  

On a daily basis, millions of data records are generated on visitor exhibit and special event preferences and participation in conservation initiatives. Significant visitor feedback is also generated on social channels, such as Facebook, which reveal visitor likes and dislikes and other feedback on overall zoo operations. The zoo needed a lens to focus on the actionable insights that emerge from this massive amount of information.   

In collaboration with IBM Business Partner BrightStar Partners, the zoo turned to IBM Big Data analytics to uncover the patterns and trends in its data to help drive ticket sales, enhance visitor experiences and increase visitor participation in raising awareness of wildlife conservation. 

The creation of membership marketing campaigns has been simplified by IBM Big Data analytics. The membership team can obtain the data they need within minutes instead of waiting several days for the IT team to extract membership information from the POS system and create a mailing list.  

In addition, the analytics capabilities make it easier to monitor the success of social media marketing. For example, zoo members who "checked in" to the zoo’s Facebook page were given a three dollar admission discount during a recent promotion. Business insights garnered from Big Data analytics have helped to identify the patterns of when and what customers are purchasing on-line that has contributed to the zoo's online sales program growing by more than 700 percent in the past two years.  

Going Mobile to Understand Visitor Preferences

Zoo employees now use iPads to access the organization’s financial data securely as well as attendance, membership and retail information. For example, by analyzing online sales, staff can compare what time of day members are more likely to respond to offers. After analyzing sales data and open rates, a recent promotion went to members whose membership would expire at the end of the day, offering them a targeted discount if they renewed before the end of the day,  The zoo saw a 6% buy in on that promotion when its typical return on mail renewal campaigns is 3%.

A major next step for the zoo is the introduction of a mobile ticketing solution, which can subsequently be extended to use the near-field communication (NFC) capabilities on smartphones. This short-range, wireless technology can transfer small amounts of data between two devices held a few centimeters from each other. In the future visitors will be able to "check in" at different areas within the zoo, which in turn will help zoo managers better understand which exhibits are most popular and have the longest “stay times.”

The future of the zoo’s wildlife conservation initiatives depend on the support and involvement of local citizens. The zoo's improved awareness and innovative ideas and education campaigns are designed to help bring greater local attention to conservation, influence consumer conservation initiatives and drive ecological sustainability.

To more effectively engage with Millennials (18-35 year olds) via social media, the zoo turned to IBM Big Data Analytics to create the necessary social and business connections. The zoo viewed Millennials' social mind-set as ideal to generate a change in attitude toward conservation, turning "visitors" into "influencers,” connecting people, spreading awareness of wildlife conservation and managing communities, especially on social channels.

"As a zoo, we are now realizing the power of Big Data and how insights can be gleaned from information ranging from Facebook comments to a retail sale made at our gift shop.  Big Data is delivering new forms of insights to help us better engage the visitor,” said Donna Powell of Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium. "The collaboration with IBM and BrightStar Partners and the use of Big Data analytics are helping us better understand visitor preferences while conserving wildlife at the same time."

Big Data analytics also aids in the zoo's daily operations, such as analyzing weather data, to more effectively determine the right number of employees from staffing at the front gate to scheduling enrichment times for the animals. .

For more information on Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium, pdza.org/.

For more information on IBM Business Partner BrightStar Partners, please visit http://www.brightstarpartners.com/.

For more information on IBM Midmarket Business, please visit http://www.ibm.com/midmarket/us/en/.

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