Frictionless Buying


1.  not impeded by or creating friction; smooth
2. achieved with or involving little difficulty; effortless

How many times have you been ready to make an online purchase when it timed out, or the vendor required too much information and the purchase became just too cumbersome? Frustrated, you abort, maybe vowing to go back when you have more time, but often never doing so.

For me, the answer is dozens of times. 

Now think about your guest’s experience when they visit your zoo or aquarium. They wait in a long line to buy a ticket; enter and have to show their ticket again to get in, maybe standing in yet another line. Their kid wants to ride the carousel; they need to go and buy another ticket in a new line. Ordering lunch is even more onerous with multiple queues and limited options. How is it we make it so painful for our customers to give us money?

Enter the frictionless buying experience. Innovative companies know how to capitalize on making the purchase process as smooth as possible. And they also know that if their customers enjoy the buying experience, they’ll buy more.

Amazon does an excellent job of making it easy, allowing customers to purchase with just one click. Apple Pay now allows customers with apps like Hotel Tonight to book a room in less time that it takes to swipe your room key card, or using Opentable to pay their dinner bill by viewing and paying the check on their phone without ever pulling out a wallet. Panera Bread offers touch screens and swipe payments. It’s seamless. It’s integrated. It’s easy.

Some places are even going cashless, making it easy for customers to spend money, but with the added benefits of speed, safety and security. See SweetgreenWhere a Suitcase Full of Cash Won’t Buy You Lunch. Today’s millennials rarely touch real currency, always reaching for a card or their phone to pay. 
Ubiquitous mobile devices, readily available location based services, and the falling cost of technology are bringing frictionless transactions to the masses. Sometime in the last couple of days, you’ve probably experienced it--either buying your coffee at Starbucks, hailing an Uber ride, or boarding an airplane.

I hear many of you now saying, “That will never happen at my institution. My ___________________ (insert community, customers, market) is too different.” We’ll always need those ticket takers.” Don’t be fooled. It may take some time, but it will happen. (see: the taxi industry).

So, what can we learn from the technology trendsetters? Zoos and aquariums need to look at ways to make the buying experience easier, thereby making the overall guest experience better. How can we become the EZ Pass of cultural organizations?

Here are a few improvements I’d love to see:

  1. Forget the ticket booth or having guests stop at a window. It’s the past, not the future.
  2. Membership should be purchased with a one-button click on the phone. How many more members would we get?
  3. Conservation donations should be made on-site with a swipe of the phone. How many more donations would we receive?
  4. Lunch purchases made with phone or ready for pick-up when they arrive at the cafe. 
  5. Special experiences like riding the train or carousel should NOT require pulling out a wallet. Many people would opt-in if it didn’t require cash.

Some of the tech required to institute these actions may take an initial investment, but the pay-off is worth it. And while it may take some time before these ideas can be put into action, there are immediate ways to improve your purchase process now. Email us to let us help walk you through how to remove the friction and pain points from your guest experience.