How Great Wolf Lodge Uses RFID for Utility AND Experience, Pt. 1

Great Wolf

RFID technology is great for utility. Walmart uses it to track inventory. Companies use it to allow employees access to parking garages and office buildings. Hotels use it for the same, and even enable purchases through it (more on that in a bit). For utility, it’s a smart & efficient technology. But how many times have you actually seen RFID used to create experiences? The only two I can think of are Mini’s customized billboard messages and The Great Piggy Bank Adventure at Epcot Center. For whatever reason, it’s a hard technology to implement at scale. (The technology is relatively cheap now – not a huge barrier – but it requires multiple pieces of hardware to work. And proximity plays a part, too.) But it sure can do some cool things. Right now, on my family vacation, I’m seeing, firsthand, another one of those examples.

My family and I are vacationing at Great Wolf Lodge in Grapevine. I’ve heard stories about how they use RFID for everything here, but I’ve never made my way out to check it all out myself. Until now. Those stories are true. They use it for everything. And it fulfills a utility need as well as an experience one.

First, on the utility – they use it for any sort of transaction you need to make. I say that literally. Anything. Here are specific examples of how they’re using it:

1. Room keys – this wristband is our room key. You see that little chip there, behind the “M”? Well, that’s the thing that gives us access into our room.

RFID wristband at Great Wolf Lodge

My wife has said to me a couple of times, “man, I love this key thing.” I start telling her about the technology and her eyes glaze over. She doesn’t care about that. She just cares about the fact that she doesn’t have to carry a key around with her all the time, and even more, worry about what all she’d have to go through if she actually forgot a key at some point during our stay. Our in-laws have joined us on the trip and are staying in the room next door. My wife went next door to get something and our door shut behind her. As I’m getting the kids ready for bed, I look over at the door and realize I didn’t prop it open with the latch. A second later, she walks in thanks to her handy dandy wristband. She said it again, “man, I love this key thing.” She called it, “brilliant.”

2. Locker keys – this place is an indoor waterpark more than it is a hotel. So, anytime you want to reserve a locker, you don’t have to carry around yet another key that comes with all of the same anxiety as the room key. You just use your wristband. Done and done.

3. Payments – want to pay for food? Souvenirs? Arcade games? No problem. Just put some money on your wristband via a kiosk and a credit card and viola, you don’t have to carry around any cash. Everything is tied to this wristband. Literally, everything. If you want to carry cash around with you or for whatever other reason, you don’t want to put cash on the wristband, you don’t have to. You can do it old school. But through this technology, you have the option of ultra convenience.

These three things encapsulate everything I’ve had to do throughout the course of our day here, and it has afforded us an extra piece of mind that we didn’t know existed. We haven’t had to carry around and/or keep track of anything all day long. It’s attached to our wrist.

Now, here’s where it gets really interesting. And it’s how they create experiences through the technology:

They have this game called MagiQuest inside the resort and when people aren’t playing at the waterpark, they’re running around the hotel playing this game.

MagiQuest sign at Great Wolf Lodge

It seems to be a cross between an adventure game and a scavenger hunt and all it requires is a wand and a book, like these:

MagiQuest wand and book

The wand is where the technology comes into play. It’s programmed to your “account” and as you make your way through the game, you build up points and achievements. This is not only important because it adds a level of personalization to the game right off the bat, but since this is an ongoing game, this technology enables an ongoing history. As long as the wand stays with you, regardless of how long you play the game, it’s going to build upon what you’ve already done.

I’m sure the kids playing this game (and even most of the adults) could care less about the technology (much like my wife). No one ever hardly does. But the important thing here revolves around expectations. With the proliferation of platforms like Facebook and Pandora that allow you to personalize your experience down to the T, I feel like the millennial generation expects a certain level of personalization in everything they do. Although these kids could care less about the technology, I would argue that many of them would feel like it’s “lame” if it didn’t keep track of everything they did along the way. This level of personalization is table stakes. This technology enables that personalization for them.

This is an ideal 11th screen example – an Interactive Out-of-Home (IOOH) homerun, if you will. RFID is the enabling technology that serves a critical function in the resort and patron operation (utility). It saves everyone time, money and anxiety that you didn’t even know you had. In addition, it enables a deep and rich experience – one that is personalized – through this wand, other objects (static) and screens (digital) throughout the resort.

MagiQuest screens at Great Wolf Lodge

Disclosure – Great Wolf Lodge is actually a client of Fleishman-Hillard’s (my company). However, I do not work on the account and in fact, our office doesn’t service any piece of the account. Our account team and the kind people at Great Wolf Lodge have been gracious enough to set up a meeting for me with the resort’s IT director tomorrow morning where I’m sure I’ll get many more details. Which will be Part 2 of this story…

 

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