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Zoo Lights in the Darkness

How the Dallas Zoo paved a path to a new drive-through experience 

Published12/4/2020

Read/View Time3 min


We all need a little light in the darkness this year. Or maybe lots of lights.

For the past three years, the Dallas Zoo has hosted an evening, walk-thru zoo lights event in November and December. It began in a small portion of the zoo, and has grown each year. Along with the growth in the number of lights in the exhibit itself, the evening event's attendance had increased in each of its three years.

And then came 2020. “So in early September,” says Mark Boyer, Director of CRM and Data Support for the Dallas Zoo, “we made the decision to (using the COVID buzzword) pivot Zoo Lights for this year. And thus, Dallas Zoo Lights Presented by Reliant as the drive-thru experience was born!”

Visitors drive through the Dallas Zoo’s 2020 lights exhibit

As with many of the inventive pivots that arts, cultural, and conservation organizations made in 2020, there were plenty of logistics to work out for the new drive-through format. 

“Tessitura played a very important role for us.” 

“Tessitura played a very important role for us,” Mark said. “We are using limited-capacity, timed admission in three entry zones each evening.” The Zoo created a fun new design for their print-at-home tickets, specific for this event.

Print-at-home tickets for Dallas Zoo Lights showing the entry times

In addition, they built a dedicated ticket purchase path specific to Dallas Zoo Lights in collaboration with their website partner Lifeblue. When the zoo first reopened back in May, they had been concerned about heavy web traffic due to the limited capacity that they could accommodate. At that time, they implemented a virtual waiting room with Tessitura ecosystem partner Queue-it.

Mark was pleased to see that decision pay off again: during two TV news spots featuring the the Dallas Zoo Lights, he said: “I was watching web traffic and witnessed two major spikes like we have not seen before.” The virtual waiting room managed those traffic surges and kept every customer informed of their place in the digital queue.

An illuminated depiction of an elephant, with words in lights behind it included 'inspire,' 'care,' 'conserve'

Animal lantern light displays at Dallas Zoo Lights

To keep customers in the loop, the Zoo is sending automated Know Before You Go emails the day before a customer’s scheduled visit. The day after their Dallas Zoo Lights experience, visitors receive a follow-up email with an exit survey. From ticket purchase to on-site experience to post-visit communication, the zoo has created a seamless way for Dallas families to celebrate the season of lights.

 

All images courtesy of Dallas Zoo. 

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