Wildlife Reserves Singapore (WRS) struggled with a lack of visitor frequency, with the average visit per local family falling below once a year. He also realized that although he had a good relationship with schools, he had not fostered a stronger bond with parents and children. The Circuit Breaker period only made matters worse as all of its parks had to temporarily close. To better engage with children, even during a pandemic, WRS decided to adopt hybrid animal interactions in its strategy. He launched My Animal Buddy, an interactive platform that allowed kids to watch live feeds of animals in the park, while educating them about wildlife.
WRS’s ability to be quick during a pandemic and spark children’s interest in wildlife even virtually impressed the judges and secured the brand the Gold Award for Best Engagement Strategy – Audience Specific to INTERACTIVE-MARKETING 2021 Loyalty and Commitment Award.
WRS had three main problems: it suffered from low visitation frequency, the average visit per local family being 0.9 times per year; there is no commitment once families leave its parks, and its relationship resides with schools instead of parents and children. Its traditional business model of selling tickets, memberships, and working with schools did not support its mission to inspire guests to value wildlife beyond just their visit. These challenges were further exacerbated when WRS parks had to close during Circuit Breaker, increasing the need for a different way of engaging guests.
WRS’s vision was of a world where every child is inspired to protect wildlife and the land and is empowered to fuel positive change for themselves, others and the world. To accomplish its mission, WRS had set itself three objectives: increase the annual frequency of visits per guest, transform the WRS brand from a park operator into a brand of trust on a daily basis and ensure that guests have a personal connection. with his animals, instead of a transient connection.
WRS began by understanding parents and their needs through consumer studies. They scoured local parenting forums to identify key points of tension, conducted group discussions with parents to understand what needs to be done, and tested product concepts with parents every step of the way.
Through these, WRS discovered that parents know that interactions with animals are good for their children, but that they feel that there are not enough practical opportunities available. At the same time, parents said they needed help getting their kids involved at home, and while digital was inevitable, they didn’t have a brand of trust. In addition, parents wanted their children to thrive with the right values, but didn’t know how; and they didn’t want to stress them either.
After analyzing the competitive landscape, WRS found an opportunity in hybrid animal interactions.
WRS has created “My Animal Buddy”, a free platform that teaches children the values ââand mindset essential to thrive in the future while deepening their love for wildlife and the land.
On the platform, each child will choose their own animal companion to adopt and commit to caring for and protecting the animal – children will also receive adoption certificates. Weekly messages between friends and email content are sent to parents as engagement reminders. Kids can then engage and connect with wildlife from the comfort of their own homes, with the various product features offered on the platform. Some of the product features include videos, quizzes, missions, live chats, live shows with babysitters, and parent resource sheets.
In April of last year, a select group of parents and children were invited to test the platform. During the test phases, the children were invited to send their birthday wishes to their sea lion via a chatbot and saw more than 500 responses.
My Animal Buddy was officially launched in October 2020 at Singapore Zoological Gardens. With no media and marketing budget paid, WRS hosted a media event for the launch, featuring a virtual story and a live show.
WRS’s new platform has been featured in over 20 articles in mainstream media, online news sites and online portals. The platform has also seen a wave of praise from unpaid influencers.
In March of this year, WRS partnered with schools to introduce their new animal companion, Sally, and reached out to more parents and children. Over 10,000 schoolchildren were involved on 309 screens in two separate virtual performance sessions.
Without any media or marketing investment, WRS has seen over 24% of subscribers visit the platform each week, with an increase of about six minutes in the average time spent on the platform since July 2020. In a survey of Consumers conducted this year, the majority of parents said they saw WRS as a trusted brand that their children could interact with and grow up with. My Animal Buddy also saw a six-fold increase in the number of users from last July to June 2021. During the same period, weekly engagements also increased from around 1.9,000 per week to over 14,000 per week. week.