How SeaWorld Uses Conversion Testing to Improve the Customer Experience and Increase Digital Ticket Downloads

How SeaWorld Uses Conversion Testing to Improve the Customer Experience and Increase Digital Ticket Downloads

SeaWorld is a chain of marine mammal parks, animal theme parks, water parks, and rehabilitation centers across the United States. The parks offer up-close animal experiences, rides and roller coasters, and the chance to help with the team’s efforts in wildlife protection.

Striking the right balance between marketing and conversion is a challenge for the park’s digital team. SeaWorld has a diverse customer base and the site has a massive rotation of park events, promotions, rides, and attractions—all of which need to be featured on the site without creating friction on the path to purchase.

SeaWorld quickly realized that conversion testing would be the best way to understand its customers and identify the most optimal way to present content or map a buyer journey. As a result, SeaWorld launched its own optimization team; however, the team needed help in its infancy to form a robust optimization program, which led them to partner with Blue Acorn iCi and leverage the Optimizely platform.

At the beginning of the partnership, SeaWorld was in the early stages of replatforming its ecommerce site. Initially, as part of the replatforming, Blue Acorn iCi’s optimization team worked on UX validation and customizing the CMS for each of its seven different park sites. SeaWorld has a digital team at each of its seven parks, causing a lack of change management. The optimization team’s goal was to help them standardize the CMS process for mapping a customer journey, including product merchandising, descriptions, images, and pricing.

Download the SeaWorld case study here to share with your team.

SeaWorld headquarters are located in Orlando, FL, but Blue Acorn iCi’s team is dedicated to making sure they are accessible as if they are right down the road. Jared Hellman, Director of Insights and UX at Blue Acorn iCi, and his team initially visited SeaWorld at the start of the partnership and continue to visit the office. During the initial on-site visit, Blue Acorn iCi set out to accomplish three things:

  1. Understand SeaWorld’s overall KPIs and business objectives
  2. Align the testing themes with those objectives
  3. Determine individual hypothesis for each theme

Image showing a laptop on a coffee table on a blurred background

“When on-site with a client, we want to form a strategic partnership and bring to light other ways we can help the client,” says Hellman. He continues, “We have a depth of analytical understanding that goes far past optimization—A/B testing is only one tool in our chest that we can provide the client.”

During on-sites, Blue Acorn iCi will do an executive business review with the team. It’s an opportunity for them to do a “show and tell” and present what they’ve accomplished. Additionally, the team will review the company’s objectives to align future experiments with those objectives and KPIs.

More tactically, the on-sites are an opportunity to collaborate and brainstorm with the broader cross-functional teams in the company. Typically when Hellman’s optimization team works with a client, most of the communication is through the brand or retailer’s project sponsor. These ongoing on-sites allow the team to have a roundtable discussion with people who normally wouldn’t be involved in the process. This can be very helpful to get a full understanding of each function’s goals as they relate to the customer experience.

“Having a partner like Blue Acorn iCi that’s genuinely invested in seeing SeaWorld transform and succeed in the digital space creates stability and continuity,” says Hellman. His optimization team has been able to adapt their service model to evolve with SeaWorld’s changing needs. “Whether it’s running an experimentation program, creating a style guide for its new site, or helping augment analytics, we are always able to provide value and reinforce its digital team,” adds Hellman.

Checkout the Complete Customer Experience Report to learn how to create an unforgettable experience that will engage shoppers and improve revenue.

Multivariate Testing to Improve Digital Ticket Purchases and Downloads

The park’s digital team aims to create products that are compelling to a wide range of customers: single park visitors, water park visitors, annual pass shoppers, hotel packages, and international visitors. Users can purchase and download tickets and passes via SeaWorld’s site and add the digital ticket to their mobile wallet. However, crafting a seamless user experience for each of these types of customers can be challenging. Adding another layer to the complexity of this user experience is accessibility. Visitors come from a wide range of demographics including non-English speaking visitors along with the elderly. Communicating the ease of online ticket purchases and redeeming the tickets through digital download can be problematic.

To help improve digital ticket purchase conversion rates, Blue Acorn iCi used a multivariate test to specifically experiment the variations of the user experience for the medallion and ticket drawer. The ticket drawer is similar to a drop-down menu that lives on the homepage. The medallion (looks like half of a golden coin) is the button users need to click to reveal the ticket drawer. For the test, SeaWorld’s primary KPI was conversion rate, and its secondary KPIs were Revenue Per Visitor (RPV), Visits PDP, and Visits Checkout.


Based on the objective and KPIs, the two teams developed the test hypothesis. With any hypothesis, there are three key elements to include: the change, the effect, and the reason.

The Change: For consumers shopping within the ticket drawer, providing a well-ordered menu for locating appropriate product pages

The Effect: Will lead to greater Add to Carts and conversion rate

The Reason: Because there’s a more intuitive path to discovering and selecting products

In other words: If SeaWorld provides its customers a well-ordered menu for finding the right ticket type, then the number of digital tickets purchased and downloaded will increase.


Customers entered the testing experience when they visited a page with a ticket medallion on the SeaWorld San Diego site. Each customer had an equal chance (33 percent chance each) of being in the Control, Variation 1, or Variation 2 group. There were zero changes to the ticket drawer Control experience. Variation 1 redesigned the ticket drawer and allowed users to filter down their ticket selection. Variation 2 took the customers directly to the Ticket Page once they clicked on the medallion.

Blue Acorn iCi’s optimization team considered the experiment complete once the metrics reached statistical significance and traffic volume was high enough to feel comfortable graduating Variation 1 on desktop and mobile to 100 percent (all customers visiting the site now experience Variation 1).


Data from this multivariate test showed a clear winner between Variation 1 and Variation 2 across both desktop and mobile. Results suggested that users who interacted with the ticket medallion find it more useful when they can filter down their selection. Mobile users who experienced this variation outperformed both the Control and Variation 2 with a 4.7% lift in Conversion Rate, a 5.92% lift in RPV, and a 1.11% lift in Start Checkout rate. Similarly, desktop results showed a 2.74% lift in Conversion Rate, a 3.83% lift in RPV, and a 0.43% lift in Start Checkout rate.

Results from Variation 1

Users in Variation 2 who were directed immediately to the Tickets landing page did not perform as well as those in Variation 1 or the Control. Based on these findings, we can assume that users want a ticket medallion to function in a way that helps narrow down their selections, rather than dropping them into a landing page.

After the experiment, Blue Acorn iCi’s optimization team believed it would be valuable for SeaWorld to continue to iterate on medallion and ticket drawer UX as it has a significant impact on conversion and revenue.

If you’d like to optimize your digital download customer experience or need help launching your own optimization team, feel free to reach out to the Blue Acorn iCi team here.