As a digital agency powered by the arts, culture, and heritage industry; After Digital has plenty of experience working with clients in this sector and the impact of COVID-19 has certainly not gone unnoticed. The coronavirus pandemic has triggered an unprecedented crisis in the leisure and attractions economy, resulting in an immediate and immense shock to the sector. With this in mind, what exactly has that impact been and how can the industry bounce back post-pandemic? This is what we aim to answer in the 2020 Arts & Culture Industry Insights Report.

In our report (which is now available to download), we provide an overview of the market, examine key trends within the attractions industry, current economic considerations, and financial confidence amongst consumers. To set your organisation up for success in the post-pandemic world, we have detailed our recommendations across three core digital channels which will help arts & culture organisations drive bookings and start 2021 in a strong position.

“The total number of visits to UK attractions reached 340 million in 2019, a figure which was estimated to continue to rise by 3-4% a year before COVID-19.”

– After Digital’s 2020 Arts & Culture Industry Insights Report.

Market Insights

Arts and culture attractions in the UK received the green light to reopen from 4th July providing sufficient hygiene and physical distancing measures are enforced. In other words, venues have to adhere to strict safety regulations in order to remain open. For instance; the number of visitors has to be assessed to make sure that it is at a level enabling social distancing, visitors have to wear face masks, reopenings were encouraged on weekdays rather than weekends, one-direction walkways had to be implemented, the number of times the venue is cleaned also had to increase, touchpoints had to be limited, and contactless payments are now encouraged throughout.

However, these measures aren’t all venues are contending with, they also have to consider the general feeling amongst the population. According to a recent Global Web Index study, just 9% of the UK public say they intend to return immediately to venues. Global Web Index also looked into what safety factors the public were concerned about. Here we have highlighted some of them:

  • 64% of people felt social distancing was one of the most important safety factors
  • 49% of people felt restrictions on how many people can enter was one of the most
  • 39% of people felt cashless payment options was one of the most important
  • 60% of people felt regular cleaning/disinfection was one of the most important

So, not only are arts, culture and heritage organisations having to adapt to restrictive (though necessary) COVID-19 rules, they’re also contending with a target audience who are hesitant to be out and about in public spaces. On top of that, competition is higher than ever as attractions in need of funds are all vying for the attention of the audiences brave enough to venture out.

Auditorium theatre in chicago is one of the venues harnessing digital in 2020, as highlighted in after digital's arts and culture report

In the economic downturn that is the coronavirus crisis, when consumers’ spending becomes polarised, it is very important that attractions demonstrate an attractive point of differentiation through brand identity if not through value for money. Today’s tourism is characterised by emerging new destinations and increasingly fierce competition. Additionally, the notable demand for a diversity of destinations and new types of experiences through tourism is indicating a shift in consumer behaviour, affecting how tourist destinations
market themselves.

These changes are driven by a new generation of tourists, more confident and familiar with travel, and more independently minded than previous generations. This is making it necessary for attractions and tourist destinations to develop its “integral tourism product and image that is sensibly positioned in relationship to the needs and wants of the chosen segment of tourists”. However, oftentimes in the process of gaining their competitive advantage, destinations are looking in the wrong direction…

Destinations can tend to stick to trends and success stories from competitors with proven track records, as opposed to branching out and thinking about their long-term competitive advantage - their cultural or/and natural identity that makes them different enough in tourist perceptions. And, with the current crisis in mind, having a convincing point of differencing and emphasising your brand identity and the unique selling points of your destination is likely to prove more successful with visitors; rather than resorting to discounts. Customer service is definitely crucial here, but brands should also consider expanding into new markets and developing new digital services that can complement their core business.

With the blurring of in-home and out-of-home leisure in the current climate, consumers are likely to favour products and services that can be accessed, used, or consumed in a variety of ways; at a time and place to suit them. This means that attractions that are quick to embrace digital communications and manage to build technologies that allow customers to flexibly combine all aspects of their lives, will flourish in the future.

With all of this in mind, the upcoming key trends for arts, culture and heritage organisations are:

  • Digital communications increasing admissions
  • Immersive augmented reality experiences growing in popularity
  • Learning and discovery being key motivators for visiting
  • Bringing the attractions into consumers’ homes

You can read about this industry’s key trends, economic factors, key consumers, and more in full in our 2020 Report.

Recommendations for the core digital channels

Digital is only going from strength to strength as time goes on and it has become a key factor across all industries – particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic. Organisations harnessing digital channels has been the reason consumers have been able to enjoy theatre and music performances at home, it has been the reason brands have been able to reach out and ask from support from their loyal fans, and it has been the reason that audiences have stayed so invested in the arts, culture, and heritage industry at a time where it could have been easier to forget about it in the midst of social and economic upheaval.

For example, many organisations have been doing their best to adapt to life during the pandemic and preparing for welcoming visitors back again. One of our clients, the Royal Academy of Dance, started up their [email protected] programme when lockdown first kicked off. This programme offers online dance classes for people of all ages and abilities and, on its launch day, it resulted in a 1,650% increase in site traffic when compared to an average day.

a screenshot of the RAD@Home webpage, which is mentioned in After Digitals arts and culture report 2020

Another example is The National Theatre, who ran their National Theatre at Home campaign during the lockdown. This allowed people to watch full performances of renowned shows like Frankenstein (starring Benedict Cumberbatch and Johnny Lee Miller) and Coriolanus (starring Tom Hiddleston) completely for free. Not only is this providing great brand awareness for the National Theatre, but it’s also opening up availability to theatre performances for those who may not otherwise have access to it. The number of people who have watched past productions on the National Theatre’s At Home service would fill its three auditoria for 11 years. These examples are fantastic initiatives, for sure, but they also tap into what those stuck at home were looking for; with RAD providing an outlet for those looking to be creative and the National Theatre entertaining those who may have exhausted their Netflix options after a few weeks of furlough and lockdown.

So, it’s clear that digital has been a huge factor in keeping organisations in touch with their audiences and vice versa, but how can this industry best harness the core digital marketing channels? In this blog, we want to give an overview of our 2020 report recommendations based on key learnings from our work within the arts, culture, and attraction industry; which we believe will provide valuable insights and help your brand create efficient digital marketing campaigns to drive ROI.


Research shows that a whopping 95% of web traffic is captured by websites on page 1 of search results, that leaves only 5% of traffic for the remaining pages. So, if you are not doing so already, you should be investing in SEO with the aim of achieving position #1, 2, or 3 in organic search engine results pages (SERPs).

Our 2020 Arts & Culture Industry Insights Report covers:

The importance of SEO for arts and culture organisations

  • On average, the CTR for the 1st result SERPs, where there are no ads present, is 30%, comparatively, when paid results have a presence, this drops down to 17.9%. To get the highest ROI from your website a good ranking on organic keywords is an extremely valuable tool in your marketing toolbox. SEO is a marathon, not a race and provides support for your other digital activities if you organically in position #1, 2 or 3 in SERPs.

Keywords & Quality Content

  • Keywords are the link between what people are searching for and the content you are providing to answer that search query. To ensure that your site ranks well organically and drives visitors to your website, it is important to understand the needs of your visitors (e.g. the language they use for the content they are searching for), in order to reach them.
  • With regards to creating content, top pages on competitor arts and culture websites often include blog publications; which signals the importance of producing high quality, well-optimised content that drives traffic in the arts and culture industry.
  • In creating quality content there is an opportunity to set yourself apart from your competitors, this is accomplished by creating content which matches the search intent of potential customers. It is recommended that your team or incumbent agency monitor real search queries on a monthly basis and shape your content strategy around this.

Link building

  • Building links is one of many ways to improve your organisation's SEO, this is due to links signalling to Google that your site is a quality resource worthy of citation. Sites with more backlinks tend to earn higher rankings than those without.

Technical issues

  • For any site to succeed within the search engines it's vital that it can be crawled and indexed efficiently by the search engine bots. It is important to monitor the technical aspects of your site which affect SEO to ensure your website is working for you, rather than against you. Technical errors such as 404 (page not found) errors not only have an impact on SEO, they also negatively affect the user experience.
  • Typically, arts and culture organisations tend to have slow page speeds across the board, so there is plenty of room for improvement across the industry. If your business can get on top of your page speeds, this is an area where you can set yourself apart from the competition.
User on Google Search Console an important tool highlighted in after digital's arts and culture report 2020


PPC offers fast entry to the market, is measurable and provides a host of useful data which can be used to better understand your audience and can feed into all areas of your marketing activity. The beauty of this type of marketing is that you only pay when someone clicks, so there is limited budget wastage. As advertising budgets in the arts, culture, and attractions industry tend to be tight, it is important to ensure that every penny counts and is driving ROI.

Our 2020 Arts & Culture Industry Insights Report covers:

How PPC plays a key role in successful arts, culture and attraction marketing strategies.

  • However, it is always best to have a professional PPC strategist manage your account to ensure that you are achieving the highest ROI on your ad spend.

How to further qualify your keyword traffic

  • Consider using broad match modified keywords to bring more of the right people to your website.

Properly managing your location targeting in a way that will prevent wasting budget on less relevant traffic

  • Ensure that your budget is spent generating ticket sales from warm audiences rather than gaining clicks from users less likely to convert.

Utilising extensions to boost performance on your campaigns.

  • These free tools can enhance your campaign adding useful information and encourage conversions

The potential of a Google Grant account

  • These are available for non-profits so if you are eligible it is well worth tapping into this resource as you can access up to £7,500 per month to spend in AdWords free of charge!

Social media

The coronavirus pandemic has hugely impacted the use of social media – in more ways than just increased usage from the general public. When it comes to paid advertising through platforms like Facebook (who also own Instagram), Twitter, LinkedIn, and more; the social media giants are feeling a little more concerned at the dip in income from their regular advertisers.

In general, advertising has been on the decline since the pandemic started and this decline in spending has lead to a decline in competition for ad space – a great thing for those who have been lucky enough to be able to continue marketing throughout the pandemic; growing their results and brand recognition in the absence of rivalry from other organisations. However, as we approach the festive season, the competition is, once again, on the rise – rapidly. Throughout our 2020 report, we discuss, in detail, our key findings from working with arts, culture, and attractions organisations all over the world which you can put into practice at your own visitor attraction to drive revenue in the post-pandemic world.

For example:

Social media should be considered a touchpoint or fuel for your digital marketing strategy that supports your organisation’s other marketing efforts – don’t consider it the be-all and end-all of what you do digitally.

Video, of all formats, continues to be crucial in supporting arts and culture organisations; many have been leaning on it heavily during the pandemic to support themselves whilst their venues and attractions are closed. Ensure you’re considering how you can make the most of it for appealing to your own audience.

Do your research on your audience to find out what platforms they’re using and what their habits are; core arts and culture consumers like pre-families, families, and empty-nesters won’t all be on the same social media platforms and will each engage with arts and culture organisations in different ways. Make sure you’re reaching them in ways that will engage them most.

Whether you’re advertising or posting organic content, people are looking for certain things on social media during the current pandemic – make sure you weave these into your content:

  • Entertainment
  • Creativity
  • Connection and comfort
  • Authenticity

Consider implementing paid activity, if you can, to support your business throughout the pandemic and as restrictions lift; whether you’re appealing to potential visitors, performance attendees (both online and offline), or even possible donors; if you fail to stay top-of-mind, people may forget that you need their support.

You can read about this industry’s core digital channels; like SEO, PPC, and social media; in full in our 2020 Report.

person at gig filming on their phone as social media could play a key role in arts and culture bounce back

How can After Digital help?

Our team of experts take key learnings from our work within the arts, culture & attractions industry to provide valuable insights and create efficient digital marketing strategies to assist our clients in driving ROI.

With over two decades of experience working in the arts and culture sector, we're well-versed in working with organisations to support their online marketing and deliver tangible results.

If you would like to discuss how AD can help you reach your business goals, please contact the marketing team at After Digital via the form below!

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