From theatre seating plans to exhibition directories, there is value in data analytics to the arts in that it can improve the audience experience and offer new approaches to solving problems.

In this article, we would like to discuss how data analytics can be used in the arts in order to better understand visitor behaviour, target the right customers, and drive more revenue. We will also take a look at how specific analytics tools, combined with the right guidance and professional support, can help you gain actionable insights into your organisation and achieve your marketing objectives.

The value of data analytics to the arts & culture

While the relationship between visitor attractions and data might not be very obvious at first, in today’s technology-driven world even museums have begun to explore the endless possibilities offered by data analytics in order to understand how to best serve their potential audience.

Like any business with financial needs, museums collect and analyse data to help determine how to improve the user experience to attract visitors and drive revenue. Unlike most businesses, however, many museums are considered as nonprofit organisations and are held in the public trust. This means that, compared to the corporate world, museums are still in their infancy on a lot of levels when it comes to utilising data analytics.
But, for the museums and other visitor attractions that are adapting to the modern tech era, making use of data means much more than just ticket sales, audience numbers and visitor footfall. These organisations are thinking about data differently and, therefore, are able to harvest a number of additional positive impacts.

We would like to propose three major ways in which data analytics can benefit the culture sector.

1. Data can help you understand visitor behaviour better

Museums collect and use data in various ways. But, the best way to approach this process is by asking the right questions:

    • What factors actually drive attendance?
    • Do local and tourist audiences behave the same way?
    • Which objects in our collection are most popular with visitors?
    • What audience segments are we reaching?
    • How do we get more of our collection online?
    • How can we streamline the buying experience in the museum shop?

For instance, some of the more creative methods museums can use to gather data include electronic tracking to see how many people are passing through certain doors at your venue, barcodes to monitor the spending habits of visitors, or Wi-Fi to track the movement of visitors. In the example with electronic tracking, the information gained through this technique can be used to determine the popularity of exhibits and features amongst visitors. When it comes to the use of barcodes to monitor the spending habits of visitors, museums can learn whether there is a difference in spending habits between people traveling from far and people who live nearby. And lastly, provided that museums have obtained consent from their visitors, organisations can track the exact movement of visitors within the venue through the help of WiFI.

The value of data analytics to the arts

In fact these are some of the techniques used by museum officials at the Cleveland Museum of Art to help stage a 2018 exhibit named "The Jazz Age: American Style in the 1920s." According to the museum’s director of audience insights and services, Elizabeth Bolander, it took about a year in order to plan the whole event. During this time, museum staff spoke with potential visitors and tested different images to best figure out how to frame the exhibit. After the exhibit opened, they conducted exit surveys to assess the effectiveness of the museum's marketing efforts and compared its performance to those of past exhibits.

By doing this, they discovered that their digital marketing efforts had played a significant role in driving more visitors to “The Jazz Age” exhibition compared to any previous exhibit. This insight made it clear that they needed to continue their investment into effective digital advertising.

2. Data can help you target your audience better

By collecting visitor data, marketers are able to create more relevant ads and target the users according to the content they consume or according to their geographical location. For example, The Fenimore Art Museum in Cooperstown, NY, had a goal to understand the relationship between advertising channels (radio, TV, digital and print) and ticket sales during a major exhibit run. In order to do this they compared geographical ad purchases with ticket zip codes.

Their tests revealed that the top 10 visitor zip codes all featured radio advertisements.Knowing this, they focused on delivering more radio ads and managed to significantly increase attendance from visitors in the top 10 visitor zip codes.

3. Data can help you drive more revenue

Combining data from different sources can help solve problems in new ways and potentially lead to higher revenue figures as a result.

The Art Institute of Chicago is a great example of this. The Institute wanted to increase revenue through paid ticket sales and they leveraged museum-floor beacons to track visitor pathways and time spent in specific galleries. Based on those findings, museum staff promoted the galleries with high visitor engagement to increase paid attendance from $14.8 million in 2015 to a projected $19.9 million the following fiscal year.

Value of data analytics to the arts

This all sounds really great, but if you’re not yet convinced that data analytics can help you, we would like to present you with a very effective tool you can use to achieve some of those results we gave as an example above.

Activity Stream: tailor-made data for the arts & culture

Activity Stream: analytics platform for the arts & culture sector

The data collection process comes from many sources and will depend on the level of technical know-how and availability of staff and specific requirements of your venue. While data collection traditionally consists of many different methods; such as polls, social media profiling, surveys, IoT/ Indoor Location tracking (visitor heatmaps and user flow) amongst many more; in the online world website visitor analytics tools like Google Analytics remain the bedrock of all digital business analytics.

And although not all visitors will visit your website, Google Analytics still provides an excellent opportunity to capture information on demographics, location, age, sex, how users found your website (Google, Social Media, Email etc.), how much time they spent on your site, how many and which pages they visited and much more.

If you are someone who is already using Google Analytics, you will be able to confirm that while the information provided to you by this platform is very useful, it does not come without having a good technical knowledge of how to operate it. In other words, setting up custom metrics, dimensions and reports to fit the need of the art industry in Google Analytics can be a real headache. Thankfully for all organisations in the culture sector, there is a data analytics tool called Activity Steam which offers a custom made solution for your sector:

“We wanted to create the best data tools in the industry, and provide them as-a-service, effectively sharing the cost and giving all organizations the opportunity to use cutting-edge technology such as machine learning and cross-industry benchmarking.”

Activity Stream is a data analytics platform which enables you to get immediate value without having to invest key resources in design and set-up. Using this software in conjunction with Google Analytics and professional marketing support, for producing regular reports and assisting you with important strategic decisions, can benefit you in the following ways:

  • Save you time by utilising filterable overviews to easily explore your data:
    Activity Stream uses AI tools in order to make key business observations and provide you with real-time insights. These insights can help you recognise different sales patterns and customer behaviours and then take the necessary actions to convert customers into sales.
  • Improve marketing ROI by better segmentation and automated campaign tracking:
    Customer segmentation in Activity Stream allows for splitting customers based on the shows or exhibitions they prefer. This data offers a great prospecting possibility where you can create a highly specific lookalike audience for all sorts of performances you may host, and target those audiences to boost sales.
    Advanced customer tagging allows you to see the average distance of ticket buyers, informing you which users are best to target with any last minute sales or with any advance ticket purchase promotions.
  • Increase revenue from timely inventory management and AI-based sales predictions:
    By integrating AI into your digital marketing strategy, you will be able to take advantage of something called descriptive analytics and predictive analytics. Descriptive analytics finds facts about the data, such as correlations or outliers, while predictive analytics estimates unknown values, such as the next value in a sequence or a category that isn’t represented in a data set. For example, suppose we have a data set that represents information about visitors to a museum for each day: the number of visitors overall, the number of visitors at each exhibit, and some demographics about those visitors. Descriptive analytics might find a correlation between the day of the week and the number of visitors, or between visiting one exhibition and another (perhaps the same people are interested in both). With predictive analytics, a system might predict how many people will visit next Saturday, for example. Knowing this kind of information, you can prepare appropriately for any given event with timely inventory management and other planning.

Visitor attractions and data make a powerful combination. Monetarily, the benefits are quite obvious - better information in the hands of the right people and with the right marketing guidance can lead to amazing results.

To sum up, Activity Stream not only helps arts and culture organisations to discover and understand their customers' demographics and behaviour, but it also enables them to gain actionable insights and develop new more effective strategies. In other words, data analytics will help visitor attractions to understand two things: the people who are coming through their doors, but also identify who are the people who aren’t, and why that is. 

To find out how the marketing team at After Digital can help you utilise data analytics for your particular organisation, do not hesitate to contact us through the form below.

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