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A Look at Arts & Heritage Industry Trends Going into 2018

Updated: November 26, 2018 | Share on LinkedIn

by Dave Langran, Principal, Arts & Heritage

As we move rapidly into 2018, there are a number of significant industry trends that have been emerging over the past couple of years that are now coming to the fore.

More than ever, arts and heritage sites want to know who their visitors are, what they are looking for and how to deepen those relationships. This trend is accelerating as financial pressures increase due to reduced public spending. Additionally, virtually all museums and other historic sites have an increased desire to engage more deeply with local communities.

The ability to deliver an experience to the visitor that also engages staff members as opposed to a passive visit has also become a recurring theme throughout 2017 and is only going to increase in 2018.

Arts and heritage organisations are looking to develop the three fundamental pillars of their organisations together – visitors, staff and financial rigour – as they move forward for an exciting year.

1-IntegratedBusinessThe integrated business

Being able to have people, business processes and technology operating in unison has been the desire of businesses of all shapes and sizes for many years. The arts and heritage sector is not different. It has long been the dream of most arts and heritage organisations to have an integrated business and technology platform that allows for smooth management of their overall business operation whilst enhancing the overall staff and visitor experience at the same time. This doesn’t mean, necessarily, procuring a single solution from a single vendor – it is more about having a technical platform into which “best of breed” solutions can be introduced and integrated.

The implementation of an integrated arts and heritage organisation has been seen, in recent years, as being available only to the larger members of the sector. 2017 has seen smaller organisations benefiting from the work undertaken by their colleagues at these larger organisations, and this is only going to accelerate throughout the year.


Visitor centricity – the single view of the visitor

Building on the above integrated business trend, and the consequent de-siloing (the ability to share information between and across departmental boundaries) of organisations, the ability to have the elusive “single view” of the visitor is becoming a reality of an increasing number of organisations.

In this way, the visitor services team is able to see information from the Development team (and vice versa). This approach gives such organisations the ability to analysis the different visitor types and trends, and to plan targeted events and offerings accordingly. This approach also leads to significant changes in business processes and overall culture, in the majority of cases, to the benefit of staff members and volunteers who are engaging with the visitor community.

Organisations of all shapes and sizes, including the Victoria & Albert Museum in London, the ss Great Britain in Bristol, the Walt Disney Family Museum in San Francisco, and the Mob Museum in Las Vegas are all starting to reap the benefits of such an approach.


Venue hire and special events management

Arts and heritage organisations are looking to use their fantastic facilities and collections to maximise commercial opportunities in order to use such revenue to fund their core mission. Having a “commercial” sales approach to venue and special events management is paying dividends for an increasing number of organisations. Organisations including the National Museum of the Royal Navy in Portsmouth, and the aforementioned ss Great Britain and Walt Disney Family Museum are all examples of organisations that are looking to maximise the commercial value of their unique environments by renting out their facilities to other organisations and individuals.


Exclusive VIP and member events

Increasingly arts and heritage organisations are looking to retain and build their membership bases by making certain events and product offerings available to members only (or, at least, giving members early privileged access to such things). For numerous organisations this approach has led to impressive increases in both membership retention and new membership acquisition rates. National Museums Liverpool is offering members free entry to their exciting “First Chinese Emperor” exhibition with the Terracotta warriors (February-October 2018), and the Victoria & Albert Museum has offered members exclusive “early bird” access to their last two annual blockbuster events.


Targeted communications – move to relevant quarterly updates rather than “one size fits all” monthly newsletters

Knowing more about the visitor community – their profiles, needs, usage profiles and, indeed, their emotions, enables marketing departments to get smarter and more targeted in the planning, production and delivery of regular updates to visitors. The maxim of delivering the “right message, at the right time, to the right people,” in conjunction with “if we have nothing new and relevant to say, we’re better off saying nothing,” has led a number of organisations to move from a monthly newsletter to a quarterly one.

Organisations such as Birmingham Museums Trust, National Museum of the Royal Navy, ss Great Britain, etc., have all reviewed their communication strategies in 2017 and have implemented changes in order to maximise the impact of their regular communications.

6-DataProtectionData protection and usage opportunities

With the introduction of GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) coming into force on May 25, 2018, across the European Union, there has been an increased focus on looking at what visitor data is being collected, how it is being secured and what it is being used for. This focus has had a beneficial effect on a number of arts and heritage organisations as it has helped them to understand more about their visitors and to adopt a more focused approach on how they engage with such individuals. GDPR is scary when first approached, but offers significant advantages to organisations willing to embrace its basic principles (distilled into – engage with people who want a relationship, and talk to them about subjects they are interested in).

7-CommunityEngagement1Reaching out to the local community (community engagement)

2017 saw a significant increase in arts and heritage organisations reaching out to their local communities and engaging on projects of interest to the broader community base. This approach has led to more diverse and, in some case, controversial initiatives that haven’t necessarily followed the more traditional approach of such organisations. Arts and heritage organisations are re-establishing themselves as one of the key centres for their local communities – with the UK Museums Association strapline that “Museums Change Lives” proving to resonate.

Organisations such as the National Museum of the Royal Navy and the ss Great Britain have enhanced their educational and other outreach programmes in 2017 with such initiatives being enhanced and strengthened across the sector.

8-CloudComputingThe mainstream adoption of cloud computing

2017 has seen cloud computing adopted for a number of high profile projects across the arts and heritage sector. With the rapid development of such cloud-based services (including Office365, cloud-based CRM solutions, etc.) and their ease of adoption, this trend is only set to increase in 2018. Organisations can now operate efficiently and cost-effectively without the need for expensive internal infrastructure yet still benefit from enterprise-scale technology platforms. As examples, organisations including the Titanic Museums in Pigeon Forge, Tenn., and Branson, Mo., National Museum of the Royal Navy, and many others are now operating their visitor management programmes using cloud-based CRM solutions.

9-SocialMediaThe rise of the app and social media

Arts and heritage organisations are looking to maximise the onsite and offsite experience for visitors of all types. The development of specialised apps increased last year and is likely to continue growing as well as social media engagement which has become mainstream for a large number of organisations. Social media marketing has firmly established itself as an essential part of the overall arts and heritage marketing mix.

The use of video and high-quality imagery in social media to promote arts and heritage organisations is becoming widespread across the sector and is an excellent way to give visitors a taste of what they can expect when they visit the relevant organisation.

The National Museum of the Royal Navy is using YouTube videos to promote their “Jutland 36 hours” programme and Aerospace Bristol to promote the launch of their new Concorde experience.

10-ImmersiveExperienceThe immersive experience

Consistent research has shown that guests visit arts and heritage sites for a variety of reasons – most notably for social, educational and entertainment reasons. Arts and heritage organisations have taken this on board and have produced immersive elements at their facilities where visitors become a part of the story. This includes taking on the persona of a passenger on a famous form of transport, a worker in a particular industrial sector, or a citizen in a particular location or particular period of time.

There are many ways to re-imagine how a visitor could engage with other guests and with collections to create a strong attachment that will remain as a strong memory long beyond the visit. Producing “memory” tickets in the form of boarding cards, signup papers, identification papers, etc., are all key devices that can help to keep the visitor engaged beyond the initial visit and can carry the message of the organisation to a broader audience. Linking such immersion experiences to online experiences post-visit is also helping to deepen visitor relationships between visitors and arts and heritage organisations.

Organisations such as the National World War II Museum in New Orleans (with its Dog Tag experience), the Titanic Museums (with their passenger and crew experiences), the Concorde exhibition at Aerospace Bristol (with its boarding card experience) and the ss Great Britain (with its Transatlantic voyage experience) are all examples where visitors are actively encouraged to become involved, emotionally and physically, in the subject areas that the organisations are passionate about.

11-WhatdoyouthinkWhat do you think? Are you undertaking similar projects based on these trends? Do you see other emerging trends in the arts and heritage market? Let me know what you think. Feel free to reach out to me via my email – I look forward to having a lively dialogue with you.

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