There’s no denying that the COVID-19 pandemic had a catastrophic impact on the arts. The sector suffered from a 60 per cent decline in output at the height of the pandemic, but now that the world is opening up, there are unique opportunities for arts businesses to capitalise on an increased appetite for culture – and digital could be the way to go. The Scottish Government has already committed to developing the sector’s digital skills and launched the £1m Creative Digital Initiative in 2021 to support innovation in arts and cultural businesses.
Today, we’re taking a closer look at how digital innovation can be used to increase demand and drive footfall in the arts, helping your organisation build back stronger and more resilient.
Reaching the right audiences
At the height of the coronavirus pandemic, the arts sector had to work hard to reach new audiences and hold onto their established clientele in new ways. We discussed the value of preselling experiences to drive future revenues, but many went a step further and brought art, theatre, music, and culture to consumers through digital channels. As well as live streams on social media platforms, brands hosted virtual gallery tours and branched out into podcasts, webinars, and courses, all in an effort to keep the connection to the arts alive.
The truth is that the surface has only just been scratched when it comes to digitalising the art experience. In galleries and museums, for example, it’s possible to use QR codes and custom apps to reach underserved audiences. We developed a pioneering solution to welcome Chinese visitors to a Scottish museum, offering a translated guide of Discovery Point to ensure tourists could access the same information as local guests. It’s possible to go even further with virtual reality applications, allowing museums to come to life through smartphone screens and tap into emerging technologies like Apple App Clips and new AR/VR glasses.
One of the biggest benefits of implementing new tech in the arts is that you can make your brand even more accessible and venture into previously untapped markets. User-generated campaigns can be used to interact with patrons and boost future marketing efforts.
Branching out into new areas
With costs rising and consumer confidence falling, it can be difficult for organisations in the arts to take risks and know where to invest. Digital allows you to save money and branch out into new areas, knowing that if they don’t work as well as hoped, they won’t break the bank. By building your own digital platform, whether that’s an app, website, or social presence, you will have a new sounding board for ideas, with instant access to analytics on what’s working and what’s not. Host online-exclusive exhibitions, experiment with artists and performers on your app, and learn from your mistakes as you go. Successes can then be translated into your offline marketing activities, without wasting thousands of pounds on failed ventures.
Interactivity is the key to success in the arts – especially in today’s digital-first era. Asking your audience for feedback can help you identify opportunities and overcome challenges. Polls, surveys, and A/B testing can all be used through your digital channels to determine the appetite for a particular production, exhibition, or programme, and details easily tweaked.
UK creative industries faced an eye-watering £74 billion drop in income after lockdown, and as the cost of living crisis bites in the United Kingdom and in other territories, consumers will naturally be cutting back on discretionary spending. Utilising digital can help you find new ways to monetise your organisation, whether that’s offering exclusive access to an exhibition online, allowing customers to bypass the queues with fast-track entrance to your events, or offering unique digital experiences through a dedicated app for your art brand. It’s important to piggyback off of emerging trends in consumer behaviour – social shopping, for example, has exploded in recent years, with consumers buying products and services directly from their favourite apps like Instagram and TikTok. The sector will be worth $17.2 billion by 2025.
If you’re looking to recoup lost revenue from the coronavirus pandemic and future challenges brought about by economic uncertainty, offering consumers more ways to spend with you online makes sense. A dedicated app for your theatre, museum, or community arts project allows you to offer a ‘hub’ for your digital services. Offer downloadable content like worksheets, arts and crafts resources, exclusive podcasts and interviews, and interactive material. Be creative and listen to feedback from valued guests – not everything that you offer in-person will translate as well through a web app or piece of software, but it’s worth experimenting and learning as you go to unlock new opportunities for revenue generation.
Encouraging people to come back
Although some areas of the arts easily translate online, there’s nothing better than seeing your valued customers face-to-face. Developing a strong digital presence can help you spread the word about upcoming events. Social media, email marketing, push notifications, public relations and content marketing can all be used to help you reach a wider audience and encourage people to return to your theatre, gallery, museum, or group in person. Now that consumers are familiar with your brand’s digital presence, however, the challenge is to make sure the transition from your virtual platform to physical platforms is seamless.
Once visitors and guests return to your venues, use digital technology to offer interactive and engaging experiences. Provide choice – not everyone wants to be glued to a screen when they’re spending time in “the real world” – but allowing guests to use their smartphones to get more information about particular exhibits, or book future sessions or programs, will further foster loyalty and ensure consumers return to your arts venue time and time again.
If you’re looking for support in developing the right digital strategy for your arts organisation, the experts at Zudu are on hand to help. Get in touch today to arrange a consultation.