Visitor data: a valuable resource to be collected

Visitor data: a valuable resource to be collected

This article is based on an interview with Solène Jimenezbusiness developer at Arenametrix, and Cindy Ogiezmarketing & sales manager at Mucem. This article was published in the Dutch media Cultuurmarketing and was sponsored by Arenametrix.

A majestic building to which visitors can gain free access without a ticket, and visitors who are reluctant to hand over their data: these are the difficulties facing the iconic young museum in the south of France, the Mucem. 

How, then, can we succeed in collecting data to better understand our visitors?

The challenge of collecting visitor data

In Marseille, a stone's throw from the historic port, a modern architectural building dedicated to the civilisations of the Mediterranean region has stood since 2013: the Mucem (Museum of European and Mediterranean Civilisations).

The Mucem has the status of "Musée de France", a label granted by the French government. This status is accompanied by a certain number of obligations for the museum, such as the implementation of actions to raise awareness of culture and diversify the public, as well as accessibility to the greatest number of people.

The Mucem already has a large audience, welcoming around 1.2 million visitors each year. However, less than half of these visitors, or 500,000 people, buy a ticket for an exhibition. The vast majority come for other reasons, such as to participate in one of the activities offered by the museum or simply to admire the architectural complex. The lack of registration through ticket purchase makes it difficult to collect data on all these visitors.


The beginnings of the CRM project

After a first unsuccessful attempt to set up a CRM, the Musem chose Arenametrix in 2019. "This system corresponded to our needs, it is better adapted to cultural institutions and interfaces easily with the ticketing system", explains Cindy Ogiez, marketing and sales manager. 

Solène Jimenez, International Development Manager at Arenametrix, explains that the project was launched very easily. Before using Arenametrix, the Musem only sent general newsletters presenting exhibitions and events to a limited number of email addresses. "Our first step, in cooperation with the museum, was to segment the database in order to identify specific target groups. Collecting visitor data remains our priority: without data, you don't have an audience to send targeted content to. Also, email addresses are essential for audience development campaigns".

Increase visitor retention through strong local engagement

An architectural gem located near the city centre, the young museum has the potential to become a must-see for tourists. However, 50% of the visitors come from the South-East of France. In other words, half of the visitors are concentrated within a 200-kilometre radius of the museum, from Montpellier to Nice. The other half are mainly tourists from the rest of France. How can this distribution be explained? " Marseille is a destination that many French people visit, even before the pandemic, which limited travel abroad," explains Cindy Ogiez from her office in Marseille. "For example, many tourists to Marseille come from the Paris region and the Lyon region. These two regions are home to people with high incomes and cultural practices. Unlike Parisian museums, for example, the Mucem has been less affected by the loss of foreign tourists."

By focusing on domestic visitors, the museum hopes to increase loyalty and encourage regular visits. Moreover, unlike foreign tourists for whom Marseille is most often a one-off holiday destination, local residents are more likely to return for new events and exhibitions.


Specific characteristics of visitors to cultural sites in France

The majority of visitors to Mucem come from France, a country with different cultural visiting habits than the Netherlands. For example, in order to stimulate cultural visits by young people, national museums are always free for people under 26. While this initiative helps to attract a wider audience to the museums, it is unfortunately implemented at the expense of the data collection process.

This challenge does not only apply to young people under 26, but to all visitors. Cindy Ogiez explains that in Marseille, as many cultural activities are free, people are not used to buying their ticket online in advance, and prefer to take it directly at the museum entrance. In addition, older people are reluctant to give out personal information such as their email address, date of birth or address. " Because of the pandemic, there has been a change in the habits of our audiences," explains Ms Ogiez. " Before, about 3 to 4% of tickets were bought online. Covid has increased this figure to 11%. This increase is very beneficial for the collection of visitor data. 

Many museums now allow visitors to reserve a specific time slot. In addition to being better distributed throughout the day, visitors fill in their details, which enriches the database of cultural institutions. However, as the Mucem has a vast and spacious building, there is no real need for time slots to allow a visit in compliance with sanitary measures. The principle of purchase before the visit is a recurring problem for Cindy Ogiez: " This considerably limits the potential data that we can collect from a visitor before their visit. Another difficulty is to ask for additional information from visitors who come through the museum doors."

Leaving data behind during your visit

As time slots and online ticket sales provide limited results, museums must be creative in finding new ways to collect data. The most obvious option is to encourage people to give an email address during their visit. This can be done by offering visitors the opportunity to receive a selfie in the museum by email or to leave a comment in the digital guestbook on the ipad. An email address is required to receive their own photo. In this way, the visitor shares information in situ and feeds the database. " The first method of collecting email addresses is still the sale of tickets in advance. However, this type of technique during the visit has also contributed to the huge growth of the contact list in the last year. In January 2021 we had 87,000 addresses. One year later we are at 118,000″, says Cindy Ogiez. "This is a noticeable increase in our database that we can use to make our use of the CRM tool more efficient."

New activities for a new audience

Because of its size and layout, the Mucem is also suitable for events and activities that are not part of the traditional exhibition. For example, yoga classes have been organised within the museum. " With these types of activities, we try to attract a new audience to the Mucem," explains Cindy Ogiez. "The events attract a large audience, but again, they are largely spontaneous visits. One approach we have tried for some free events and which has proved interesting is to offer visitors the opportunity to book a free ticket online. In this way we have a better understanding of the profile of our visitors.

Future strategy of the Mucem

Solène Jimenez and Cindy Ogiez agree that delivering the right message to the right person remains the most important objective. As such, they believe that a more efficient visitor pathway, better audience segmentation and less regular generic campaigns will bring real added value in the future. " We have around 1.2 million visitors to the museum every year. Only 500,000 of them come for the exhibitions. This means that we have little or no information on more than half of our visitors. To best meet their needs, we first need to understand who they are, what they want and why they're there," explains Cindy Ogiez. " We're satisfied with the strategy we've put in place with our CRM tool, but there's still a lot of data to be collected and used intelligently," testifies Solène Jimenez. " Mucem's and Arenametrix's top priority remains to gain a better understanding of visitor profiles.

Visual Solene crop

Solène Jimenez

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Sophia Baladi

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