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How are audience segmentation models adapting for the post-lockdown museum world? 

Do you know your Commuterland Culturebuffs from your Kaleidoscope Creativity? These are (as the segmentation savvy will know) two of the profiles from the Audience Agency’s ‘Audience Spectrum’ segmentation model. This model helps cultural organisations to better understand audiences in the UK.

Whether this question leaves you nodding sagely or scratching your head, there is lots to learn from audience segmentation as museums navigate the post-lockdown world.

Segmentation 101

Segmentation models are used across all industries to refine marketing messages. They range from comprehensive systems such as Experian’s ‘Mosaic’ system (which is built from a vast pool of consumer and demographic data – including information from the Office of National Statistics (ONS), YouGov and Research Now) to arts, culture and heritage specific models. For example, consultancy Morris Hargreaves McIntyre’s ‘Culture Segments’ has been developed from their experiences working with organisations around the world.

These are powerful tools to help museums understand their audiences (and potential audiences) better. Segmentation models group visitors into similar types so that we can effectively tailor our engagement strategies.

If you have visitor personas for your museum, you may be able to match them roughly to the segments found in these systems – and so it’s well worth having a working knowledge of a couple of models to add to your toolkit. By pairing your audience information with larger data sets it is possible to gain a greater understanding and make better informed strategic decisions.

Plus, these models have a continual investment in research and development and during the pandemic, this has been more vital than ever.

COVID-19 audience mindsets

Morris Hargreaves McIntyre was quick to react and by May 2020 they had conducted initial research and published a three-part think piece on Culture in Lockdown, including an insightful addition to their Culture Segments model – the Covid Audience Mindsets.

The Culture Segments model defines eight audience types, and the psychographic approach describes these audiences in terms of their beliefs, values, and key motivators.

The Covid Audience Mindsets added attitudes to digital engagement and reopening to this research, offering valuable insights into what these segments would need and value the pandemic – giving organisations the support to swiftly shape strategic plans.

We need to strategise

“The recovery may be slow, and we will need to strategise for that,” Andrew McIntyre says in part 1 of his think-piece. “While there may be pent-up demand and certain audience segments may return sooner, other segments may be wary or their spending power weakened, certain types of offer and settings (outdoor?) may, initially, be more attractive, and there may be legal and practical restrictions on what we’re able to deliver.”

He says confidently that audiences, including tourists, will return but that as a result of the pandemic museums have pushed some people further along the digital adoption curve, which will merely enhance, not replace, the analogue.

“Already, there are attempts to model and predict future audience intent. While we’re all eager to get a first glimpse of what might happen, here we really should counsel caution. What people are currently doing is knowable. It’s way more reliable than what people say they might do next week or next month, let alone in some post-lockdown future.

“That’s why the reflex impulse to embark on big audience tracking studies will be far less useful to our organisations than small-scale evaluation and consultation. Right now, deep data is far more valuable than big data.”

Now, 18 months later, this model is still incredibly relevant and reinforces the ongoing need for museums to think deeply about their audience focus as a means to increase their resilience.

Deeper insight

Deeper insight is also available to museums through TagTool, which enriches box office data, a Covid Audiences Mindsets Survey – which, for example, can help identify how quickly your audiences will return, and consultancy.

Recent reports from the consultancy have given more detailed insights into audiences, for example in New Zealand during 2020, and for reopening in Washington DC – offering a greater understanding of current behaviours and future intentions.

“What both Culture Segments and Covid Audience Mindsets illustrate is that it is not socio-demographics which drive people’s desire to engage with culture or to return to in-venue engagement, although there are some slight correlations with age for example,” Jo Hargreaves, Director at Morris Hargreaves McIntyre told MuseumNext.

“It’s psychographics – their deeper-seated values which determine what they want from engaging with culture – and in terms of their propensity to return, their levels of emotional resilience and attitudes to risk and we found low or high levels of these exist in relatively equal measures across different age-groups.  So if we want to most effectively encourage return we need to understand these deeper drivers”.

Audience Spectrum in the Context of COVID-19

The Audience Agency has also provided a version of their Audience Spectrum segmentation system which reflects how attitudes and behaviour have been affected by the pandemic.

Audience Spectrum provides detail on ten culturally active segments based on demographic data. It highlights the benefit of having in place an audience segmentation model that, while being based on cultural engagement, is also linked to demographics, geography and the many concrete factors that have made so much difference to people’s lives.

In the report it says that those differences ‘have had particular effects during lockdown, but also relate to things that we know have always made a difference to cultural consumption (things like age, education, health and household composition’.

In the context of COVID-19, this takes into account if a segment is more prevalent in areas that had earlier infection peaks (for example), age and likelihood of shielding, and segments that may have been impacted by ‘bubbling’.

New services

This addition to Audience Spectrum has been accompanied by a wide array of new services, and ‘this constantly developing suite of audience analysis tools and evidence-led support is designed to help arts organisations build back better from the COVID-19 pandemic’.

Two key parts of this toolkit are the Cultural Participation Monitor, a longitudinal study from which key findings are published quarterly. This regularly updated narrative offers actionable insight, for example, the recent Autumn 21 report includes audiences’ expected interest for the upcoming festive period.

During lockdown, the Audience Agency also offered organisations the Digital Audience Survey. This survey enabled organisations to continue to gather information through lockdown, and has suggested the emergence of new behaviours – lower engaged audiences who are interested in digital content – and so offers new potential for museums to grow.

What next?

Segmentation systems are constantly evolving, and the speed of this has increased during the pandemic.

And it’s important for museums to continually assess their audience understanding, too. Investing in data collection and analysis will help to ensure that they can make the most of the insights available – and vitally to best serve their visitors.

About the author – Rebecca Hardy Wombell

Rebecca Hardy Wombell is a freelance writer who works with a broad range of creative organisations, including artists, galleries, museums and design-led retailers.

Her writing aims to develop and delight audiences by putting her clients’ beautiful works to well-crafted words.

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