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As a leading provider of digital solutions for the museum and visitor attraction sector, STQRY has built a reputation by creating a feature-rich platform that organizations can use to create digital experiences that modernize the visitor journey.
MuseumNext spoke with STQRY CEO, Thomas Dunne, and Marketing Communications Manager, Genevieve Hauck, to find out more about how the business is helping cultural establishments worldwide make sense of the new socially distanced world we find ourselves in.
Museums around the globe have been under pressure to reevaluate their digital strategies due to the events of the past year. According to a recent MuseumNext survey, many institutions are facing significant challenges in this area due to concerns about competing in the online space, along with a lack of in-house digital expertise.
Enter STQRY, formerly known as OnCell. STQRY’s unique suite of digital products and services has positioned them as a global leader in the digital experience space. With feature-rich solutions, fast turnaround, and ongoing support, STQRY has successfully facilitated the expansion of clients’ digital capabilities across sectors—from municipalities to touring organizations, arts institutions, and more.
“We like to show people what’s possible,” said Genevieve Hauck, Marketing Communications Manager at STQRY. “There is always an opportunity to engage visitors in new ways.”
This mission has rung true for CEO Thomas Dunne since he conceptualized the idea for this scalable, affordable digital touring SaaS company back in 2006.
Startups are born out of a unique need. Entrepreneurs recognize a gap in the marketplace and rise to meet that need, just like Dunne did years ago while visiting a museum in Michigan in 2002. He found that every single hardware unit designed to provide audio tours was out of charge. “I knew there and then that there had to be a better way to do this,” he said.
Dunne also struggled with dyslexia growing up, and found learning via audio much easier than reading text. It leveled the playing field. These combined experiences inspired his vision for STQRY right at the beginning of the digital revolution.
“When our journey started in 2006, the first iPhone hadn’t even been released yet,” he said. “Audio tours required people to dial-in to a phone line. Today, we can provide rich experiences that utilise web apps, QR codes, beacon technology, Augmented Reality, Virtual Reality, and more.”
Hitting this stride in the audio tour/digital experience sector allowed STQRY to easily adapt and grow as worldwide technological capabilities skyrocketed throughout the last few decades.
“The method of delivery and variety of capabilities have changed significantly, but the demand for good stories and engaging content has stayed the same during that time.” said Dunne. “We’ve been fortunate that many of our early adopters have been on that journey with us the whole way and continue to benefit from our solutions today.”
STQRY currently has an impressive portfolio of attractions with a total international reach in excess of 100 million annual visitors. Having acquired a number of other companies along the way, STQRY’s SaaS model now powers not only museums and audio tours, but also national parks, zoos, botanic gardens, nature centres and more.
From audio guides of Mount Rushmore to fly-over tours in Mount Kilimanjaro (which use geo-fences to inform the audio delivery), the STQRY platform gives organisations total control over their digital delivery to vast numbers of visitors. This is due to the pervasive availability of personal digital devices—namely, smartphones.
But aside from widespread public digital accessibility, STQRY’s software and business model is also built with client’s needs in mind. Instead of paying upwards of hundreds of thousands on a custom app, the average STQRY venue pays just $195 per month for the software plus 24/7 support from a client success manager.
“One of the key features of our business model that has never changed is that we pride ourselves on being affordable and scalable,” said Dunne. “By making the tools available for a reasonable monthly payment, museums can make their suite much more widely available as opposed to spending tens of thousands on something that will be obsolete in three years.”
Along with this cost-effective approach, STQRY’s software also doesn’t need in-house teams of digital experts to run smoothly. While museums have clearly identified a need to reach visitors in new and innovative ways, a primary challenge across the industry is not having enough access to technical resources.
The STQRY platform allows users to build their digital solutions with little more technical skills needed than the ability to use a web browser. If additional support is needed, their client success team is always available.
Accessibility on all levels—from smartphones to internal resources—has allowed STQRY to work with museums of all shapes and sizes. STQRY museum clients range anywhere from one or two employees to as many as 2,000.
“Historically, many institutions have shied away from exploring digital tools because they think that it may be time intensive, resource heavy, and too problematic to incorporate,” said Hauck. “But we know that these tools can be incredibly beneficial based on the experiences of institutions that have adopted our solutions.”
In the museum space specifically, STQRY’s product suite (STQRY Apps, STQRY Guide, STQRY Fleet and STQRY Collect) provides both on-site and remote digital solutions to enhance the visitor journey whether they are on-site or exploring the museum’s collection from home.
“We’ve always worked to make things as interactive as possible, whether it’s taking a deep dive into the contextual material on an ancient artefact or asking a simple question about the best way to navigate a museum,” said Dunne.
After the upheaval from the COVID-19 pandemic leaving many museums unsure of their future, STQRY’s accessible services are needed now more than ever before. Just as Dunne hit the unique stride of providing mobile digital audio tours, STQRY now finds itself filling another gap in the market—helping museums interact with their visitors safely.
“We’ve seen a massive shift during the pandemic. [Our service] has gone from ‘nice to have’ to ‘need to have’ very quickly,” said Dunne.
“Fifteen years ago, self-guided tours were often met with objections, especially when delivered using a dial-in model,” he continued. “But since COVID hit and museums have moved to a touchless environment, people have invested in an entirely contactless experience. That sits squarely in our area of expertise.”
At a time when it can be tempting to dwell on negative headlines, success stories like those from STQRY clients should be celebrated. One of their museum clients, only welcomed a fraction of its typical annual visitors in 2020, but saw a 300% spike in usage of their audio tours. They also noticed that over 50% of people utilizing their online programming had never even visited the museum before.
“There have been some really impressive success stories among our museum clients,” said Hauck. “Helping institutions find a significant and meaningful revenue stream or connection through tough times like these is one of the best testimonies we can get.”
With STQRY’s wide variety of features and capabilities, museums were able to get creative with their digital solutions. They found unique methods of interacting with their visitors in ways that made sense for their brand and those relationships.
“Our museum clients have been able to monetise virtual tours, keep people informed about on-going educational workshops and sessions, and connect with local schools remotely for enrichment activities. They have been able to engage with their visitors in so many different ways using digital solutions throughout the lockdowns and beyond,” said Hauck.
STQRY has brought together expertise and innovation since its inception to offer museums a variety of digital solutions in a simple, streamlined service, and there are no plans of slowing down in the future.
New innovations on the horizon for STQRY clients include collections management software, which significantly elevates the museum’s capabilities to interact with users, along with online shops, Live Chat and video tools, and membership solutions as key features going forward.
“We want to help museums get more out of their visitors’ journeys by providing tighter integration with shop and storefront features, communication channels, membership, and ticketing services”, said Dunne.
Features such as online shops and integrated eCommerce functionality will be critical for museums and other visitor attractions as we emerge from the pandemic. After so many months without crucial revenue and donation streams, consumer spending will be a top priority for institutions around the world.
“We’re also exploring other integrations and ways to add more value for our customers and their visitors. We think this is going to be key over the next five years”, continued Dunne.
The COVID-19 pandemic has also underscored the vital need for connection and community in planning for 2021 and beyond. When tragedy strikes, having significant connections to the people and places we love is imperative.
Connecting people, places, and stories will remain STQRY’s primary goal as they expand and explore new digital solutions and emerging start-up technology in the coming years.
“We know that the future is going to be based on mobile,” said Dunne. “Broadly speaking, we can expect to see a consolidation of companies delivering these solutions over the next 5 years or so. We are always interested in acquiring the very best start-ups with innovations that we’d like to incorporate in our platform.”
With this open-minded approach, Dunne knows that being flexible is key to success in the tech industry. “If the pandemic has taught us anything, it’s that being agile is more important than having a concrete long-term plan.”
Hauck agreed, noting that digitally enhancing the museum sector on a global scale is possible. “As awareness grows and more people in the museum world embark on that digital learning curve, we think the growth potential in this area is huge for both STQRY and these institutions. We’re really just getting started,” she said.
You can find out more about STQRY by visiting the website here.
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