It's been a trying year, but museums and attractions across the globe have shown incredible resilience – and soon many of them will be able to reopen their doors. That means that at this moment it is paramount for venues to start thinking about best practices and ways to completely overhaul their customer experience so they can safely reopen. Without further ado, here are some creative marketing strategies for reopening.
Once again, companies will have to reinvent themselves and get acquainted with marketing after a crisis. Putting in place all local COVID-19 regulations and making the new rules in their venue clear to their visitors is the bare minimum. Over-communicating the new measures is essential to make visitors feel safe and secure.
The latter might be the problem that is the hardest to navigate, as customers’ sentiments seem to be a bit scattered across the board.
In 2020, Tiqets conducted a ‘Consumer Safety Survey’ and in 2021, we conducted another consumer survey. The aim of both surveys was to measure consumers' sentiments on returning to cultural institutions. The most recent survey revealed that almost 70% of respondents plan to return to museums and attractions within the first month of reopening.
So, how do you plan on making your venue the one they choose to come to first? Let’s dive in deeper and explore some different marketing strategies for reopening.
1. Get creative: find more ways to reach people
Many venues have taken their collection digital during imposed lockdowns and reinvented (sometimes even re-awoken) their social media strategies to be able to still bring culture to people across the globe. Many venues took part in the Tiqets Culture Festival, in Tiqets Awakening Weeks and in other virtual initiatives, taking their tours and exhibits online for everyone to enjoy.
Who can forget the footage of the Shedd Aquarium penguins visiting their own aquarium, or the viral posts of Tim, the Head of Security at the National Cowboy Museum in Oklahoma? He stole everyone’s hearts when he took over the social media reigns during the COVID-19 lockdown. Since Tim took over, the National Cowboy Museum has seen staggering improvements in their engagement scores, such as a 172% increase in timeline tweets and 163 average comments per tweets. For your frame of reference, this used to average 0.27 comments! His new viral status even got featured on multiple major news outlets across the United States, which makes his new-found online status only more iconic.
These are just a few of the many examples where museums have proven that social media can be a very efficient channel to keep your customers engaged and up-to-date. Take advantage of this platform to announce your newly implemented COVID-19 safety measures.
- For example, the Heineken Experience in Amsterdam shows how marketing during a crisis is done, by using their own employees to create a funny and engaging video. In this short video, they declared their reopening on June 4th and linked through to their new and improved website. This new website contains all the information you need to plan your visit, and details the safety measures they have implemented.
- Gatorland in Florida — who already had a very popular Youtube channel containing vlogs — have used a similar approach to the Heineken Experience. They have created a funny and engaging ‘Reopening Safety Video’. In this video, they share all relevant information about their reopening with their 125k followers.
- Now that the lockdown in the Netherlands is easing up a bit, the Rijksmuseum brought the concept of “bringing art to you” to the next level. They have created three real-size replicas of the famous Nightwatch, and are touring them throughout the country. The replicas will make thirty stops at retirement and nursing homes. The Rijksmuseum has started this initiative because — especially due to COVID-19 — most elderly people living in nursing homes won’t be able to access culture. Apart from being able to marvel at the painting up close, all inhabitants of the homes will also receive a workshop around the painting. Here, they will learn much more about Rembrandt van Rijn and his legacy.
2. Reassure your visitors
“Trusted brands will have a head start for sure. But everyone needs to be explicit in their messaging. Attractions must continue to monitor and reflect consumer sentiment as it bends and shifts through the coming months” says Rosalind Johnson, co-founder of strategic business consulting firm ‘A Different View’.
‘Multiple ways lead to Rome’ and the ‘light-hearted whilst serious’ route is one of many. As a venue, you can also opt for a more ‘serious’ message to reassure customers that are keen to visit but still a bit on the fence if it is safe or not.
In the end, the most important thing is to make sure the customer knows what to expect. Communication of any COVID-19 measures should be clear and concise. According to a survey conducted by consulting firms Panelbase and A Different View, the need for information about social distancing and hygiene measures at a venue are considered more valuable by the customer than any implemented price discounts.
“We are up against the delicate balancing act between making our visitors feel both welcome and safe” says Amy Hollander, an exhibit designer and strategic planner with over 20 years of experience in the industry.
- Casa Battló seems to have opted for this direct approach, with a clear informational video about their reopening and new COVID-19 related processes.
- The Mercedes Museum in Stuttgart took a slightly different approach, by making an aerial sneak peek video of their customer experience while announcing their reopening. As the customer flies through the museum, the description of the video reassures visitors by mentioning all implemented safety regulations and measures. This beautiful video will pique any Mercedes lover’s interest and will leave future customers reassured that the museum is taking COVID-19 seriously.
3. Show investment from leadership
As proven already, it is important to have an innovative and creative approach, which sometimes means you will end up in unusual positions. A very effective way to show your customers that you take COVID-19 measures seriously is to involve senior leaders in relaying the message.
For instance; Scott Stulen, CEO of Philbrook museum in Oklahoma, took the lead in reassuring his visitors of Philbrook's COVID-19 security measures. He did this by taking door shifts welcoming back his guests at the entrance of his museum, and personally handing out free face masks.
“If people don’t feel safe they will not fully engage with the economy. There are very few businesses or nonprofits that can operate at 50% for an extended period of time. Wearing a mask will bring the economy back quicker and more completely, saving businesses, jobs and lives” according to Scott Stulen, CEO of Philbrook Museum
4. Become more flexible with your reservations
Reassure visitors considering booking a ticket that they have options if their situation changes later. Offering flexibility such as free cancellations or changes might reduce corona-related worries about their visit.
TeamLab, in Tokyo, did this by offering a refundable ticket if a visitor cannot come anymore because they feel unwell. Also, in their stipulations, they mention what measures they take in regards to testing visitors and staff upon entry. They even include what happens should a person that has visited the TeamLab experience turn out to be positive for Corona.
They went above and beyond, informing their guests in a clear and concise manner. Ultimately, this enabled visitors to feel comfortable, safe and able to immerse themselves in the TeamLab experience without any worries.
5. Focus on domestic tourism
While international tourists will take longer to return, why not gear your museum’s marketing efforts towards your local community and take this unique opportunity to integrate even further in your neighbourhood?
“The Hallen is what makes Amsterdam Mokum (Amsterdam’s nickname). Discover your neighbourhood at 1.5m distance”.
Many organizations have already embraced this new target market.
- Iamsterdam.nl has launched a campaign across the city, trying to raise awareness amongst locals to make use of these quiet times in the city. Digital signs across the city tell the locals that these local cultural activities are ‘what makes Amsterdam Mokum’.
- Similarly, the Oceanário in Lisbon quickly realized the increased importance of the domestic market. And most likely, they also realized that parents could use a fun afternoon out with their kids after being stuck inside for months. Therefore, they dubbed their re-opening month (June) ‘Kids Month’, and gave a free child ticket with every purchased adult ticket. Not only did this give their ticket sales a huge boost, it also stimulated positive word-of-mouth.
- The Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum took a similar approach, by launching an ‘open door’ weekend for its local residents to celebrate their re-opening. Because ‘Now the Thyssen is for you!’. Tickets sold out within a few hours.
Reopen and recover
There are a few clear takeaways here when it comes to marketing strategies for reopening. It is time to get creative, innovative and to pivot your socks off. COVID-19 has hit the tourism sector hard, but with vaccine programmes rolling out and the lockdowns lifting, it's time to switch to recovery mode.