Here are the top reasons why those with interest do not attend – cut for millennials and non-millennials.
Over the last several weeks, I’ve been sharing market research cut by millennial and non-millennial members, visitors, and potential visitors to cultural organizations. We’ve covered the three, strategic keys to reaching and retaining millennials, the top benefits of membership for all audiences, and the profiles of both current and potential visitors to cultural organizations. As usual, the cultural organizations in these data sets include nonprofit visitor-serving organizations such as museums, zoos, aquariums, performing arts organizations, botanic gardens, and historic sites.
I have been cutting the data this way in recent weeks because millennials are often canaries in the coal mine for larger engagement trends. As I frequently say, “’Millennial talk’ is increasingly ‘everyone talk.'”
I’ve also learned that if I do not cut certain findings by these generational segments, certain industry professionals unfortunately see the all-audience market research on the growing need for transparency, personalization, and unique experiences, and retort, “That’s only for millennials!” These kinds of cuts help provide context and, hopefully, preemptively address this sentiment.
“Given your interest in visiting a cultural organization, why haven’t you visited in the last two years?”
Over 30% of people who report interest in visiting a cultural organization have not attended one in the last two years. Take a look at last week’s article to learn more about who these people are from a demographic, psychographic, and behavioral perspective.
The follow-up question may be obvious: “Dude! Why the heck haven’t you gone yet?!”*
(*This is not how the question is phrased…and am I the only person who still uses the word “dude?”)
The orange bar shows millennial responses and the blue bar shows non-millennial, adult responses (Gen X, Baby Boomers, and Traditionalists). As usual, the data comes from the National Awareness, Attitudes, and Usage Study, and this chart is shown in index values. An index value is a way of assigning proportionality around a mean value of 100. Index values help show how items compare to one another. For instance, simply preferring an alternative activity is a 4.06x bigger barrier to attendance than is admission cost for millennials, and it’s a 4.19x bigger barrier than is admission cost for older generations. Items that are above 100 are particularly notable because they are above the mean. Arguably, values above 100 are most proportionally worthy of our focus.
Also of note: This chart (like nearly all on this site) is populated through a process called lexical analysis. We ask open-ended queries with follow-up questions, and then advanced technologies sort and weight responses based upon what audiences actually say (as opposed to choosing from a list provided to them that is limited by our own considerations of what may be barriers).
I have tackled the top barriers to visitation one-by-one in a previous article, but today I’d like to focus on some of the differences (or, lack of differentiation) between millennials and non-millennial adults in regard to the top two attendance barriers.
Tackling the top barriers to visitation
In looking at the chart above, it’s much more helpful to consider the values as opposed to the comparisons. (Please don’t let visual comparisons fuel cognitive biases! That is faulty “use” of data.) For example, preferring an alternative leisure activity is a bigger barrier to visitation for millennials than non-millennials, but it is a primary barrier to visitation for both audiences! (Check out the respective index values!) To see this information and say, “See? It’s the millennials and not the older generations who just want to stay home and watch Netflix!” is not a data-informed assessment.
Preferring an alternative leisure activity
Preferring an alternative leisure activity is a primary barrier to visitation for both millennial and non-millennial audiences – considered collectively, it is the foremost, overall barrier to visitation to cultural organizations in the United States.
This simply means that folks have interest in visiting a cultural organization, but they’d rather do something else with their precious free time. Here’s an example: I’m personally interested in visiting Iceland. However, if I had a week off of work for a personal getaway, I’d go to Egypt. (I prefer an “alternative” vacation destination. I’m simply more interested in visiting Egypt than I am in visiting Iceland, and my free time is limited.)
Similarly, folks may have interest in attending the symphony or a historic home, but they may prefer to go to the beach, have a picnic in the park, attend a baseball game, or even stay at home and binge-watch a show on Netflix.
Speaking of Netflix: A growing competitor for cultural organizations is the couch.
The solution to overcoming this barrier is striving to not only be worthy of someone’s precious time, but to be actively engaging market members sufficiently to motivate attendance. It’s a matter of relevance and knowing our audiences.
An organization may declare importance, but the market determines relevance. It’s not enough to simply exist and declare that cultural organizations are important. We must strive to show that importance and why we matter through our unique experiences.
Access challenges are a (still critical, but) distant second to relevance opportunities for millennials. For non-millennials, however, access challenges take the lead.
“Access challenges” may be most easily understood as representing “the hassle” of attending a cultural organization. It includes planning, travel distance, not being able to purchase tickets online or on a mobile device, an organization being unresponsive by phone or on social media, and physical access challenges. It’s worth noting that physical access challenges here aren’t always within the organization’s control. It’s not always, “There isn’t a ramp.” It’s also, “I don’t want to stand for that long,” being connected to a perception of visiting an art museum, for instance.
When it comes to barriers to visitation, perception is reality. It doesn’t necessarily matter to people who don’t come that you’ve added benches (although it’s likely to help the people that do and that matters a lot), if they still think that the visit will be a strain. Similarly, it doesn’t matter that Columbia, Maryland is only 25 minutes from Baltimore. If someone perceives “going into the city” to be a hassle, then it’s a barrier. It doesn’t matter that the construction may be finally completed on I-90. If they think it’s not, some people wrap it into “the hassle.”
In many ways, this is also a relevance opportunity: The goal is to be worthy of the (real or perceived) hassle.
It’s also a communication opportunity and a call to pay special attention to those things that we so often overlook: The ease of planning provided on the website, social media responsiveness, representatives taking phone calls, ramps and adequate seating, mobile and web ticketing, and ongoing awareness of these barriers.
While there are differences, the top barriers for millennials and non-millennials are rather similar.
For instance, admission cost generally isn’t a primary barrier for either group. …So that non-millennial board member who keeps (mistakenly) repeating, “Young people just cannot afford to come” is actually reinforcing the “I think” industry practices that hold back cultural organizations.
We don’t have to “I think” anymore. Now we know.
The first step in removing barriers to visitation is identifying them so that we may educate and inspire as many people as possible.