The preference to stay home during the weekend or a week off of work has increased dramatically in the last seven years among likely visitors to cultural organizations.
But that doesn’t mean that those people preferring to binge-watch “The Handmaid’s Tale” cannot still be motivated to attend museums, performing arts organizations, botanic gardens, zoos, and aquariums.
I’ve written a great deal on the top reasons why those who report interest in visiting cultural organizations have not attended in the last two years. The top reason why likely visitors do not attend cultural organizations is because they prefer an alternative activity. Simply, there are several, other things competing for their precious time, and time is more valuable to people than money. While going to a historic site may be something that interests someone, they may be more interested in having a picnic in the park, going to a sporting event, or meeting friends for a long lunch.
Increasingly, people are more interested in staying home.
I shared data from 2011-2015 on the growing “couch contingent,” and I’d like to share an update on the data through 2017. Unsurprisingly, perhaps, the preference to stay home during the week and weekend has continued to increase among both likely visitors to cultural organizations and the overall US market.
This may not necessarily represent a failure on the part of cultural organizations…or rock concerts, sporting events, or the wonders of nature. Instead, this may be the consequence of our current, convenience-optimized, super-connected world. Even so, this growing trend impacts the double bottom line of cultural organizations to achieve their missions, and secure funding to continue to achieve those missions in the first place.
The preference to stay home has grown over 20% in the last seven years.
The following data is an update to information shared in this article. As usual, the data comes from the National Awareness, Attitudes, and Usage Study. The orange line shows the preference among the US composite market, and the blue line shows the information cut for what we at IMPACTS have termed “high-propensity visitors.” These folks have the demographic, psychographic, and behavioral attributes that indicate an increased likelihood to visit a cultural organization. In other words, they represent the people who actually do visit, want to visit, or are likely to visit these organizations.
The preference to “stay home” during a week has increased 19.7% for the US composite market, and 20.3% for likely visitors to cultural organizations.
It is unsurprising that the overall percentage of high-propensity visitors preferring to stay home is less than the US composite (23.7% vs. 24.9%, respectively). After all, an aspect of being a high-propensity visitor in the first place is having interest and/or a track record of leaving the home to pursue an activity. Considering this, these numbers don’t look great. This preference has grown at a greater rate for likely visitors than the overall marketplace.
The preference to “stay home” over the weekend has increased 24.4% for the US composite market, and 24.5% for likely visitors to cultural organizations. This growth represents a big shift in how Americans prefer to spend their time.
There are fewer reasons to leave the house today than in the past.
Consider the reasons why you might have “had to” leave the house five or ten years ago. You may have needed to go to the grocery store to buy food, or to the bank to cash checks. Ten years ago we had to go to a physical video rental store (or kiosk) to get a movie we’d like to then stay home and watch, or go to the bookstore to get a book to stay at home and read! Even planning to stay home meant going out!
Today, we don’t have to leave the house to get groceries, do our banking, watch movies, or buy books. We don’t even need to leave the house to buy “try them on first” items like shoes or eyeglasses!
If there are fewer reasons for people to change out of pajamas in the first place, it makes sense that cultural organizations may have an uphill battle before them. Motivating attendance may be that much harder. Indeed, we see that this is strengthening the “preferring an alternative activity” barrier to attendance.
Research shows that inactive visitors to cultural organizations – those folks who profile as likely to attend, but have not done so within the last two years – like to get out of the house and have unique experiences, even more so than the people who already attend these organizations.
Increasingly, intent to leave the home to pursue any leisure activity serves as a factor in determining likely visitor profiles. This wasn’t as big of a profile marker ten years ago.
Americans spent 7.8 more days at home in 2012 than they did in 2003, so the trend was on the rise before IMPACTS started monitoring it with a focus on potential cultural organization visitors in 2011. And while this isn’t the best trend for cultural organization attendance, reports say that it’s a good thing for the environment.
(I posit that encouraging attendance to a zoo or aquarium so that folks become purposeful and active advocates for the environment would be better and more impactful in the long-term. But hey, even accidental wins are wins.)
Cultural organizations can still work to motivate attendance when people stay home.
What are people doing when they stay home? And how can cultural organizations understand this information so that they may motivate attendance when folks do leave the house?
To get to the bottom of these questions, we asked folks who stated a preference to stay home what they actually did on the last occasion that they chose to spend time at home. This data was collected through a process called lexical analysis wherein we asked open-ended questions and people replied with their own answers. The answers you see here are certainly not the only answers – they are simply the most frequent. In short, we did not give people this list and ask them to “check off” the activities in which they engaged. That traditional survey processes risks limiting answers to the survey creator’s own brainstorming capabilities, and can involve unintentional framing of responses. (Critically, we’re also a big data company, and we have technologies that help us organize these types of market feedback.)
This chart is a 2017 data update from the previously published 2015 data.
Take a look at how many of these items still involve connection! Though more people are spending time at home, they are still interacting with the world. Browsing the Internet, watching a movie or TV show, watching a live sporting event, reading a book or magazine, and hosting friends or having a party are all activities that represent marketing or endorsement opportunities for cultural organizations!
People aren’t at home and offline. They are at home and online! And that means that there’s an opportunity to reach potential visitors via social media, marketing, and the word-of-mouth endorsements of past visitors (which play a particularly important role in motivating attendance).
This isn’t a moment of defeat for cultural organizations. I think it’s more a moment of growth and evolution. It may underscore the importance of better understanding and valuing marketing efforts and the new realities attendant to marketing today.
As a reminder: Cutting the marketing budget generally results in declined attendance. The growth of “the couch contingent” underscores the importance of an adequate audience acquisition budget, and an experienced marketing team.
Fewer people want to leave their homes today, and this is a problem for cultural organizations that rely upon earned revenues from attendance. This said, people who stay home remain connected to others and to the outside world. This represents an opportunity to remain top-of-mind so that we’re there when folks get fidgety from their time on the couch.
When the end credits roll after “The Good Place” marathon, and folks scroll through their social media feeds, we want to have the messages and ease of planning ready such that people can turn to one another and say,
“Hey, let’s get out of here and go to the museum.”