The weighted values that go into a satisfying visitor experience are a bit different for millennials compared to non-millennials.
It’s no secret: Visitor satisfaction is critical for the success of visitor-serving organizations such as museums, botanic gardens, science centers, historic sites, and performing arts entities. Satisfaction not only drives repeat visitation, it also plays a major role in endorsement which, in turn, entices new visitors to attend.
Some organizations measure overall satisfaction with a single metric. (“How satisfied were you with your visit?”) But at IMPACTS – a big data and predictive technology company – we use a composite metric to get to the heart of visitor satisfaction.
A composite metric is not just a single measure, but a combination of multiple, related metrics. A composite’s constituent contributors are other evaluation criteria weighted by their mathematically-determined influence on the overall value. We use composite metrics frequently to get to the heart of major trends – from the relationship between an organization’s financial health and how well it is perceived in executing its mission, to understanding the power of various social media channels. These metrics allow us to create mathematically-supported, single metrics that more accurately “summarize” findings for further exploration.
Indeed, the “whole” is often more than the sum of its parts – but understanding its parts (and the accurate sums that contribute to that “whole”) allows us to understand how to influence that “whole” for the better.
We have designed advanced data collection and analysis tools to continuously monitor the weighted values of components of the visitor experience. Arguably the most important composite metric that we regularly measure for individual organizations is “overall satisfaction.” It includes weighted values related to entertainment value, education value, parking, and employee courtesy (among others).
The metrics that go into Overall Satisfaction are not weighted equally because they do not equally contribute to a guest’s satisfaction. Think about your last visit to a cultural organization as a guest. Generally, how courteous a staff member was in answering a key question likely contributed more to your overall experience than the breadth of offerings at the gift shop. And how much bang you felt that you got for your buck relative to admission price likely contributed more to your overall satisfaction than did your parking experience.
Below, you can see how much each component contributes to overall satisfaction for millennials compared to non-millennials.I wanted to see if there was a significant difference and, indeed, there are some notable variances. This chart shows what influences visitor satisfaction, and by how much:
Here are some takeaways from the metric, as well as the differences between millennial and non-millennial visitors:
Entertainment value rules above all
Entertainment value is 15% more important for millennials than it is for non-millennials, but note that it is extremely important for both audiences. In fact, entertainment value is the most important part of visitor satisfaction!
Before you bury your head in your hands in despair at this information, let’s challenge some popular industry-embedded biases:
The opposite of “entertainment” isn’t “education.” It’s boredom. Why is the importance of being not-boring so surprising to many folks who work in cultural organizations? Time is precious. Doesn’t it make sense that people would rather not overcome multiple barriers to visitation and invest their precious time in an experience just to be bored?
A synonym for “entertaining” is not “vapid.” In fact, it can be preciously the opposite. There is certainly no asterisk here stating that something that is entertaining must be empty or meaningless. Sure, Angry Birds receives accolades for being entertaining, but so does the musical “Hamilton.”
I will be diving into additional data about entertainment value next week – so now is a good time to subscribe to this website for weekly emails so that you don’t miss it. Big thanks to those who already follow along!
Millennials weigh education value more – not less – than non-millennials
This said, education value isn’t a top value for either group. This does not at all mean that education value is unimportant for driving satisfaction and visitation – it is very important! Data shows that entertainment value motivates and satisfies a visitor, but education value justifies a visit.
I’ve heard consultants advise organizations to reach more millennials by “being more entertaining.” That’s not right. Data suggests that we’ll engage more millennials – and those of other generations, too – by “making education more entertaining.” The goal is relevance and connection, while serving our missions.
Education value is a cultural organization superpower – especially when it comes to providing an intellectual advantage for children. However, this superpower doesn’t overcome all obstacles. It does, however, mean that we have something to strategically leverage. We can leverage education value by making our exhibits, programs, and performances consistently relevant and entertaining.
“Favorability” is the term that we use for what individual organizations often consider a single satisfaction metric. It is a person’s overall measurement of their experience. We don’t call this “satisfaction” because reputation – or, what people think of an organization and its brand and what they expect from the experience – is inextricably wrapped up in this measurement.
Remember, we are measuring humans and not robots. As humans, we’re not always aware of what influences our thoughts and behaviors. “Favorability” helps clarify aspects of the more complex Overall Satisfaction metric – and it helps us further understand the role that reputation plays in visitor experiences as well.
Favorability accounts for about 20% of visitor satisfaction, and is the second biggest contributor after entertainment value. Make no mistake: Your organization’s reputation (which is primarily formed offsite), contributes to experiences onsite.
Value is not the same as cost
Admission value is a major contributor to visitor satisfaction for both millennials and non-millennials alike. Admission value is a measure of perceived value, not of cost. It is akin to value-for-cost perceptions, and this does not always correlate with admission price. Time is more valuable than money. Essentially, this metric measures how big of a bang for their buck someone believes that they got from their visit. A low admission value means that people don’t believe that the experience “lives up” to its price relative to the cost of time. Even a free organization can have low admission value perceptions, because it is not worth the “cost” of one’s time.
We monitor several organizations with admission prices over $50 with better admission value than organizations with $5 admission fees. Interestingly, people have greater intent to visit organizations with higher admission prices than those with lower admission prices. The key is to have your price align with what the market perceives as your worth. An inexpensive bad experience is still a bad experience, and is unlikely to be perceived as “worth” the modest cost.
Millennials value food and retail more than non-millennials
This isn’t surprising because millennials spend more on food and retail at cultural organizations than non-millennials. Per capita spending at cultural organizations on the whole is 28% greater for millennials than Baby Boomers.
Parking and crowd-control are more important to non-millennials
These items are still important to millennials – but they aren’t as important, comparatively.
Parking experience is 2.4 times more important to non-millennials than it is to millennials. This information does not necessarily mean that millennials aren’t parking cars. It means that parking is currently less of a contributor to overall satisfaction for millennials than non-millennials, and this could be for a variety of reasons. Millennials may be using different forms of transportation – such as ride-sharing services like Lyft and Uber – so ease of parking may be less applicable to them. There’s also a great deal of discussion about millennials being less likely to own cars. Another potential reason for parking mattering less to millennials may be that millennial visitors are an active bunch – and may go to a museum or performing arts event, and then out for lunch, and then to the park – potentially making them less likely to attribute a negative parking experience directly to their experience with the cultural organization.
On a different note: Is the increased importance of crowd control among non-millennials a function of age? (I.e. Millennials are younger and may be less sensitive to crowding and noise?) Maybe. But, maybe not. Regardless, crowd control makes up a bigger weighted value contributing to visitor satisfaction for non-millennials than it does for those between ages eighteen and thirty-eight.
Satisfying millennials may satisfy everyone
High overall satisfaction levels tend to correlate with increased financial stability, intent to re-visit, and intent to endorse a cultural organization. This metric is important – and several elements contribute to it.
Will the weighted values influencing visitor satisfaction change over time as millennials age? They might. (And we’ll be watching if/when they do.) That said, cultural organizations need to get better at reaching millennials right now, and the “let’s just wait for people to change so that our organizations don’t have to” strategy isn’t working.
We often find in our work at IMPACTS that millennial trends can serve as canaries in the coal mine for trends impacting non-millennials. Millennials do not “own” social media, transparency, personalization, or those other macro-trends impacting the evolution of an organization’s communications, programs, and services. Millennials do not represent “the future.” They represent the “right now” – and may also provide broader indicators for the future as well.
Understanding the elements that comprise overall satisfaction may help cultural entities create successful programs and build successful – and satisfying – organizations for millennials and non-millennials alike.