Do members and subscribers – who tend to be among our biggest advocates and repeat guests – have different onsite safety expectations compared to general visitors?
Times are hard and cultural organizations’ wallets are tight – even more than usual. The world in which cultural organizations are situated has also changed. We are in the midst of a global pandemic, an economic recession, political turmoil, and an uprising against racial injustice.
It’s vital that cultural entities know as much possible about how to effectively and engage guests. Generally, there aren’t funds to spare. Being efficient matters. And we know that members to exhibit-based entities and subscribers to performance-based entities tend to be particularly cost-effective advocates to engage.
We’ve been examining what potential guests say will make them feel most comfortable visiting, but what about members and subscribers? Do these critical audiences have different safety expectations?
Why are members and subscribers so important?
How much time do you have?
Okay, okay. I’ll make it fast: Members and subscribers have higher guest satisfaction and are more likely to endorse cultural organizations than non-members. They care more about an organization’s mission and tend to be more likely to advocate for an organization’s causes. They have greater monetary value to organizations than general visitors. Not only that, they tend to be wealthier, and thus also spend more money onsite.
We could go on, but we won’t. At this time in which many entities are in survival mode, attracting audiences who visit most often and who are least costly to engage can have a big impact on many organizations’ abilities to get through the next year (or two).
What will make members feel safe compared to general admission visitors?
We’ve been tracking this data since the pandemic started. This particular data, cut on September 1st, 2020, includes 857 members and/or subscribers to cultural organizations and 3,498 non-members/non-subscribers in the United States.
We asked people, “What would make you feel safe and comfortable visiting a(n) [insert organization type] again?” First, we collected people’s answers to this question using a process called lexical analysis that allows us to broadly categorize responses from people using their own words. The technologies that enable this process help to minimize the risks of unintentional biases that occur when facilitators translate or summarize a respondent’s statements. Then, these categorized responses are used to populate the response range of a multiple-choice question. In other words, we did not internally brainstorm these options and present them in a survey based on our best guess of what people would say. The options came directly from survey respondents.
Overall, the findings are generally similar. However, there are a few potentially significant differences to which we’d like to draw your attention:
1) Members/subscribers care even more about mask requirements and a vaccine
Let’s not miss a critical point: A majority of visitors care about the availability of a vaccine, and especially mandatory mask requirements. Entities that do not require masks generally stand to lose much more visitation than those that do.
Mandatory face coverings rose to the top of the list as the most important factor for making visitors feel safe – beating out the availability of a vaccine – in July. This rise in mandatory masks as being important for safety aligns with news articles and reports from experts about the importance of masks both for our own safety as well as the safety of others around us. It is estimated that wearing masks could save tens of thousands of lives.
People may also be accepting that returning to normal activities might mean learning how to safely live alongside the virus for a time. The creation, approval, and distribution of a vaccine resulting in herd immunity may be many more months, a year, or even further away. This reality may be why masks now top the chart compared to the availability of a vaccine.
Members and subscribers also tend to be older than general admission visitors to cultural organizations. This may be a reason why the desire for a vaccine is stronger among these critical constituents.
2) And yet some members/subscribers are less likely to require significant safety changes
“Oh on. If these core audiences feel more strongly that a vaccine will help make them feel safe visiting, then how can we get them through our doors?”
Thankfully, there may be other combinations of things that organizations can do to help make them feel comfortable based on this research. Remember, folks could say or choose more than one response.
Plus, members are more likely to believe that no significant changes are required in order to feel safe visiting! This implies that there may be split camps among members. Not all of them require extra safety precautions. Some of the people who know you best think you’re just fine as-is. This may tie back to the elevated levels of satisfaction that we tend to observe for members and subscribers vs. general admission visitors. There’s often a greater level of trust amongst these individuals who have aligned themselves as members and advocates for your experience and message.
Don’t get carried away, though. Members/subscribers and visitors expect entities to make changes. Period. Market potential for both exhibit and performance-based institutions through 2023 at least is already much lower than optimal. To impose no significant changes in order to attract specifically the 37.8% of members/subscribers who feel comfortable without any changes ignores the majority of members and subscribers who do require significant safety adjustments to operations. Also, remember that these findings do not suggest that people will necessarily be upset if entities carry out additional measures to keep them safe. Diligent and informed safety precautions tend to increase visitation likelihood, not decrease it.
Here’s the point: Members tend to know and like us more than average visitors, on the whole. A higher percentage of them say that no significant changes are required. This is interesting and tells us a bit more about these important audience members. However, the data still suggests that making changes to prioritize safety remains important, as there are also members who are more likely to require changes than general visitors, too.
3) Exclusive hours tend to be more slightly important for members/subscribers than general admission visitors
As mentioned, members tend to be slightly older than general visitors. Thus, desiring exclusive hours for vulnerable populations may make sense. Not only that, but members may also be more used to exclusive events anyway, as these are a popular membership benefit. In sum, an audience subset that may be accustomed to exclusive events may be slightly more likely to desire exclusive events in light of the coronavirus. The increase is significant and worthy of note.
Obviously, members aren’t the only important audiences for cultural organizations to engage! But they are among the most loyal and cost-efficient, with the biggest potential payoff. These are important qualities in a core audience during this difficult time.
Members may play a particularly important role in helping cultural entities get through the next few years. What will make members and subscribers feel the safest visiting varies slightly when compared to other guests. Understanding what these measures are and how they may impact these core constituents may come in handy as entities consider operations in a pandemic-impacted time.
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