Our temporary exhibitions have around a 20% conversion rate on average. While we feel this is good (temporary exhibitions are either paid entry or ‘pay what you think’, bringing in much-needed income), flip that around and it means that around 80% of people are visiting what we call our ‘permanent galleries’ – spaces that change much less often than exhibitions. With a million visitors every year across all of our sites (but concentrated at M Shed and Bristol Museum & Art Gallery), that’s a lot of people.
A lot of our time as a digital team is taken up with temporary exhibitions at M Shed and Bristol Museum. Especially so for Zahid, our Content Designer, who looks after all of our AV and whose time is taken up with installs, derigs and AV support.
But what about all of the digital interpretation in our permanent galleries? Focusing on the two main museums mentioned above, we’ve got a wide range of interp such as info screens, QR codes triggering content, audio guides and kiosks. A lot of this is legacy stuff which we don’t actively update, either in terms of content or software/hardware. Other bits are newer – things we’ve been testing out or one-off installs.
So, how do we know what’s working? How do we know what we should be replacing digital interp with when it’s come to the end of its life – *IF* we should replace it at all? How do we know where we should focus our limited time (and money) for optimal visitor experience?
We’ve just started some discovery phases to collate all of our evidence and to gather more. We want a bigger picture of what’s successful and what isn’t. We need to be clear on how we can be as accessible as possible. We want to know what tech is worth investing in (in terms of money and time) and what isn’t. This is an important phase of work for us which will inform how we do digital interpretation in the future – backed up by user research.
We’ve set out a number of six week stints from August 2018 to January 2019 to gather data, starting with an audit of what we have, analytics and what evidence or data we collect.
We’ll then move onto looking at specific galleries– the Egypt Gallery at Bristol Museum and most of the galleries at M Shed which have a lot of kiosks with legacy content. (The M Shed kiosks probably need a separate post in themselves. They were installed for when the museum opened in 2011, and since then technology and user behaviours have changed drastically. There’s a lot we could reflect on around design intentions vs reality vs content…)
We’ll also be gathering evidence on any audio content across all of our sites, looking at using ourexhibitions online as interp within galleries and working on the Smartify app as part of the 5G testing at M Shed.
We’re using this trello board to manage the project, if you want to follow what we’re doing.
Auditing our digital interpretation
First off, we simply needed to know what we have in the galleries. Our apprentice Rowan kindly went around and scoured the galleries, listing every single thing she could find – from QR codes to interactive games.
We then categorised everything, coming up with the below categories. This has really helped to give an overview of what we’re working with.
Level of interaction
Auto play / looping video, static digital label, info screens
User has no control
QR code / URL to extra content, audio guide
User triggers content, mostly on own or separate device
Games and puzzles, timeline
User has complete control. Device in gallery
We then went through and listed what analytics we currently gather for each item or what action we need to take to set them up. Some things, such as info screens are ‘passive’ so we wouldn’t gather usage data for. Other things such as games built with Flash andDiscoveryPENs (accessible devices for audio tours), don’t have in-built analytics so we’ll need to ask our front of house teams to gather evidence and feedback from users. We’ll also be doing a load of observations in the galleries.
Now that people have devices in their pockets more powerful than a lot of the legacy digital interpretation in our galleries, should we be moving towards a focus on creating content for use on ‘BYO devices’ instead of installing tech on-site which will inevitably be out of date in a few short years? Is this a more accessible way of doing digital interpretation?
Let us know what you think or if you have any evidence you’re happy to share with us. I’d be really interested to hear back from museums (or any visitor attractions really) of varying sizes. We’ll keep you updated with what we find out.
Any other museum digital people getting an influx of requests for QR codes to put in galleries recently? No? IS IT JUST US?!
After thinking that QR codes had died a death a few years ago, over the last few months we’ve had people from lots of different teams ask for QR codes to trigger content in galleries, for a variety of uses such as:
Sending people to additional content to what’s in an exhibition, to be used while in the gallery e.g. an audio guide
Showing the same content that’s in the exhibition but ‘just in case’ people want to look at it on their phones
Sending people to content that is referenced in exhibitions/galleries that needs a screen but doesn’t have an interactive e.g. a map on Know Your Place
After an attempt to fend them off we realised that we didn’t really have any evidence that people don’t use them. At least nothing recent or since the introduction of automatic QR code scanning with iOS 11 last year (thanks for that, Apple). So, we thought we’d test it out, making sure we’re tracking everything and also always providing a short URL for people to type into browsers as an alternative.
In most cases, it’s as expected and people just aren’t using them. They’re also not using the URL alternatives either, though, which maybe suggests that people don’t really want to have to go on their phones to look at content and are happy with reading the interpretation in the gallery. Controversial, I know. (Or maybe we need to provide more appealing content.)
However, then we come to our recent Grayson Perry exhibition at Bristol Museum & Art Gallery, which had audio content which was ‘extra’ to what was in the exhibition. We provided headphones but visitors used their own devices. A key difference with this one though was that our front of house team facilitated use of the QR codes, encouraging visitors to use them and showing them what to do. As such, the six audio files (there was one with each tapestry on display) had 5,520 listens altogether over the course of the exhibition (March – June), over 900 each on average.
Whilst it’s great that they were used – it threw us a bit – the flip side of this is that it was only in an instance where it’s being facilitated. I’m not partuclarly keen on using something that we’re having to teach visitors how to use and where we’re trying to change users’ behaviours.
There’s also some more here around the crossover between online and gallery content (should we be using one thing for both, are they different user cases that need to be separate) which we’re talking about and testing more and more at the moment, but that’s one for another post.
We’d be really interested to hear your thoughts on triggered content. Do people even know what QR codes are? Are ‘just because we can and they’re no/low cost’ reasons enough to use them? How do you do triggered content? Is this unique to medium-sized museums or are the big and smaller guys grappling with this too? Or is it really just us?!
There are various versions of a common saying that ‘if you don’t measure it you can’t manage it’. See Zak Mensah’s (Head of Transformation at Bristol Culture) tweet below. As we’ll explain below we’re doing a good job of collecting a significant amount of Key Performance Indicator data; however, there remain areas of our service that don’t have KPIs and are not being ‘inspected’ (which usually means they’re not being celebrated). This blog is about our recent sprint to improve how we do KPI data collection and reporting.
The most public face of Bristol Culture is the five museums we run (including Bristol Museum & Art Gallery and M Shed), but the service is much more than its museums. Our teams include, among others; the arts and events team (who are responsible the annual Harbour Festival as well as the Cultural Investment Programme which funds over 100 local arts and cultural organisations in Bristol); Bristol Archives; the Modern Records Office; Bristol Film Office and the Bristol Regional Environmental Recording Centre who are responsible for wildlife and geological data for the region.
Like most organisations we have KPIs and other performance data that we need to collect every year in order to meet funding requirements e.g. the ACE NPO Annual Return. We also collect lots of performance data which goes beyond this, but we don’t necessarily have a joined up picture of how each team is performing and how we are performing as a whole service.
The first thing to say is that they’re not a cynical tool to catch out teams for poor performance. The operative word in KPI is ‘indicator’; the data should be a litmus test of overall performance. The second thing is that KPIs should not be viewed in a vacuum. They make sense only in a given context; typically comparing KPIs month by month, quarter by quarter, etc. to track growth or to look for patterns over time such as busy periods.
A great resource we’ve been using for a few years is the Service Manual produced by the Government Digital Service (GDS) https://www.gov.uk/service-manual. They provide really focused advice on performance data. Under the heading ‘what to measure’, the service manual specifies four mandatory metrics to understand how a service is performing:
cost per transaction– how much it costs … each time someone completes the task your service provides
user satisfaction– what percentage of users are satisfied with their experience of using your service
completion rate– what percentage of transactions users successfully complete
digital take-up– what percentage of users choose … digital services to complete their task
Added to this, the service manual advises that:
You must collect data for the 4 mandatory key performance indicators (KPIs), but you’ll also need your own KPIs to fully understand whether your service is working for users and communicate its performance to your organisation.
Up until this week we were collecting the data for the mandatory KPIs but they have been somewhat buried in very large excel spreadsheets or in different locations. For example our satisfaction data lives on a surveymonkey dashboard. Of course, spreadsheets have their place, but to get more of our colleagues in the service taking an interest in our KPI data we need to present it in a way they can understand more intuitively. Again, not wanting to reinvent the wheel, we turned to the GDS to see what they were doing. The service dashboard they publish online has two headline KPI figures followed below with a list of the departments which you can click into to see KPIs at a department level.
Achieving a new KPI dashboard
As a general rule, we prefer to use open source and openly available tools to do our work, and this means not being locked into any single product. This also allows us to be more modular in our approach to data, giving us the ability to switch tools or upgrade various elements without affecting the whole system. When it comes to analysing data across platforms, the challenge is how to get the data from the point of data capture to the analysis and presentation tech – and when to automate vs doing manual data manipulations. Having spent the last year shifting away from using Excel as a data store and moving our main KPIs to an online database, we now have a system which can integrate with Google Sheets in various ways to extract and aggregate the raw data into meaningful metrics. Here’s a quick summary of the various integrations involved:
Data capture from staff using online forms: Staff across the service are required to log performance data, at their desks, and on the move via tablets over wifi. Our online performance data system provides customised data entry forms for specific figures such as exhibition visits. These forms also capture metadata around the figures such as who logged the figure and any comments about it – this is useful when we come to test and inspect any anomalies. We’ve also overcome the risk of saving raw data in spreadsheets, and the bottleneck often caused when two people need to log data at the same time on the same spreadsheet.
Data capture directly from visitors: A while back we moved to online, self-completed visitor surveys using SurveyMonkey and these prompt visitors to rate their satisfaction. We wanted the daily % of satisfied feedback entries to make its way to our dashboard, and to be aggregated (both combined with data across sites and then condensed into a single representative figure). This proved subtly challenging and had the whole team scratching our heads at various points thinking about whether an average of averages actually meant something, and furthermore how this could be filtered by a date range, if at all.
Google Analytics: Quietly ticking away in the background of all our websites.
Google sheets as a place to join and validate data: It is a piece of cake to suck up data from Google Sheets into Data Studio, provided it’s in the right format. We needed to use a few tricks to bring data into Google Sheets, however, including Zapier, Google Apps Script, and sheets Add-ons.
Zapier: gives us the power to integrate visitor satisfaction from SurveyMonkey into Google Sheets.
Google apps script: We use this to query the API on our data platform and then perform some extra calculations such as working out conversion rates of exhibition visits vs museum visits. We also really like the record macro feature which we can use to automate any calculations after bringing in the data. Technically it is possible to push or pull data into Google Sheets – we opted for a pull because this gives us control via Google Sheets rather than waiting for a scheduled push from the data server.
Google Sheets formulae: We can join museum visits and exhibition visits in one sheet by using the SUMIFS function, and then use this to work out a daily conversion rate. This can then be aggregated in Data Studio to get an overall conversion rate, filtered by date.
Sheets Add-Ons: We found a nifty add-on for integrating sheets with Google Analytics. Whilst it’s fairly simple to connect Analytics to Data Studio, we wanted to combine the stats across our various websites, and so we needed a preliminary data ‘munging’ stage first.
Joining the dots…
1.) Zapier pushes the satisfaction score from SurveyMonkey to Sheets.
2.) A Google Sheets Add On pulls in Google Analytics data into Sheets, combining figures across many websites in one place.
3.) Online data forms save data directly to a web database (MongoDB).
4.) The performance platform displays raw and aggregated data to staff using ChartJS.
5.) Google Apps Script pulls in performance data to Google Sheets.
6.) Gooogle Data Studio brings in data from Google Sheets, and provides both aggregation and calculated fields.
7.) The dashboard can be embedded back into other websites including our performance platform via an iframe.
8.) Good old Excel and some VBA programming can harness data from the performance platform.
We’ve been testing out Google Data Studio over the last few months to get a feel for how it might work for us. It’s definitely the cleanest way to visualise our KPIs, even if what’s going on behind the scenes isn’t quite as simple as it looks on the outside.
There are a number of integrations for Data Studio, including lots of third party ones, but so far we’ve found Google’s own Sheets and Analytics integrations cover us for everything we need. Within Data Studio you’re somewhat limited to what you can do in terms of manipulating or ‘munging’ the data (there’s been a lot of munging talk this week), and we’re finding the balance between how much we want Sheets to do and how much we want Data Studio to do.
At the beginning of the sprint we set about looking at Bristol Culture’s structure and listing five KPIs each for 1.) the service as a whole; 2.) the 3 ‘departments’ (Collections, Engagement and Transformation) and 3.) each team underneath them. We then listed what the data for each of the KPIs for each team would be. Our five KPIs are:
Cost per transaction
Each team won’t necessarily have all five KPIs but actually the data we already collect covers most of these for all teams.
Using this structure we can then create a Data Studio report for each team, department and the service as a whole. So far we’ve cracked the service-wide dashboard and have made a start on department and team-level dashboards, which *should* mean we can roll out in a more seamless way. Although those could be famous last words, couldn’t they?
Any questions, let us know.
Darren Roberts (User Researcher), Mark Pajak (Head of Digital) & Fay Curtis (User Researcher)
Losing survey data is a pain – unfortunately the events team lost six events worth of survey data they collected using off-line surveys. The team used iPads (cost per iPad is c.£320) to conduct surveys on software which was sourced outside our team (I’m not sure what system it was). They used the software on the basis that it claimed to offer off-line surveys i.e. without an internet connection /wi-fi. The idea was that they data could then be uploaded once the iPad was connected to the internet. When they came to do so, however, the data was simply not there and they had lost it all.
The events team came to the digital team this year to ask if we could help them with the public surveys for the 2017 Harbour Festival. The festival is held across much of Bristol City Centre and therefore in order to conduct surveys digitally using iPads we would need to do so without having to rely on having a wifi connection.Of course, one option would be to conduct the surveys with good old pen and paper, but as a digital-first service we were happy to accept the challenge.
One of the main reasons we want to avoid paper surveys is because it is time consuming and difficult to digitise the survey results. It requires someone to sit at a computer and manually input results. Staff resources are often limited and this is a job we’d rather not have to give ourselves. Practically, paper can also be unruly, there are issues with handwriting legibility and they are easy to lose when relying on volunteers to collect them so a digital a solution is very desirable.
The challenge came down to finding the right software that I could install on the iPad and test, and that didn’t cost too much. Our usual platform for conducting surveys on iPads where we do have an internet connection is SurveyMonkey (we pay for the gold subscription £230 per year). Unfortunately, off-line surveys are not a feature available on SurveyMonkey.
These are a few Apps I tried to use but weren’t right for one reason or another:
Qualtrics – poor trialling options and expensive for full features £65 for one month or £435 for one year
iSurveys (harvestyourdata.com) – free account is limited and their main website is difficult to use and I couldn’t work out how much the full feature product was
SurveyPocket by QuestionPro – trial difficult to use and full feature pricing only available by contacting the company
The one I almost went for: QuickTap Survey & Form Builder – good pricing options from $16 per month and the trial is OK
So, after trawling the internet and the App Store for options the one we went for is an App called Feed2go (www.feed2go.com)
Quick Note: Before I speak about the virtues of Feed2go, I have to make it clear that it is currently only available on the Apple App Store; it is not available on Android devices in the Play Store (quicktap surveys app is available on Android).
I downloaded the feed2go App onto my iPad and and it was ready to go with pretty much all features available – certainly enough to get a feel of whether it was right. Most crucially on the basic/trial version you can conduct off-line surveys and test if the data is secure and can be successfully uploaded – we I did and it worked. A major advantage of the feed2go app is that to access all the app’s features (Pro) is a very reasonable subscription of £2.49 for 1 month; £4.99 for 3 months; or £12.49 for 1 year. At these costs there is virtually no risk in trying the Pro subscription.
If anyone is interested in trying the App, I would suggest going ahead and downloading and having an explore. There are just a couple of things I will highlight:
The user interface is nice and clean and easy to use
The options for question structures is OK and covers most bases but it is more limited than something like SurveyMonkey
Some of the navigation in the App can be a bit clunky especially when designing survey forms, but once you get used to it then it’s fine
Probably the most significant feature of feed2go to mention is trying to use the same survey on one device. This is not a particular strong suit of feed2go but it does work. Basically you need to download feed2go on each device you have and then share the survey between them using a cloud storage server – the best one to use in my experience is DropBox. In the App there is an export/import function to share survey forms between devices. This also means that you will need to collate all results from different devices at the end.
As noted above, the feed2go app needs to be downloaded on each iPad. In our case all our service iPads are registered to one email address. This means we can use the one subscription across all of our devices. This is not the case if iPads are registered to different email addresses – a subscription will need to be paid for each.
Overall, yes the experience of using the App could be improved a little. But, the main feature we wanted it for – to save the results and successfully upload them worked 100%. I think what distinguishes feed2go from the previously (unsuccessfully) used software was that it operated through a web browser which relied on a cache of temp internet files files. Feed2go is an app which stores the data securely in a folder in the same way the camera stores photos on the iPad. Finally, the FAQ on the feed2go and the email support for the App is great; the developer is really responsive.
We have now used the App to conduct surveys in the estate around Our Blaise Castle House Museum site and we are planning to replace paper exit surveys at our houses (where we don’t have wifi) with the offline App.
If you have any comments or questions about doing offlien surveys or surveys in the cultural sector please get in touch I’m happy to have a chat. email@example.com
Hello! My name is Rowan Whitehouse and I am currently working as a cultural support apprentice for Bristol Museums.
I have been doing six week rotations around various departments, and as part of my third, with the digital team, I’ve been asked to review some of the technology around the museum.
So, to find some!
I noticed that the distribution of technology around the museum is heavier in areas with a higher number of children. Whilst there is a lot around the ground floor, particularly the Egypt and Natural History galleries, levels definitely drop off the more steps you climb, towards the Fine and Applied Arts galleries. I think this is due, in part, to many children’s interests leaning on the dinosaur/mummy side, rather than Bristol’s history of stone pub ware. Perhaps there are also certain established ideas about what an art gallery should be, whereas many of the historic collections lend themselves well to interactive displays.
Upstairs, the technology has a distinctly more mature focus.
I chose to look at a tablet/kiosk in the European Old Masters gallery for an example. The kiosk itself fits well into its surroundings, the slim, white design is unobtrusive – something desirable in such a traditional gallery space. The kiosk serves as an extension of the wall plaques, it has an index of the paintings in the room with information on them. I think this is a great idea as the size of wall plaques often constrain the amount of information available.
A big drawback I felt however, was that the kiosk was static and fixed in one place. I observed that as people moved around the gallery they would continually look from the painting to it’s accompanying plaque, taking in both at the same time. Though the kiosk has more information, it would need to be able to move with the user to have the advantage over the plaques. On the position of the kiosk itself, I think it would receive more use if it was positioned in the middle of the room, rather than in the corner, where it is overlooked. Signage on the wall advertised a webpage, which could be accessed on a handheld device and provided the same information as the kiosk. I felt this was a better use of the index, and could be made even easier to access via a QR code. I wonder though, if people would want to use their phones like this in a gallery, and whether ideas about the way we experience art are the ultimate obstacle. I’ll be researching how other institutions use (or don’t use) technology in their galleries.
I wanted to see how technology is being used differently with the historic collections, so I headed back downstairs to the Egypt gallery. I observed a school group using the computers at the back of the gallery, both the children and their teacher struggled with the unusual keyboard layout and rollerball mouse, unable to figure out how to search. Eventually, they came upon it by chance, and enjoyed navigating the images and learning more about the objects in the gallery. The computers also have a timeline view, showing the history of the Egyptians, and an “Explore” function, where specific subjects could be looked at.
I think the location of the units massively benefit interaction, the dedicated space with chairs really invite and encourage visitors to engage. On using the technology, I felt that the access problems could be easily fixed by some stickers highlighting the left mouse button function, and something to resolve the stiffness of the rollerball.
My favourite interactive pieces in the museum were in the Egypt gallery. I loved the screens that featured the discovery of a body, and asked the user what they thought about the body being in a museum, and gave the user the option of viewing the body at the end of the text. I felt like this type of interaction was fantastic, and rather than just providing information, engaged the visitor directly and was a great way of broaching questions that may not usually occur to visitors.
I’m looking forward to the next six weeks, and learning more about digital engagement in museums.
With such a fantastic collection, it’s exciting finding new ways of presenting it and helping visitors interact with objects
Adding additional lockers to our museums is a top 5 request from the public and staff alike. On Wednesday the 20th September we installed new lockers at Bristol Museum & Art Gallery and M Shed.
Until this week we only had 8 lockers at Bristol Museum & Art Gallery which is not exactly lots when you have 400,000 plus visits. At both museums the lockers have been finished in a suitable RAL colour way. We’ve introduced a £1 non-refundable fee which will initially re-pay the cost of lockers then be used to support our work. Slow money but sure money.
The main considerations for lockers are:
Custom brand colours
Coin retention lockers
The number of doors per locker – 2, 3 or 4 (more lockers more money but less useful if size is important)
Location in the building
Disclaimers and cost messaging
The install didn’t quite go to plan. I asked for lockers. I got lockers. However I also needed the following which I hadn’t specified:
Numbered lockers – inserts so that the public can remember which locker they used
Numbered key fobs – the public need to know which key they have
Nuts and bolts – to connect each locker together and to the wall to eliminate the chance for the locker to tip over
I purposely located a bank of lockers in the corridor so that they’ll be in the sightline of visitors to the front hall. Previously the lockers were tucked away and a constant frustration for visitors. Regular readers will know one of my favourite quotes “Address the user need and the business need will be clear”.
Retail will be responsible for collecting the income with this new welcome income stream.
I was chuffed when one of our Visitor Assistants said “I’ve been here over 10 years and never thought I’d see the day we added extra lockers”.
If you remember to address the bullet points above you’ll have a smooth installation. Good luck.
Transformation is made one day at a time. Ideas, mistakes, doing and refining. Ship early, ship often. There are no ribbon cutting moments just the quiet satisfaction that a tool or way things are done become normal and it’s seen as business as usual. I love this transformation.
To counteract my nervous energy on my Dublin to New York City flight I made a brief list of things we’ve introduced in the recent past.
We’ve introduced new roles including Head of Digital and user researchers. New as in never been seen in the service before. How cool is that?! We’ve pushed as many decisions out from management as possible to keep the responsibility with whomever has the direct expertise and to release the bottleneck of waiting for the four of us. Yes we can still override a preferred course of direction.
We’re getting digital tools (basecamp and trello, emu) into position as THE way we do business – freeing up meeting time and being transparent. We’re also chipping away at a culture of being a ‘cultural business’. And that’s just on the staff front. All things to be super proud of from those across the team. What I love though is how “normal” all this is now. Tools like Basecamp were seen as for the nerds like me back in 2014 in the team. Yet in 2016 I can see we now use it for project managing all exhibitions as a matter of course.
We’re cooking on gas using google drive now too as the spreadsheet sharing and linking data gets more critical eg for kpi work. Accurate information over live/ancient information.
The public are seeing some of this work through our ‘Pay What You Think’ approach to our own in-house programme. Tinkering with pricing and value.
Stroll into Bristol Museum & Art Gallery and you’re now greeted upon entry and asked if you’d like to donate without delay.
All of the above are super closely aligned to our core value of “excellence” by focusing on the needs of the user – staff or public. You may be asked on your visit about any number of our services and we use this to make our service better.
Long live business as usual.
If you have been at Bristol Museum & Art Gallery within the last week, you might have noticed that our street-level entrance lobby is now a much more welcoming place for our visitors.
Staff at a new Welcome Desk now greet everyone as they enter the museum. Visitors are asked if they’ve been to the museum before, if they’ve come for a general look around or for an exhibition, talk or particular gallery or artefact.
Welcome Desk staff state that there’s no general admission fee and that donations are welcome, adding any highlights or their own personal favourites from what’s on display.
The visitor map has been improved to more graphically show the layout of the museum and share some of the highlights in the galleries. Finally, visitors are asked if they would like to make a donation today to Bristol Museums Development Trust (the independent registered charity that raises funds for Bristol Museums and Archives).
To explain why we are asking for donations, the editorial on the reverse of the visitor map explains that behind the scenes curators, conservators, documentation professionals and a host of other specialist staff are working to care for the collections, create new displays and encourage people of all ages and interests to discover more.
Illustrated examples of how the £5 suggested donation could help are also provided in the visitor map, for example to conserve an artefact, examine minerals more closely, or conserve a painting. The visitor map also outlines Bristol Museums’ sources of funds: this is approximately 40% from Bristol City Council, 30% from Arts Council England, and the remaining 30% coming from our shops, cafes, event hires, Friends groups, and fundraising from a variety of sources including visitors.
It is anticipated the new Welcome Desk will give passers-by more of an idea of what happens inside this Edwardian building, resulting in more people crossing the threshold. It should also significantly increase the donation per head (currently 7p per head at Bristol Museum & Art Gallery), thus bringing in much needed funds that will enable us to do more with our collections and thus improve the visitor experience.
The Welcome Desk is being trialled for four months, until the end of October. If you have any comments about the Welcome Desk project, please contact Valerie Harland at firstname.lastname@example.org
In 2013 Bristol Museum & Art Gallery (BMAG) ran its first Pay What You Think pricing model at the temporary exhibition; Taylor Wessing: Photographic Portrait Prize. The principle is very simple – visitors enter the exhibition for free and pay the amount they feel the exhibition was worth by putting money in a box at the end of their visit. It was a success and visitors responded well to it. But, there was one sticking point; because we were only accepting cash payments our visitors were telling us that they were either not paying or paying less because they didn’t have cash on them.
“A quality experience, thank you M Shed for providing it! Ps. I only have a little cash with me, but would like to have paid £5…”
“Some of the portraits were very moving… P.s. I gave less than £5 – all the cash I had.”
This got us thinking about alternative ways of collecting payments from visitors for our next Pay What You Think temporary exhibition – death: the human experience (24 October 2015—13 March 2016). Card payments were deemed unfeasible as the Pay What You Think system is not staffed in the same way as standard ticketing – so card payments cannot be taken securely. The next thing that came to mind was payment by text message. Taking payment by text is relatively common nowadays – it can often be seen in things like charity appeals and car parks. Anyone who has used a text to pay system before will know that it is a very simple way of making a payment as it generally doesn’t require sign-up or registration. Instead, the user simply sends a text message containing a specific word to a specific number and a set amount of money is paid (I’ll explain in more detail below).
With a month to go before the opening of death: the human experience at BMAG I set about to organise a text to pay system for the exhibition. Here I run through a step-by-step guide to text to pay. Nb. there’s a bit of a catch at the end with collecting payments – the phone companies (3, EE, Vodafone etc.) will probably want to take a slice of your earnings…
Text to pay: a step-by-step guide
Searching for a Premium SMS service provider
The very first steps in setting up the text to pay were trickier than I expected. This is because I didn’t know the proper name for ‘text to pay’. Naturally, I went to google and searched for ‘text to pay provider’ (+ various versions of those words). I found a few websites, but it wasn’t immediately obvious which service I was looking for and who could provide it. I called a couple of companies who offered similar texting services but not exactly what I was looking for. Eventually, I learnt that what I wanted was called a ‘Premium SMS’ service provider. You will have much more luck searching for Premium SMS than ‘text to pay’.
So, once I had found this out I found a couple of companies that provided the s
ervice and requested quotes from them both. I got quotes from the companies Oxygen8 and txtNation (I’m sure there are many more options out there). The better quote was given by Oxygen8 – so I went with them.
Compliance and regulation
One of the things that struck me was the amount of regulation and compliance there is involved in Premium SMS. This is actually quite unsurprising as Premiuim SMS is used when you pay for app downloads and in things like TV competitions and voting on programmes like the X Factor. Premium SMS services are regulated by an independent regulatory body called PhonepayPlus – their Code of Practice is regulated by Ofcom.
Before you can setup and run a Premium SMS service you have to register with PhonepayPlus and ensure compliance with their code of practice. All the information you will need on how to do this can be found here on their website. It is pretty straightforward; it requires some form-filling and a payment of an annual registration fee of £155 +VAT. Once you have done this you will be assigned a PhonePayPlus registration number. Ours is ORG837-51289-03976.
Setting up ‘keywords’ and ‘shortcodes’
There are two key elements of a Premium SMS system – the Keyword and the Shortcode.
It’s very simple, to make a payment the user sends a prescribed keyword (e.g. PAY5) to a shortcode (a five digit number; e.g. 63333).
The keyword is a word that the user can send in order to make a payment. In the case of our exhibition we have five different keyword options – death1, death2, death3, death5, and death10 – each of which allows for a different level of payment. When a user sends an SMS containing one of these keywords to the shortcode 63333 a payment will be made to the value of the number included in the text; e.g. text death5 and the user will be charged £5. (The payment is either taken from the remaining credit of users with pay as you go phones or it will be added to the bill of users on phone contracts).
The keywords and shortcodes are also the bit that you have to pay your provider (in our case Oxygen8) to setup. There is a charge to setup the shortcode and then a monthly fee for that shortcode – the provider is effectively renting it on your behalf. Then there is a charge to setup each keyword. In total, to setup and run the Premium SMS for the five month duration of the exhibition it cost us approx. £320.
Displaying and advertising your Premium SMS service
As you might expect there is a bit of compliance to get through when advertising a Premium SMS service. Basically, you have to make it as clear to the user as possible that if they text one of the keywords to the number then they will be charged, and what they are being charged for. Sounds simple, but it took a few emails back and forth with our provider to get this right. The accompanying text also needs to include contact details and your PhonepayPlus registration number. (Your provider should help you with this).
Collecting Payments (here’s the catch)
I’m sorry to leave this till last but there is a catch to all of this. If, as we are, you are collecting payments using a Premium SMS service for anything other than a registered charity then the payments you receive from your visitors/customers will be subject to a levy from the phone companies (see here if you’re a charity). In other words, if one of our visitors texts to pay £5 then we will not see the whole £5, the phone company (3, EE, Vodafone etc.) will take a slice of the payment. How much they take depends on the initial value and on the phone company – but typically they take around 25%.
Our visitors to death: the human experience are responding to the text to pay service we’re offering. We know this because we can follow payments on Oxygen’s very handy online dashboard. The individual payments reach us as a single payment from our provider at the end of the exhibition (we had the option of monthly payments).
The Premium SMS service has one final advantage – you gain access to the mobile phone contact details of your visitors. Bristol museum will not be doing any kind of follow-up messaging using our text to pay user details – this is explained to visitors in the advertising material. Other organisations may choose to use mobile phone contact details as part of their marketing.
To some extent, the Premium SMS service we’re running for death is a bit of an experiment both to make our exhibitions as user-friendly as possible and to explore different options for income generation. It’s difficult to judge the success until the exhibition has finished – but we already thinking about using Premium SMS for our one-off events and talks.
If you have any questions or comments and would like to get in touch with me directly, my email is – email@example.com
One of the focus areas for improvement at Bristol Museum & Art Gallery (BMAG) and M Shed is our retail offer. Over the past year Zak Mensah (Head of Transformation) and Helen Lewis (Retail Manager), with input from Peter Holloway (retail consultant) and myself (User Researcher), have implemented a number of big and small changes in order increase income generation in our shops but to also make them more appealing, relevant, and exciting parts of the museums.
This post is about a small but seemingly effective change we have recently made within the shop at BMAG. It follows the Phase One refurbishment of the shop in October 2015. The shop refurb included the purchase of seven new nesting tables; one of which we have designated to display products outside the entrance of the shop. Here I look at what impact this small change has had.
We began using the shop-front display table on the 11th December 2015, and we have been surprised with the positive impact it has had on sales. The display is dedicated entirely to a range of books about Banksy – the world renowned Bristol-born graffiti artist. We know from sales data that the Banksy books are an important product within the BMAG shop. To date in 2015-16 the book Banksy’s Bristol: Home Sweet Home by Steve Wright is our fourth most popular product, and overall it is the most popular book that we sell. If you’re interested, it is now also available through our online shop.
Following the general retail rule of putting the most popular items forefront and centre of the shop, Helen displayed the Banksy books on the shop-front display table. In total we stock four books dedicated to the work of Banksy:
Banksy’s Bristol: Home Sweet Home – £14.00
Banksy: Myths and Legends – £5.95
Banksy: Wall and Piece – £14.99
Planet Banksy – 12.49
It wasn’t until the table was in place that we realised how much of a natural fit the Banksy book display was. Directly outside the shop is BMAG’s very own piece of original artwork by Banksy – Paint Pot Angel. The iconic piece was given to the museum by Banksy following the hugely successful exhibition/takeover of Banksy’s artwork in the museum in 2009 – Banksy versus Bristol Museum. The display table is in the eye-line of the Paint Pot Angel and it’s the perfect moment to capture visitor’s interest in Banksy, and ultimately to generate sales of Banksy related products.
What’s been the impact on sales?
Between 2nd May 2015 and the 30th December 2015 we have sold a total of 205 Banksy books at BMAG. (Our retail sales records for this year excludes April, it begins in May 2015 as this is when we moved to Shopify).
Period One – without shop-front display table
Prior to the 11th December (223 days) 163 books were sold
Average of 0.73 books sold per day
Period Two– with shop-front display table
From 11-30th December (excluding 25/26th Dec) (18 days) 42 books were sold
Average of 2.3 books sold per day
In the period we have displayed the Banksy books on the shop-front table, there has been an increase in sales of 219.8%
To some extent these figures may be inflated by the Christmas sales, but there are other notably busy periods within the period between May and December so it is likely that this increase in sales cannot be attributed to Christmas alone.
The lessons of this small change it seems is that it can be good to experiment with change in museum retail, especially if you use the available evidence you have to inform those changes. The Banksy books are also a great example of the need to provide visitors with products that are relevant to their experience of the museum – they respond well to them.
On a regular basis I will see visitors come into the museum, go straight to Banksy’s Paint Pot Angel, take a photo of it and leave. There are only nine pieces of Banksy’s artwork remaining in Bristol, two of which are displayed in our collections – the Paint Pot Angel at BMAG and the Grim Reaper at M Shed. The two that we display are the only ones displayed in-doors and so we have a great opportunity to provide the Banksy books and other merchandise that fans of Banksy want. As I noted above, we already knew that our Banksy products were popular; even before the shop-front display of the books, the Banksy products were already in our top-ten most popular products. So the big lesson is that when looking to increase income generation it is a good to start with popular items and ask whether they could do better still.