Venues such as zoos and aquariums attract more than 180 million annual visitors, which is more visitors than the NFL, NBA, NHL and MLB’s annual attendance combined, with approximately 3.6 million households making repeat visits. In order to better capitalize on this market opportunity, Georgia Aquarium, which houses an expansive array of aquatic animals, needed to rethink the way they engage with customers to create return visitors – increasing both customer loyalty and marketing ROI.
To make the experience from online interactions to in-person aquarium visits more seamless, the small marketing team implemented a three step process. First, they developed customer personas, then mapped the customer experience and designed tailored marketing campaigns, while constantly evaluating for potential improvements.
In an effort to continuously listen to the guests’ experiences and make subsequent improvements to both on and offline interactions, the Georgia Aquarium marketing team chose to focus on the pre- and post-visit experience for its initial pilot program. Visitors receive one triggered email prior to their visit, which provides details about their upcoming day at the aquarium and one email post-visit that focuses on collecting feedback from the onsite experience – giving the marketing team the insight it needs, while also engaging with each visitor at a personal level. The aquarium uses IBM Silverpop Engage, a cloud-based digital marketing platform within IBM Commerce, to easily manage these campaigns.To date, Georgia Aquarium has increased revenue from email more than 30 percent.
“Prior to revamping our digital marketing program, we were missing out on a lot of potential revenue,” said Rosie Judd, Director of Digital Media for Georgia Aquarium. “We went back to the drawing board literally and spent countless hours mapping a visitor’s path across different touch points. Then, we created one campaign at a time. After putting in place several tailored, automated campaigns, we have seen a huge increase in engagement rates and continue to build on this momentum.”
With four distinct goals in mind: customer acquisition, customer loyalty, renewals and reactivation, Georgia Aquarium set out on its plan of rebuilding its entire digital marketing program. The steps of this process included:
Establishing Buyer Personas: Buyer personas, which according to Aberdeen Research can equate to 73 percent higher conversions, are a representation of actual customers based on market research and data including demographics, behaviors, motivations and goals. If used correctly, personas should include every possible touch point on a customer’s journey. For Georgia Aquarium, they established four personas: Ticket purchasers and event attendees (non-aquarium members), members/pass holders, Oceans Society and donors.
Creating a Customer Journey Map: A customer journey map, which documents the customer experience from initial touch point through loyalty and repeat purchases, is what a buyer’s experience looks like from their own eyes and helps brands understand how individuals are interacting with them. Georgia Aquarium matched all of its goals and personas, creating a grid. This allowed them to align all of their desired campaigns with a persona and goal to create a key for the customer journey map and lead content creation.
Implementing Campaigns: Once personas and maps are established, it’s time to start using those new resources to implement targeted, individualized campaigns. Georgia Aquarium’s first campaign focused on the pre-visit experience and promoted “behind the scenes” tours at the attraction. This campaign ultimately ended up being a net-new source of revenue. The Georgia Aquarium marketing team also overhauled its Welcome, pre- and post- visit email campaigns, creating personalized, automated programs that are tailored to each visitor’s unique experience at the aquarium. These have resulted in a 60 percent increase in email open rates.
“For marketers to succeed in today’s buyer-driven world, they must think on the customer’s terms,” said Deepak Advani, General Manager, IBM Commerce.” In order to be successful today, marketers must meet customers when, where and how they want to be communicated with. Georgia Aquarium’s success, basing programs off of visitor insights, highlight the importance of this new way of marketing.”
As Georgia Aquarium continues to become more sophisticated and personalized in its digital marketing outreach, they plan to establish an automated member renewal program and more customer behaviors from multiple channels including purchase insights, milestones, visit history and behavior, Web visits and mobile app experiences.
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