Photo : Lu Changqing - Unsplash
As part of her Bachelor's degree in Tourism, Valentina Musso, a student at the HES-SO Valais-Wallis, conducted a research on the role of digital innovations in the customer experience during a museum visit.
Her study presents the results of a survey articulated around four axes: a benchmark of 53 museums in French-speaking Switzerland, an online survey to identify the museum habits of French-speaking people (133 respondents), interviews with 2 museum representatives and 13 visitors, as well as field observations in three museums, namely the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Museum in Geneva, the Alimentarium in Vevey and the Olympic Museum in Lausanne.
A museum's website is the first platform that visitors consult before coming to the museum. According to the survey, 98% of respondents visit the museum's website to find out about opening hours, prices, accessibility and the program. A museum's social networks, such as Instagram and Facebook, with quality, varied and engaging content, can also play an important role in retaining existing customers and attracting new followers. Finally, visitors who have had a dynamic experience at a museum will be more likely to share it on social media. This demonstrates the importance of a regular presence when it comes to communicating through these media in a promotional and sales strategy.
The implementation of digital innovations within the museum's itinerary makes the visit more dynamic and helps the audience remember more elements. Survey respondents said that these tools facilitate understanding (65%), provide additional information (62%) and enriching content (58%), and entertain visitors (47%). A few people indicated that these devices are also interesting because they not only allow visitors to discover the exhibition at their own pace, but also to shape the visit according to their desires and interests. On the other hand, few indicated that these digital innovations are annoying (7%), cumbersome (5%), unnecessary (4%) or difficult to use (3%).
In addition, research shows that visitors who have the opportunity to learn through fun, interactive, and immersive devices will not only feel that they have been part of their own experience in the museum, but will also leave feeling that they have gained new knowledge. Finally, digital innovations help to meet the needs of visitors and indirectly increase the reputation of the museum institution through recommendations from their friends and family or on review platforms such as TripAdvisor.
Several visitors interviewed noted the importance of a cultural mediation that is balanced, presenting both traditional supports, such as explanatory panels, and innovative supports, such as interactive terminals. Thus, digital innovations can be used to make the visit more dynamic, but also to share knowledge specific to the theme on display. Finally, visitors particularly appreciate museum tours that combine traditional and modern media. Therefore, it is fundamental to complement traditional cultural mediation methods rather than replace them, the goal being that all audiences can make the most of the museum experience.
Thanks to their immersive, interactive and playful properties, digital innovations are today essential tools that are difficult to avoid in a museum experience. Thanks to them, it is also possible to awaken the five senses. This undeniably brings added value to museums. Like any technological use, one must however consider the constraining aspects, such as computer breakdowns as well as the costs of purchase and maintenance. Thus, it is important to be aware of the complications that may arise and to plan solutions to deal with them as quickly as possible, to ensure the quality of the museum experience at all times.
The results of this survey revealed that digital innovations are improving the customer experience in museums. They feel fully integrated into the visit and feel they are gaining a lot of knowledge. This motivates them to repeat the experience by visiting museums more.
However, although digital innovations are an asset for these institutions, it is fundamental that they do not take over traditional cultural mediation methods. Digital tools should primarily serve as a medium for disseminating additional information to visitors or for imaging concepts that cannot be displayed otherwise.
[Read the article on the use of new technologies in Swiss museums, a summary of another Bachelor's thesis].
Museum visits are particularly appreciated by the French-speaking Swiss. The variety and cultural richness offered by the 222 museum institutions in French-speaking Switzerland (in 2020) contribute to attracting many visitors. Seven out of ten people in French-speaking Switzerland go to a museum at least once a year, according to a study conducted by the Federal Statistical Office. In addition, the development of new technologies has made it possible to diversify museum exhibitions and their cultural offerings. The latter is thus better able to respond to the new needs and expectations of the public, which is always looking for memorable experiences to share with its entourage.
A summary of Valentina Musso's bachelor's thesis, as well as its complete version, are available for download below.