Museums and visual arts organizations face an interesting challenge in our industry. Online purchase activity only accounts for a small piece of the ticketing pie.
For instance, The Museum of Pop Culture (MoPOP; Formerly the EMP Museum) —a pop culture, sci-fi, and music museum located in Seattle. When we first began our partnership with MoPOP, approximately 15% of ticket sales were made online. As a point of comparison, on average, performing arts organizations sold approximately 50% of their tickets online in 2013 (Capacity Interactive 2013 Benchmark Study).
This pattern is rooted in a lack of urgency amongst museum and visual art audiences to purchase tickets online. There’s no incentive for patrons to purchase tickets before they reach the door.
To combat these challenges and harness the potential of MoPOP’s Star Wars exhibition, we utilized online, timed ticketing to stimulate advanced purchases, and gave early ticket access for members to increase membership purchases.
Our digital strategy consisted of data-driven display and search campaigns, with tailored creative, ad copy, and landing pages to compliment distinct acquisition and remarketing targeting methods. We launched our campaigns in December 2014 leading up to the exhibition opening in January 2015.
Membership sales increased 44% in advance of the general public on-sale date, as compared to the same time frame the previous year. 68% of the memberships were sold online, which can largely be attributed to the success of the Star Wars search and display campaigns.
Furthermore, the display campaign resulted in a strong overall ROI of 343% prior to the exhibition opening. Online membership sales increased by 200% overall year-over-year during the same time frame. The ads that specifically retargeted to past site visitors resulted in a ROI of 626%.
Bolstered by this initial success, we leveraged the Star Wars campaign to convert even more ticket buyers into members through a membership-specific display and search campaign after the exhibition opened.
A key aspect of this display campaign was the use of Star Wars creative to entice prospects. Given that buying a membership indicates a constituent has a strong affinity for MoPOP, we only targeted the most promising prospects, which led to great success.
The online Membership display campaign was the first of its kind for the Museum and drove a significant number of conversions, resulting in 60% of the total monthly display revenue. To put this into perspective, the estimated revenue from this membership campaign alone almost equaled the total amount of revenue across all display campaigns in January. During the course of the campaign, online membership sales increased by 104% year-over-year and overall membership sales grew 45%.
These campaigns demonstrated that, for organizations that typically have a low percentage of online ticket sales, the strategic use of search and display advertising can generate tremendous value. Tailored copy and creative, relevant landing pages, specific targeting methodology, and incentives to purchase online all can work to increase the percentage of online sales. Furthermore, these tactics lend themselves to a larger strategy of leading ticket buyers further down the funnel and turning them into members.
Photo courtesy of MoPOP