In 2010, the Louvre decided to study the movement of its visitors using Bluetooth technology, in order to deal with the “Mona Lisa effect”: tourist congestion in certain areas of the museum. Exhibition designers have traditionally relied on visitor statistics which take into account the social characteristics of the public, the time it takes to complete the exhibition, the number of works, the number of visitors and exhibition space size, among other variables. Today, the popularity of smartphones allows us to extend this information.
Some audio guides offered us the possibility of knowing the number of languages selected, the time spent hearing each voice-over and the number of times the devices had been used. With mobile applications we can also know the geographic area from which the download took place, the user’s age, mental or sensory limitations (if any), the mobile device used, etc.. These and other data are collected automatically by the app, according to the configuration chosen by each visitor. Content managers like Ventour give the museums full autonomy to view the statistics online or download them in open formats for further study.
The difference between the percentage of the public who demand audio guides (12.3% in the spanish museums of the Ministry of Culture) and the penetration of smartphones in Spain (over 66%) highlights the opportunity for visitor studies. The success and validation of these investigations will depend on the number of downloads of visit-apps, and these, in turn, on their real utility and on the strategy to promote the museum.
The two great innovations brought by apps when it comes to gathering information on our visitors are, undoubtedly, the possibility of including in the analysis payment data for content and information related to connection to social networks. With the payment data we can evaluate the visitor experience and optimize the revenue generation formulas we are using, and with the integration of social features (sharing, favorites, etc..), we can analyze the impact of the visit in general or of a specific content more accurately.
These new features require better equipped communication and education departments, so that they are able to interact and work towards a common digital strategy. It should be noted, finally, that these studies are of no use if the museum does not have the ability to remodel the museum in order to test the conclusions of its analysis.
*Picture by Amir Baradaran.