The National Army Museum in London aims to educate and engage its visitors with the history of the UK’s military, and has done so since its opening in 1960.
But after a £23.75m refit in 2016, the museum decided to implement whatever it may need to keep up with technology innovations and customer demand in the future.
“Because we’re completely renovating, the museum needed to get hold of some new systems for all of our visitor-facing stuff, such as retail systems and ticketing systems. It was an expansion on museum system architecture, combining it in with already implemented cloud systems,” says Richard Hodgkinson, systems and project manager at The National Army Museum.
As part of this renovation and expansion, the museum selected Tide by Talisman Innovations as a platform to integrate its existing cloud-based systems, which include Salesforce customer relationship management (CRM) and Netsuite finance and enterprise resource planning (ERP).
Talisman was tasked with building a system to deal with retail and visitor data generated through retail point of sale (POS), online sales, ticketing and customer membership interactions, feeding this data into the appropriate CRM and ERP systems to allow the museum to develop a clearer view of its operations.
Events such as a visitor buying a ticket are picked up by Tide and fed into the museums other systems, which – among other things – allows the museum to keep a record of each customer and use visitor behaviour patterns to develop appropriate marketing and sales strategies.
This will help the museum target its marketing in the future and develop a personalised journey for each of its visitors so they won’t be bothered “with things that aren’t relevant”.
Hodgkinson adds that getting a better picture of visitors means the museum can make what it sends them and how it engages with them “more targeted and better focused to things they want”.
Catering to different visitors
The National Army Museum currently has a loyalty scheme, called NAMily, but Hodgkinson says it’s “early days” and only caters to families.
In the future, the museum hopes to develop more loyalty schemes to give each visitors a more personalised experience.
“Our customers are quite varied and we have a mixture of different people – young and old, families, and independent developers. It becomes very important for us to make sure their needs are met in the right ways,” says Hodgkinson.
The popularity of online shopping has encouraged consumers to blur the lines between online and offline shopping, forcing retailers and service providers into an omni-channel environment.
This has led to customers expecting more from brands and services, and the museum has found itself having to develop technologies to meet these expectations despite customers not paying for what it has to offer.
“Everyone has pretty high standards these days about what they expect from public attractions, whether they’re free or not,” says Hodgkinson.
“People expect a certain level, and that comes not only from the things that are available but also from how customers are treated in their experience on the site or of the space and the service we offer.
“Whatever industry you’re in these days, customers are expecting an awful lot from you. Every place offering a public service had to up its game in the past 10 years.”
A personalised experience can ensure visitors are more loyal to the museum, and it plans to use its CRM platform from Salesforce to accommodate information, such as family households, and expand its “membership pipeline” to ensure visitors are catered to appropriately and do not feel spammed.
Current customer data being collected will help to feed into that in the future, and Hodgkinson states the museum is playing “the long game” when it comes to eventually enhancing and developing this tech to “support what we want to do in 10 years”.
“A lot of other places I visit in London or across the country seems to be fighting the same fight for relevance and attention,” he adds.
Future-proofing on a budget
Since some of the museums legacy had been replaced by Salesforce and Netsuite in the move to the cloud, adding Tide was seen as an expansion on its current systems to coincide with the refit.
Choosing to integrate in this way was partly due to the cost of replacing these relatively new systems entirely. Money can often be tight for a free-entry museums, meaning the museum has to be “creative” in how it spends and saves its budget.
“We’re a small museum with very limited resources. Even though we had quite a lot of money in the main project to spend, a lot of it was building focused and so we had to spend a substantial sum of money on the actual building because it’s quite a difficult building to do anything with,” says Hodgkinson.
Hodgkinson feels keeping the “modular and leaner” setup of its currently implemented systems will be less “unwieldy” than trying to use a one-size-fits all platform that may not be specifically designed for the tasks the museum needs it to perform.
“We were keen on keeping a modular set up, so instead of moving everything on to one big platform, we liked the idea of having smaller expert systems to do their job really well as opposed to having one system to try to do everything,” he says.
Using the re-fit as an opportunity to install technology it may want to use in the future, the museum also expanded some of the audio/visual (AV) equipment in its galleries, as well as install public access Wi-Fi spots, interactive screens and beacons for future projects.
These beacons will allow visitors to use their mobile devices to gain information depending on which beacon they are near, as opposed to using technologies such as audio guides, which Hodgkinson believes have “had their day”.
“We’ve put infrastructure in place to allow people to use their own devices for things, we haven’t implemented anything like that yet but we’ve tried to take a future-proof view on the different things we might want to do in the spaces. As they were brand new, we had a free hand on what we wanted to do with them,” he adds.
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