Arts Centre Melbourne iBeacon trial disappoints

The retail approach to beacon technology, where it alerts visitors to food and beverage offers from the centre, is not the way to go, says marketing manager, Kristen Eckhardt

Arts Centre Melbourne is rethinking its approach to beacon technology after a disappointing trial of the proximity marketing platform that took place during Melbourne Festival in October.

The centre used iBeacon technology to alert visitors to food and beverage offers from its venue in a bid to drive additional sales. Visitors could download coupons from their iOS or Android phone, and store it in their Passbook or equivalent app in Android. When visitors walk near a café or bar, the beacon triggered the coupon to pop up on their screen, asking if they want to redeem it.

Arts Centre marketing manager, Kristen Eckhardt, told CMO the approach had proven not to work well in a cultural arts setting.

“I’m not exactly sure our audiences respond to a retail approach in a cultural arena. There’s a bit of a disconnect, perhaps,” she said. “Visiting the theatre is more often than not a planned experience. Prompting an unplanned visit to a cultural institution through this technology might be too big a leap for this particular audience.”

The Arts Centre offers were downloaded 515 times, an impressive result. However, the redemptions – having the customer take up an offer – were low.

“We are just sorting out our point-of-sale processes [for final numbers], but it’s safe to say it did underachieve what we hoped in terms of redemption,” Eckhardt said.

Although Arts Centre Melbourne has decided not to proceed with the trial, she is now thinking about how beacon technology could be used to enrich the customer experience by alerting visitors to further information on the performances they see.

“I think a really clever way we could use it is perhaps post-performance pop-ups that give people more information about the production they’ve just seen - something to read at home – that reminds them of the experience they’ve just had, or that gives them a deeper insight into the experience they just had,” Eckhardt said.

Another lesson learnt for Eckhardt is not to underestimate the important of getting the entire community on-board in the opportunities of beacon technology, so that it becomes a more mainstream way of how visitors interact with arts.

“I think it is important because we can’t necessarily make this thing as a standalone, isolated thing. It needs a critical mass to attract audiences and ‘train’ them in the use of this technology and make it a natural thing for the theatre or art experience,” she said.

“I’m not convinced cultural audiences really understand it yet. If there was an opportunity for all the cultural institutions within the precinct to undertake a major project, we could combine our audiences and educate them together, to make this technology a natural part of their interaction.

“I would have done more onsite signage and given the offer a bit more exposure as well. That sort of exposure can only be improved if all other arts agencies were on-board.”

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