How to use motivation segments to tailor your visitor experience

By Steve Mills

The full version of this article first appeared in the Attractions Management 2016-2017 Handbook.

ALVA (Association of Leading Visitor Attractions) has supported visitor attractions for over 20 years by running two benchmarking surveys. These help participants to understand what constitutes success and enable them to learn from the best-in-class in order to deliver great visitor experiences.

“We have more organisations and sites participating in the benchmarking services than ever before, sharing with and learning from each other to the benefit of not just themselves but, ultimately, the customer.”  Bernard Donoghue, Director, ALVA

The first survey is a financial survey to benchmark income, productivity and profitability. The second, a visitor survey to benchmark the on-site visitor experience.  These two surveys allow attractions to track their performance over time, make comparisons with their peers and identify best-in-class sites to look to for inspiration.

Here are some of the recent findings from the visitor experience benchmarking programme.

Understanding an individual’s underlying motivations for visiting an attraction uncovers a whole host of opportunities.  Firstly, it provides insight which can be used to inform the visit experience itself.  Pat Dunlop, Commercial Manager of the Roman Baths, Fashion Museum and Victoria Art Gallery has used this insight to good effect on the ground, having introduced the ALVA Motivation Segments to the museums’ staff.  These motivation segments summarise and benchmark the main reasons for visiting the three Bath sites.

Motivations for visiting Bath

Pat fed back that “there was a huge difference in visitor motivations between our three sites, which really helped us to focus our thinking.  The Fashion Museum had always assumed they were catering for visitors with a particular passion for fashion, but the benchmarking showed that a high proportion of visitors came wanting to ‘Broaden Horizons’.  It has been a real revelation and gave the team confidence that they should think big and tell the History of Fashion in 100 Objects.”

Understanding the Motivation Segments has identified some useful insights for the sector overall.  For example, attractions cannot assume that everyone visiting with children is out for a child-centric visit.  Those visiting with ‘Child Engagement’ motivations – so driven by a desire for their children to learn, experience something new or simply to have fun – is often only a fraction of visits with children overall.

Large, sector-wide studies such as this also enable us to develop a deeper understanding of the profile and behaviour of the Motivation Segments by pooling our knowledge of these across all participating attractions.  This identifies further opportunities for attractions to tailor their visit experience and associated marketing and communications.  For example, we know that those arriving with a ‘Social Mindset’ motivation are much more likely to use catering facilities and be interested in membership.

Social mindset info v2

With this survey now having operated for almost 20 years, we can identify emerging sector trends and also use these to identify opportunities.  The explosion in the influence of peer reviews in the visitor attraction decision process is one such example.  Just two years ago, word of mouth influenced 18% of visits.  This has now increased to 27% and has come at the expense of a decline in the influence of travel guides.  Never before has it been so important to harness the power of peer reviews – whether face-to-face or via social media – and the most forward looking attractions are focussing significant resources in this direction.

How to join

ALVA has run the Financial and Visitor Experience surveys for 20 years. Over time the surveys have been adjusted and finessed to best support participants.

The Visitor Experience survey, managed by research consultancy BDRC Continental, collects feedback from over 30,000 visitors a year across more than 80 leading UK visitor attractions. Participation includes 375-450 research Interviews at each site per annum across three waves of research.

If you'd like to find out more please get in touch.

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