Preparing for MSA FORWARD: The Research Is In on the Museum Retail Experience
Museum stores play a critical role in engaging members and visitors to museums. Analysts and museum industry leaders Colleen Dilenschneider and Scott Corwon of IMPACTS Experience will facilitate an interactive workshop at the upcoming MSA FORWARD Retail Conference & Expo on May 21. In this workshop, they will provide a data-informed overview of the visitor experience in a pandemic-impacted world with a view toward trends impacting retail operations. What do people say are the best things about an institution’s retail experience? What percentage of members and visitors go into museum nonprofit retail stores and what does this mean for the health of the entire institution? This workshop will provide the answers to inform strategic direction.
IMPACTS Experience makes research and analysis of museum industry trends accessible to cultural executives every other Wednesday at the blog Know Your Own Bone. In preparation for strategic discussions, we present the following excerpt from a recent article that breaks down exciting research on audience perceptions.
You can join IMPACTS Experience at the MSA FORWARD conference on May 21, 2022 from 1:30 pm – 5:00 pm ET for a dive into understanding audiences and the critical role of museum nonprofit retail operations in visitor engagement, in particular. (Please note there is a fee for this ticketed workshop. We recommend reserving your spot before it sells out.) We look forward to seeing you there!
This Know Your Own Bone article was originally published on 2/02/2022 by IMPACTS Experience
By Colleen Dilenschneider, IMPACTS Experience
The last two years have been a wild ride, to say the least. We’re not short on reminders of the challenges for the cultural industry – closures, layoffs, recovery efforts, ever-changing safety protocols, capacity restrictions, and more… but we’re not discussing these continuing evolutions this week.
Our end-of-year 2021 data is in, and we’re going to celebrate noteworthy progress made by cultural entities in terms of welcoming perceptions over the last two years.
The needle has moved for most organization types surrounding attitude affinities, and it may be exciting fuel for further efforts and continued investment.
Are cultural organizations perceived as more welcoming “to people like me” than in 2019?
At IMPACTS Experience, we are consistently monitoring several perceptions surrounding attitude affinities – how much people feel that certain organizations and entity types are “places for people like me” or are “welcoming to people like me.” We switch up these questions interchangeably, as well as others, to get to the heart of overall welcoming perceptions.
It may be tempting in today’s current environment to instinctively associate negative attitude affinities primarily with ethnicity – how welcoming are art museums perceived to be among self-identified Latinx audiences, for instance? However, attitude affinities can relate to any person for any reason. For example, children’s museums tend to have the lowest attitude affinity metrics among cultural organizations. This is not because they are necessarily perceived to be unwelcoming to BIPOC individuals, but because they are not perceived as welcoming to people without children. And as it turns out, a growing percentage of the US population does not have a child in the household.
Attitude affinities matter because most cultural entities aim to be community assets that are viewed as welcoming to as many people as possible, regardless of age, race, gender, family makeup, physical ability or disability, or anything else. The greater the attitude affinities associated with an organization, the less of a barrier welcoming perceptions are to engagement. And, in turn, the more people the organization stands to successfully serve.
The values below are shown by mean scalar value. In other words, it is shown by the average of how much people in the United States agree with the statement on a 1-100 scale. In this research, an increase or decrease of even a few points is meaningful. When a value rises or falls by more than a few points, it is an indication to us that something is particularly noteworthy may be happening.
And indeed, leaders at many of these organization types will likely agree that elevated perceptions on this front are not an accident! Across the board, we generally observed organization types making active efforts to expand audiences within this duration – and especially in/after 2020. (EOY stands for “end of year.”)
Every organization type monitored has elevated its welcoming perceptions over the last five years. While some organization types elevated perceptions more than others, the trend line is positive overall. Among all exhibit-based organization types we monitor (including those not shown here such as gardens and children’s museums), attitude affinities have increased by nearly 6% since 2017. And among all performance-based organization types we monitor (including those not shown here such as theaters and dance organizations), attitude affinities have increased by 2% since 2017.
You’ll note that zoos and aquariums – already leaders of the pack – notably elevated their welcoming perceptions since 2017. (The higher the scalar variable, the harder it is to move up the metric.) However, the most dramatic and exciting movement has been in perceptions of history museums and historic sites, and art museums. They increased their overall welcoming perceptions by an impressive 7.6% and 9.4%, respectfully. That’s great news!
The above chart quantifies attitude affinities across a representative sample of US adults. However, attitude affinity perceptions – especially as they relate to BIPOC individuals – become a greater priority among cultural entities during the uprising against racial injustice in the United States triggered by the murder of George Floyd in 2020. This may be a contributory catalyst for the rather dramatic elevations for some organization types from 2019 to 2021 as indicated in the chart above.
The chart below shows welcoming perceptions among people who self-identify as non-white, specifically. Indeed, efforts to more effectively and thoughtfully engage non-white audiences may have played a major role in elevating attitude affinities among US adults on the whole.