The UK’s cultural sector is one of the strongest in the world. According to the DCMS, cultural industries provided an estimated Gross Value Added of £32.03bn in 2018, an annual increase of 2.7 per cent and we host four of the most visited museums in the world in the Tate Modern, British Museum, National Gallery and V&A. And with London being the most Googled city in the world for cultural institutions this offers an important opportunity for all cultural institutions and visitor attractions to benefit from a commercial online presence.
What kinds of revenue stream are possible?
The most obvious revenue stream is through online sales from your physical store. If your location doesn’t have space or has limited space for a physical store, online offers the opportunity for a wider product range. Using the latest platforms your agency will be able to integrate your product management data into your eCommerce offer so that your online store becomes an extension of your offline retail offer. Even if the shop is hosted on a separate platform from your main site it can be designed and built so that it continues the user journey seamlessly and integrates perfectly with your organisation’s website look and feel.
The design and build of an eCommerce offer creates an opportunity to extend your sales to an audience that can’t visit regularly or at all, and to those further afield who may not have heard of your institution but will then find you through your distinctive product offerings. In fact, an eCommerce offer creates a chance to extend your brand experience, by creating storytelling opportunities that are centred around your products and can therefore increase your visibility on search engines. And that in turn becomes part of a virtuous circle that contributes to your profile and your physical visitor numbers.
Creating a connected experience
A crucial factor when considering eCommerce opportunities for cultural organisations is how to best create a connected experience. Your brand is represented not only by the visitor experience you deliver and the physical space you curate but also by the way you describe your products and the events or exhibitions you host. It’s important that your online visitors get the same experience of your brand and character as your offline visitors.
An experienced agency will work with you to understand the particular needs and requirements you have and also understand the things that are unique to the cultural sector. They will be well-versed in the brand nuances that will position your offer appropriately. And they will be able to bring your brand to life within your eCommerce offer through effective storytelling, imagery, product descriptions and a well-crafted path to purchase.
Thinking more broadly
It’s also important to think broadly about the wider possibilities digital affords when considering an eCommerce presence because it’s possible to use your platform to extend the value of your offer and the types of purchase people can make on the platform. For example, you can promote and sell events using your eCommerce offer, not just physical products. And you can also create new digital events such as online webinars, virtual tours or speaker sessions with curators to generate additional revenue. Your agency will be able to implement the right platform to manage both your events and eCommerce offer elegantly.
Getting the word out
One important factor for increasing the eCommerce opportunities for cultural organisations is to make the most of your existing physical and digital marketing as a way to alert visitors and customers to your offer. Your shop should be promoted via offline spaces as well as linked to from any digital marketing activity by your institution.
Many eCommerce platforms offer integrations with commonly used marketing tools such as Constant Contact or Mail Chimp and working closely with your agency you can create beautiful and effective communications assets that help your customers come on a journey with you from initial inbox to purchase. Alternatively, you can work with marketing to insert your promotions into their leaflets, posters and email more editorially. The important thing is to ensure that your eCommerce communications are integrated with your whole marketing journey.
Ecommerce offers you exciting opportunities to contribute both to the bottom line of your own organisation and to the cultural horizons of your visitors with unique products and innovative content, driving users from offline to online and back with meaningful, beautiful, immersive experiences.