10 Things to Look for in an Audience Engagement Platform & Partner.

Going home with your visitors to extend their experience is key to long term engagement and loyalty.

Audience engagement platforms (AEPs) have been popularised within the retail sector, but they are rapidly gaining ground in the visitor attractions space as a game changer for serving up extended experiences and contributing to sustainability.  

For more information on what an AEP can do for you, see our blog here.

In short though, a modern AEP is a Software as a Service (SaaS) tool that can help to transform your audience's experience and enhance the way they engage with you both on and off site whilst providing valuable data and insights into their behaviour. They are engaging in as much as they can help you to enrich content, enhance learning, increase accessibility and diversify revenue through marketing, rewards and redemption programmes.

The platform runs as a standalone, cloud hosted solution, allowing you to create, customise and control your own digital audience experiences through a dedicated branded audience app, on your vistor's smartphone. This helps to simplify your digital transformation journey by delivering an audience engagement solution which is simple to configure and quick to deploy with no technical expertise required. Traditionally audience or visitor facing mobile apps have required dedicated teams to design, build and deploy them often at high cost and over long periods of development.  

AEP’s powering mobile optimised apps make the entire audience experience more seamless,  and “portable” to the point where continuous engagement can be achieved even after leaving to allow attractions and venues to stay “always open”.  

Digital transformation is key to the longevity and growth of the experience economy, and whether you develop in-house or partner with a specialist provider, here are the top 10 things to look for in your AEP partner and platform. 

Ease of implementation – because the AEP is specifically designed to make your digital transformation journey easier. With cloud-hosted platforms you are in control of how you create and customise the audience app with your own branding, content and marketing activations and with everything in one place, you have access to valuable insights and data into your audience behaviour too. Measure dwell time, audience engagement with content and the take up of offers. Track additional engagement off-site at home or in the classroom.

And with some Cloud hosted AEP’s being “oven ready” apart from your content, they can be deployed quickly and with little or no technical skills required.

Simple to operate - key to long term success is being simple to customise and control with limited resources. Traditional barriers to digital transformation are a lack of technical skills, and expertise, and the time required to deploy the platform and app. A well designed AEP will do all the heavy lifting leaving you to concentrate on how best to use it.

Uptime not downtime – Life happens! We all know that technology is as great as the time it is on and operating, which makes having built-in redundancy a must.  Cloud-based architecture naturally provides some resilience against the unexpected. This is key in ensuring the engagement can continue uninterrupted – even in a pandemic and lockdown. 

Speed – In the 21st century the true data age and 4th Industrial revolution, we generate millions of terabytes of information – all the time.  Automation and processing capacity and speed are essential to operations, particularly in the visitor attractions sector, where guests need information in real time. A well developed AEP will optimise how you engage with your audience and help to transform their experience.

Adaptability – developers of AEPs are specialists in understanding what is required to process huge amounts of data and create the ability for operators to segment this data into usable tools for behavioural analysis, marketing, ongoing engagement, edutainment, etc. Technology such as beaconing, is giving the experience economy a whole new way of measuring engagement from dwell time to footfall and triggered or downloaded content. The visitor attraction industry is broad and has a variety of digital needs.  This means platforms should also be adaptable and “API friendly” to incorporate other necessary software plug-ins for e-ticketing and food ordering for example.

Functionality – the ideal platform should provide an array of functionality all housed in one place.  From content enrichment to learning, gamification, wayfinding/mapping and creating digital trails and tours to ibeacon triggering, object recognition, immersive content, reward and redemption tools, push notifications, planning your day, pre-booking of events, meals and more.  Anything and everything that makes audience engagement immersive, entertaining, more educational, highly personalised, and relevant.  

Insights and Data Analysis - at the heart of the matter is not the amount of data generated by the platform but what to do with it. Measuring audience engagement behaviour both on and off site can provide valuable insights into how to improve your experience. For an attraction such as a zoo or museum this can mean tracking dwell time across the site or individual collections or exhibits - no need for visitor surveys on clipboards. Measuring education and learning through simple quizzes designed in the platform to be completed on or off site with redeemable rewards. Understand more about your audience's behaviour to improve engagement.  

Flexibility – ideally, the AEP you choose should have the capability to offer you an audience experience developed on a native app or a progressive web application (or if you are so inclined, both). Mobility of your experience is essential to extending the interaction between you (the operator) and the user (the visitor).  Whilst optimised for mobile an AEP’s app should also function well on both tablet and desktop, particularly in an educational setting.

Support – By their very nature, customisable cloud hosted platforms are built and developed to be intuitive in their user journey requiring little technical support once initial onboarding has been completed. Having said that, make sure that support is available when you need it and you are working with a partner who can add further value through additional customisation, updates and bespoke services such as content creation.

Cost – Many software and cloud hosted solutions tend to be in the form of SaaS (Software as a Solution) software, which can often be licensed for use on an annual or even monthly basis - helping spread the cost of investment. When comparing cloud vs custom build your own, be mindful that audience engagement apps when built directly, can vary widely in specification and you should consider not only the project cost but the time of deployment too. Cloud based AEP’s can be licensed from as little as $1,000 per month whereas build costs for custom apps will require a significant six figure investment or higher. 

If we have inspired you to learn more about audience engagement platforms then get in touch.


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