1. Aquariums

Audience engagement technology to create sustained awareness
of marine conservation.

Ongoing audience engagement essential for turning the tide for aquatic sustainability.

Visitor attractions come in all shapes, sorts, and sizes.  There seems no end to our creativity when it comes to providing ‘experiences’ to entertain us. But this sector has influence on so much more than just a single thrill, it can educate and shift perspectives and one such edutainment experience we could all do with enjoying more, is the aquarium. 

Once thought to be protected from our ability to destroy, our aquatic ecosystem is under tremendous threat.  Consequently, aquariums are not only great places to feel awe, and tranquillity but increasingly, places of education to appreciate and understand the role that conservation plays in our current and future wellbeing, and sustainability.

Reaching more people and keeping those conversations going, is an essential requirement not only for the establishments themselves, but for those who visit these wonderful underwater windows on the world and all they contain too.

In 2009, WAZA (the World Association of Zoos and Aquariums), created a strategy to deal with conservation and sustainability in the sector.  ‘Turning the Tide,’ put education and communication at the centre of its strategy and considering that these facilities (including zoos with aquatic features) attract over 700 million visitors per annum (2021), that’s a lot of people to stay in contact with, in an industry expected to generate $21.15 billion by 2027.

The pandemic taught us a thing or two about marketing and communications, and the need to stay in touch with visitors, even when they are prevented from physically appreciating the experience.   Visit Britain’s latest report covering attractions in 2020 (issued August 2021), showed that most UK attractions reduced their spend in this regard, with 96% of them embracing digital, with Facebook and Twitter continuing to dominate although their penetration has plateaued.  

YouTube, on the other hand, saw a marked increase in use, with the attraction sector utilising the channel to present online tours, as well as providing free content for parents educating their kids at home by necessity.  As in other sectors, the attraction industry also turned to developing online retail offers to increase and diversify revenue.  

However, as we have already discussed in previous articles, if there is to be any silver lining in terms of the pandemic, it is that there has been a significant uptake in technological solutions across all industries.  The attractions sector, for example, saw a 22% increase in the adoption of online booking systems.

Enter audience engagement platforms

Yet technology can do so much more for aquariums and the attractions sector than delivering a digitally based ticketing system.  For instance, with an audience experience app linked to an audience engagement platform, aquarium operators can initiate ongoing communication with their visitors – even after they have gone home.  In the case of a lockdown, it would provide a vital lifeline to the outside world.  Out of lockdown and opening hours though, the platform can still send push notifications on offers and special events, upcoming talks etc all tailored to the likes of the specific visitor, whose profile it has intelligently and unobtrusively mapped during their visit whilst also enriching their experience whilst they are there. 

Downloaded onto a smartphone or tablet, as either a native or progressive web app, these cloud-based audience connectors/communicators are capable of sharing immense amounts of information – ideal for education purposes.  They also track audience interactions whilst on site - dwell time, exhibit interaction etc, generate insights for marketers and curators on several levels, making it all the easier to personalise future communication. 

Not drawing data down from the Internet all the time, these apps have been configured to take account of the fact that aquariums may not always have full network capability in underground exhibits.  That being the case, they can still trigger beacons and provide a variety of interactive experiences and additional content to unlock additional facts and enhance the visit.

Extended Conservation

Perhaps one of the greatest benefits of installing an audience engagement platform in the Aquarium sector, is to enhance the conservation effort.  Aquariums around the world are constantly educating visitors and inspiring them to consciously participate in preserving and conserving our aquatic landscape.  However, beyond on-site displays and informative exhibits, this is where technology can truly shine and help to enrich and deepen the learning experience.

For the Aquarium operator, research is a critical aspect of conservation, not only in terms of protecting rare species and delicate aquatic water systems under threat of eradication, but in the insights derived from the audience's reactions and input.  

The introduction of progressive technology in the form of an AI-led audience engagement platform, can automatically pick up dwell times and interactions for example (on the basis the audience app is being used during the guest journey). This can help inform curators as to which exhibits stimulate most interest and through directed personalised communications, can then determine attitudes too.  Digital can transform the way in which operators gain valuable insights into audience behaviour without unnecessary intrusion.

Advanced audience engagement platforms can also incorporate dynamic classroom modules and planners for educators and students, (as well as visitors looking for a little extra).  They can be geared to deliver fun, interactive, and immersive experiences that contribute to a retention of knowledge and increased understanding of what is at stake. 

Often the experience stops at the close of the day or the end of the school visit, and visitors leave having been fascinated by the wonder of our water world. But it need not end there, in fact, it could be just the beginning of long term sustained engagement on a more personalised level to increase awareness and drive action - membership, education, conservation, donation etc.  

For conservation efforts to truly work and endure, there is a need to keep people engaged long after they have left.  The way to do that is to engage directly with visitors and communities so that the experience continues to live and be meaningful - even helping to entice them back. 

Remember the Tamagotchi digital pet craze from the 90’s?  Activating the pet and having to care for it, pinged by daily reminders and earning rewards for its training and being involved in its growth?  Well, on a far more advanced and interactive basis, but similar principle, aquarium operators can serve up edutainment-based enriched content, gamification and  other achievement-led activity that keep audiences engaged, and reward them for their efforts.  

It's a win-win for all – the aquarium, the visitor, and the world at large, especially our aquatic heritage. An experience transformed…

To explore and discover further ways in which an audience engagement platform can transform the aquarium experience, get in touch with us.


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