1. Heritage

The technology and natural environment connection.

A walk in the park for growing and retaining audiences at outdoor experiences.

Looking on the Internet recently for some of the top attractions to visit when in England, eight of the top 10 listed visited suggestions included cultural heritage sites and stately homes – think Stonehenge and Windsor Castle and Great Park for a start. Their common denominator apart from being steeped in history, are the grounds in which they are set.

As England meanders through a late Spring to the tune of the Queen’s recent jubilee celebrations and the expectant haze of a glorious summer, the country’s premier gardens are getting ready to put on a show. Each year, Britain’s gardens play host to more than 100 million visitors from all over the world as well as enchanting we locals. This number declined somewhat during the pandemic but as noted by the Association for Visitor Attractions (Alva), outdoor attractions have led the sector’s recovery as their popularity remains steady and is growing.

Resplendent in their beauty and evoking feelings of pleasure, awe, and peace by all who stroll their paths, these natural beauties are also keepers of living history. What tales of love and betrayal have they witnessed over their time? They have been and remain, the observers to new worlds too, with new species brought back to England from foreign climes and planted in the country’s verdant soil to grow and prosper and remind visitors of their heritage and the excitement of the age of discovery, for example.

The world’s original recorded gardens, as in the planned cultivation of plants, is said to be some 9000 BCE. Back then, they were primarily cultivated for food purposes. The oldest gardens – planted for pleasure – are believed to have been started in Egypt, with one of the world’s most ancient, cultivated garden layouts located in Pasargadae in Iran, which became a prototype for Western Asian architecture and design.

Just as gardens have multiple layers – soil strata, water, roots, and then a multitude of layers of ornamental trees, evergreen shrubs, perennial shrubs and flowers, bulbs etc, so too do the stories that gave rise to these glorious environments.

Gardens mark periods of history just as buildings do. They have their own architectural style denoting key periods of time. They are reminders of where we have come from and what we stand to lose if we do not conserve them.

Gardens come in all shapes and sizes such as a formal construction, a wild meadow, herb, vegetable, medicinal or flower garden. Gardens have a way of uniting communities too - whether they be for shared sustenance or purely for beauty to soothe the eyes and the soul, or increasingly, offset carbon usage – which is increasing their practical value. In fact, urban planners are beginning to realise the true merit of the green canopy, which contributes to regulating temperature as well as providing shade and homes to urban animal life.

As always though, these man-made representations of nature require funding to keep them growing and giving. Some of the world’s most fabulous gardens have become top tourist attractions.

But whether a garden is big or small, if it is open to the public and depends on a visitor’s largesse to keep it growing, then an audience engagement platform and app can help to drive interest.

It may seem odd, that embracing digital could well be the saviour of our historical gardens, but in truth, if their future is to be secured, technology is what will do it.

We are not talking about the technology used to predict the weather or to genetically modify species or even remote-controlled lawn mowing. Rather, the technology that can be deployed to create a perpetual feedback loop between the attraction and visitors and vice versa that diversifies revenue streams and aids in conservation, among other notable benefits.

Digital Transformation and the Garden Attraction Experience
We have written several articles on the benefits to be had by the global visitor attractions sector from deploying advanced audience engagement platforms. It’s a game changer for museums, aquariums, zoos, and wildlife parks etc, who are turning their physical audience data into revenue by increasing audience reach as well as the frequency of their interactions.

Outdoor attractions can follow the same easy to implement and use formula to grow their own sustainability. Here’s how.

Install an audience engagement platform – not all platforms are the same, so ensure that the selected technology does more than simply capture email addresses for bulk mail outs or provide a digital ticketing system. What you are looking for is a platform that incorporates all digital aspects of engagement in one place and that automatically powers a visitor experience app that can be downloaded onto a smartphone, that is simple to navigate and uses little data to operate.

Upload content and make it immersive, responsive, and rich – how long is a piece of string one might ask at this juncture, because the type of content and how much that is loaded is entirely dependent on the depth of information the attraction wishes to share. What we can advise however, is that the more detailed the initial efforts and data that are uploaded to the platform, the better the results.

For example, using proprietary technology such as the n-gage object recognition software, operators can transform the garden visitor experience – from plants to statues and ornate buildings, all these things can be captured through the lens to trigger content and media, thus extending the visitor’s knowledge of what they are observing.

The visitor accesses the information by directing their smartphone over an object whilst on their walk, unlocking layers of information. The surprise and delight of having instant information at their fingertips cannot be underestimated, as too the way that content is conveyed, whether as a timelapse video, static photographs, dissection drawings, commentary and so on. Multimedia is seamless in the hands of a sophisticated audience engagement platform.

Couple this with built-in quizzes, trails and tours that unlock more information and the audience becomes fully immersed in the art of discovery.

This journey of discovery can also be triggered using beacons and Bluetooth technology, to automatically deliver a cascade of information as the visitor walks past certain waypoints.

Deepen the learning experience – The day we stop learning is when we stop growing. No matter what age, there is a desire to know more, and digital audience engagement platforms are an incredible way for educators to deliver enriched learning experiences. This aspect speaks to the content that is loaded to the platform, but also to the built-in educator module that platforms such as n-gage.io have created.

This module is aimed at in-house education teams as well as school educators and their students and provides a seamless mechanism to deliver, track and monitor the learning outcomes of the experience. Best of all, that learning experience can continue off-site as the platform and app continues to deliver engagement back at home or in the educational setting.

Audience data insights made easy – obtaining insights as to which of the exhibits resonate the most and those that don’t, how your audiences feel, react and behave, how long they spend at each exhibit, how they engage with the content on offer, where they come from, are they likely to be a regular visitor who could become an annual member and so on, all leads to a better understanding of who your audience is and how best to engage with them.

Data gathering, interpretation and implementation of insights can be the Holy Grail of audience engagement for visitor attractions, turning one day visitors into loyal fans. With this in mind, the n-gage.io platform and app requires no technical expertise to operate, removing one of the key barriers to entry to deploying new technology.

Insights are also critical for conservation efforts and make the job of the curator and attractions’ custodians, far simpler to perform. The app can track dwell time for example providing audience data to send out a survey to gauge perceptions around a particular exhibit or display.

For reporting purposes, the audience engagement platform can produce customised dashboards, graphs, and reports, dramatically reducing the time spent on compiling feedback using more traditional manual methods.

Push Notification, tailored experiences – direct marketing and communications are an essential ingredient for building relationships with audiences. Again, today’s advanced audience engagement platforms can facilitate this, and yes, it is possible to build a connection using the digital ecosystem. All that’s required is for pre-set parameters incorporated into the platform to be activated and information is pushed to the visitor.

This can also be done before, during and even after the visit, thus a continuous engagement is begun – but only of the information that is relevant to that specific person. Tailoring conversations and experiences result in higher engagement. And all of this can be done automatically, saving valuable time and resources.

Having the ability to continue the experience off site, has also shown a higher frequency of repeat visits, something all visitor attractions can benefit from, given the fact the sector is still recovering from two years of enforced shut down.

An audience engagement platform and app should never detract from the physical enjoyment of these outdoor marvels, but help to intelligently transform the garden, country park and outdoor experience, assisting operators to engage audiences, enhance learning, diversify revenues and gain valuable insights

For other articles exploring audience engagement platforms and what to look for in a service provider, please see our Insights page. Alternatively, request a free demo of the advanced n-gage.io audience engagement platform.

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