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The Shape of Scotland's Digital Business Management

Culture Republic are doing some really interesting work finding insights into Scotland’s arts and cultural organisations and their need to identify and understand their audiences. We invited them to guest post on our blog about the great research they’re doing at the moment, to find out about the kind of systems arts organisations are starting to use, and what they will need to do in order to get the most out of them.

Ashley Smith-Hammond is the Manager of Knowledge, Networks and Learning at Culture Republic. She has been working in and researching Scotland’s cultural sector for over 15 years, and now also manages Culture Republic’s events and training programme.

Through our work over the past decade with hundreds of arts organisations across Scotland, Culture Republic has seen the business operations of arts and cultural organisations moving online just as businesses in other sectors have done. This is significant because the increasing cost of systems means organisations must be vigilant about the ROI (return on investment) of their business systems. There are a couple of key of factors that can affect this:

  • Limited staff skills and capabilities – we have seen cases of organisations with powerful systems that aren’t using them to their full capacity.
  • Inefficient working and wasted effort – due to inappropriate or inadequate business systems, organisations lose time and money generating elaborate internal procedures in order to answer a strategic question.

Both will reduce an organisation’s ROI.

Culture Republic recently launched a research project designed to provide new insights into the kinds of systems that Scotland’s arts organisations are implementing, as well as the kinds of training that staff might need in order to use them to their full potential.

We explored how arts and cultural organisations across Scotland gather audience data and use digital technology today, as well as examining their choice of ticketing and customer relationship management (CRM) systems.

Full findings from this project will be published early in 2016, but early data is available from the first phase of the project: a ‘dipstick test’ that provides a baseline around how effectively Scottish arts organisations are operating online.

This baseline was drawn from the websites of over 170 Scottish arts organisations. It includes a selection of venues, festivals and touring companies from all across Scotland covering a range of different art forms, as well as the full portfolio of Creative Scotland Regularly Funded organisations. This group is a useful bellwether for wider trends.

Below we share some early findings around online ticket sales and data capture:

Online ticket sales

We looked at how many arts organisations offer online ticket sales. As this is not something that is relevant to all arts organisations – art galleries for instance may have less need of an online ticketing system – the sample for this section was limited to 107 organisations including venues (defined as performing and visual arts organisations that host ticketed events), touring companies and festivals.

Graph showing how many arts organisations offer online ticket sales.

Most venues (89%) offer some form of online ticket sales, the majority of them (76%) through their own in-house system, although 11% of venues still do not offer any online sales. Touring companies are least likely to sell their own tickets, with 62% sending audiences to an external ticketing site (mostly the venue) or a service like Eventbrite, and nearly a quarter with no online sales option at all.

Online data capture

Another part of the research looked at the kinds of information organisations request from users when on their websites. The sample for this section covers all 173 Scottish organisations.

What’s most interesting here is the wide range and relative lack of consistency we see in terms of data capture across organisations. Organisations in the sample were most likely to ask for email address information with 77% of them offering an email newsletter sign up on their website.

The next most common data requested in online forms is name (69%), postcode (28%) and other address information (13%). Additional pieces of data requested include: interests (usually in regards to segmenting email newsletter contents), age, gender, phone number, how users heard about the organisation, profession, region or other general comments.

These findings raise a couple red flags:

  • Requests for potentially unnecessary data
  • The relatively low number (less than a third) of organisations gathering postcode data

At Culture Republic we deal with data on a day-to-day basis and would advise organisations not to gather data that they do not actually use. Whilst there will be cases where there are good reasons for gathering data such as ‘profession’ or ‘region’, we would advise any organisation against collecting much of this information ‘just in case’.

Excluding a postcode could be part of a wider a trend toward online marketing for more targeted and cost effective engagement. We know from anecdotal evidence that many organisations are moving away from print brochures or are printing fewer for mainly non-postal distribution such as brochure stands or door drops. Some organisations might also gather postcode data at a later date in their relationship with customers, which would not show up in this research. However, Culture Republic would encourage arts organisations to prioritise gathering postcode data because of the intelligence it can reveal. With this one small piece of information comes a large amount of useful market and demographic information, so give it a higher priority.

What’s Next?

Culture Republic is crunching the data from our wider survey of CRM and ticketing practices in arts organisations across Scotland right now. Watch out for more on these findings in early in 2016, building a clear picture of the knowledge and infrastructure around operational technology in Scottish arts and cultural organisations.