Covid-19 impact on global business vector

Historic data: is it history?

The era of Coronavirus created an 18-month crevasse in our databases. As we climb up the other side, what is the role of historic data?

With some questioning the usefulness of pre-pandemic datasets, Libby Papakyriacou argues that now more than ever, understanding historic data is crucial to recovery.

Over the past 18 months, big conversations about reshaping the relationship between arts and audiences have been taking place which are both essential and ambitious. Radical change is urgent in many cases, but will not come overnight. So it’s important not to lose sight of those audiences with whom you have an existing relationship – indeed the search for new audiences need not necessarily entail attrition of existing audiences at all.

1/ The world has changed but your customers haven’t

As our auditoriums begin to fill, and sales targets start knocking on the door, it’s easy to jump in and start firefighting, especially if resources are limited. But taking the time to look into your data will pay off. You’ll be able to:

  • Set targets more realistically
  • Have a good picture of who is and isn’t engaging
  • Streamline your communications.

Differentiating between those customers that are entirely new to you, and those who have a historic relationship will impact how you’ll want to communicate your offer.

Much as we may be tempted to pick up where we left off (and indeed, many upcoming shows were on sale at the time of the first lockdown), the customers behind the data may require handling with care.

The June/July 2021 Culture Restart survey showed that 22% of frequent arts attenders are not ready to book for at least another 3 months, while 64% hold future bookings.

Dividing bookers into buckets of those who haven’t returned yet, those who have a future booking and those who have attended already will help to focus communications, particularly when looking at past loyal attendees who haven’t yet made a booking.

How are you ensuring the work you have programmed appeals to this core audience? Do the necessary links exist between your customer data teams and your programming staff?

You may find that your usual brochure or email data selection needs refreshing to ensure that your target segments are aware you are back, safe to visit and have something of interest to them. Non-digital audiences will need particular attention – any messaging you’ve put on the website or Twitter isn’t going to reach them.

For many organisations, Baker Richards has developed a simple Covid Recovery Segmentation that tracks movement of audiences from pre-pandemic to post. Overlaying this with your usual segmentation or data selection methods helps to link the messaging you need to convey to those segments who are most receptive. Do your usual high-spend, ‘night out’ audiences need reminding of the fun to be had with dinner and your blockbuster show? Do your loyal, low-ticket price but high frequency bookers need informing of the latest discounts and subscriptions (especially if your subscription model may have changed)?

An example Covid Recovery Segmentation from Segmentation Engine

Segmenting historic data also serves to give a good steer of who your new patrons are, and how they might behave differently. An understanding of your past data is crucial to report on, and maximise the opportunities of, change. After all, if you don’t have a clear view of the baseline, how can you understand the change?

2/ The world has changed and so have your customers

 With seismic shifts in customers’ lives, you may find new bookers who are no longer commuting, and would prefer to experience the arts closer to home now. Students enjoying your city in 2019 will have been replaced with new faces. Geographical shifts in your data can be identified by comparing ‘old’ with ‘new’ to identify changes and gaps to address.

Overlaying geographical data with open demographic data (for example Office of National Statistics data in the UK) helps to illuminate more clearly who is or isn’t engaging with you. Think about how you’re targeting  those who aren’t currently engaging – particularly if you have objectives to address particular demographics.

Do you know why they’re reluctant to return? If not, join the Insights Alliance Missing Audiences survey now.

Baker Richards has combined data from multiple sources to map cultural engagement in the UK’s West Midlands for the 2022 Commonwealth Games

Setting realistic targets against which to benchmark will be more accurate, and ultimately more motivating, than wishful thinking: if a run of a challenging production with no name-brand actors didn’t typically hit more than 50% capacity before the crisis, it’s unlikely to do so afterward.

Working with the data

There are some considerations to bear in mind when working with your pre-pandemic data:

  • Think about how you want to refer to this ‘lost’ period. This isn’t a traditional lapse due to lack of will from the customer, so are you looking at retaining customers from 2019/early 2020?

    Someone who typically books a Christmas show each year is more likely to do so again, but might lapse this year and require more persuasion in 2022 – how are you going to mark them as ‘lapsed’ if it’s been 3 years since they last booked?

  • GDPR regulations might mean you have set boundaries around contacting customers who have booked in the last 3 or 5 years. Think about how this is going to impact your data selection and whether you need to revisit your workings on this.

  • For some postponed shows, some of your customers will have made a booking as far back as 2019 for a show that could now be in 2022. They are both ‘historic’ and ‘current’ at the same time.

While we switch gears from touchpoint and administrative messaging to active marketing and fundraising again, it’s easy to leave bases uncovered in the clamour. By layering the information from your current post-lockdown activity with your historic knowledge, you’ll get a great steer of who to target, and how to message to them – setting you up for the swiftest and most robust recovery possible.

Image by rawpixel.com

This article was first published by ArtsProfessional

Libby Papakricaou
Libby Papakricaou

Libby works with cultural organisations globally on data visualisation, modelling, forecasting and reporting.

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