For many cultural organisations, such as museums, theatres and arts venues, COVID-19 has meant a pivot to an online presence. But as attractions move through a phased period of reopening we have to ask: are online experiences here to stay?

by Rosalind JohnsonA Different View

Over the last three months, A Different View has put a variety of research projects ‘in the field’ to track consumer sentiment, the mood of organisations and their online intentions.

This has revealed an extraordinary growth in online consumption during the COVID-19 pandemic, in terms of cultural experiences, media viewing and health and wellbeing. Add to that last week’s Ofcom report revealing that on average people have been spending 25% of their day online while in lockdown, and we know that this is an area we all need to pay attention to.

The Met 360 project which can be enjoyed while social distancing due to coronavirus COVID-19

A 360 virtual tour of The Met

Online experiences in a post-COVID-19 era

A Different View, in association with Panelbase, conducted an e-survey with over 1,000 visitors to attractions and cultural venues in early June.

The report is available here. It looks at what visitors have been watching and participating in online while venues and attractions have been closed. While taking a yoga class or watching a new release film is right up there, so are live music performances and stand-up comedy.

The report explores what they say they will continue to watch. It also looks at what they feel they may continue to watch online in preference to going out. It makes interesting reading:

  • 64% of people say they will continue to watch or participate in online experiences even after the re-opening of attractions.
  • 48% say that they will continue to watch or participate in at least one of the listed online activities in preference to going out after lockdowns are lifted.
  • 21% said they paid to watch or participate in online experiences during the lockdown.

These are significant stats that can’t be ignored.

The report also highlights important variances in age, gender and life stage. These help us understand future online engagement opportunities both for programmers and marketers. The cultural sector was already able to pivot to online experiences before COVID-19. But the sheer explosion of content and audience reaction tells us that there’s plenty more to come.

Just looking at this week’s news we see The Royal Opera House building on its success of live streaming from Covent Garden with a programme of paid-for online experiences (at £4.99 a performance). And the Summer Solstice at Stonehenge received over 3.6 million views for its first-ever live stream of the event. The event, managed by English Heritage, normally attracts around 10,000.

Are online experiences here to stay?

Yes, they are. But what sort of unique experiences can the visitor attraction sector come up with next? It is an exciting space to watch.

A Different View is a strategic business consulting firm and full-service market research agency serving the attractions industry. The study was undertaken in association with PanelBase.

Top image © Raimond Spekking