Businesses and organisations have been talking about return on investment (ROI) for so long that it’s often an assumed goal for any commercial project. But what about when the success of a project doesn’t solely come down to the bottom line?
Apps in the heritage and regeneration sectors are a good case in point. When your aim is to create a memorable visitor experience, it’s difficult to link that intangible feeling to pure profit.
So, if we can’t talk about return on investment, how should we report on the success of these projects? Simple, we need to talk return on objectives.
What is your ‘why’?
At its root, ROI is an accounting instrument: it measures the profit gained as the result of a one-off capital project (in other words, total revenue less total cost attributable to the project). This is all well and good for investment bankers, but for a business that uses marketing as a key strategy for driving sales and engagement, things are rarely so simple.
This is because ROI doesn’t necessarily complement your ‘why’. Establishing what you want your app to do is an essential first step in understanding the outcome you’re looking for. What is the purpose of building it? To attract a new demographic to your site? To encourage repeat visits? To build awareness of new exhibitions? Each of these is a measurable outcome, but it might not improve your bottom line.
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ROI measures fall short when additional revenue cannot be directly attributed to a project or when revenue is not the primary measure of success. For heritage apps, this is often the case, which can make ROI a flawed yardstick of effectiveness when used in isolation. Focusing on broader objectives rather than revenue alone will give you a richer perspective on the performance of your app.
For many heritage apps, their worth is in delivering an outstanding visitor experience. More than that, it’s in enhancing an already rich and enchanting event through the use of digital storytelling and placemaking. It’s in providing a great visitor journey from start to finish, both logistically and creatively. To capitalise on the true value of heritage apps, we need to shift our thinking towards metrics with meaning.
Measurements that mean something
Once we have established the ‘why’ of building an app, we can identify objectives that will allow us to track success meaningfully and improve upon it. Heritage apps often exist to enhance the visitor experience, both practically and emotionally, and provide feedback for future developments. Therefore, examples of objectives might include the following:
- Enhancing the visitor journey through storytelling. How engaged did the visitor feel? How often and for how long were the storytelling features of the app used during the visit?
- Supporting the visitor’s practical needs from start to finish. Did the visitor have all their questions answered before the visit? Were they able to find the facilities on the day of their visit with ease? If there was a problem, was it solved effectively?
- Delivering a seamless customer experience across all platforms of interaction. Does the information and branding across the website, the app and the site of interest itself paint a consistent picture?
- Identifying footfall trends during different days and times. When are people visiting? At what times? Are there any demographic groups visiting more often on certain days?
- Identifying the most and least popular exhibitions. Which exhibitions are being visited the most? How long is the dwell time?
By translating these objectives into relevant KPIs, we can measure success in a useful, actionable way. For engagement, this could be social media interactions or visitor reviews. If your aim is to attract a younger audience to your site or experience, you need to have a way to record and report on the age demographics of visitors, which could be as simple as at the point of sale. It’s a simple equation: Determine the goal of your experience, find an accurate way to monitor it, and report against the goal.
Asking the right questions will generate insights that can, in turn, be used to create a better user experience.
Mobile apps help heritage and regeneration sites to bring the visitor experience to life in ways which were unimaginable just a handful of years ago. Reducing the worth of these apps to a financial equation undermines their true value and distracts from the bigger picture: creating unforgettable experiences for visitors and fostering a sense of place in sites of special interest. The best measure of app success is in ROO, not ROI.