With many other attractions competing for the same visitors, aquariums and marine life centers many times find it challenging to increase their attendance rates. Visitors are much more likely to show ongoing support through visits and donations when they have positive experiences. Therefore, your aquarium should focus on creating the best possible visitor experiences!
Visitor experience is so much more than just the visit itself; make sure you take a holistic approach when you’re creating an engagement strategy for your visitors. Every interaction, from buying a ticket to booking an adventure and registering for a program to becoming a member, contributes to the public’s perception of your aquarium.
While providing incredible programs and excellent staff resources makes up a large chunk of the member experience, your strategy actually begins with the aquarium software you choose. Start the guest experience off right with excellent experiences in the areas of ticketing, registrations, reservations, membership management, and fundraising by choosing the best software solution for your organization.
If your aquarium is using a mix of software solutions to fulfill your online, front-gate, and back-office needs, you could be streamlining your operations by switching to a single solution specifically designed to support your unique business efforts. Using different software solutions for each need (e.g., separate systems for admission tickets, membership purchases and event registration) silos all your visitor data in unconnected programs. However a single streamlined system connects all of this data for a holistic approach to your engagement strategy.
Be sure your aquarium management software enhances your visitor’’s engagement by including the following features as integrated software elements:
When you are considering updating (or establishing) your new software strategy, be sure to choose a solution that supports online, onsite, and mobile sales, memberships and donations. It should address the needs of each individual operating department and the organization as a whole as well as the needs of the visitor. Let’s take a look at five great benefits of integrated software solutions for your aquarium.
Aquarium Management Software Feature #1:
Membership programs are an important element of any aquarium’s revenue strategy. Choose an aquarium management software solution that makes it easy to recruit, retain, and reward your members.
In terms of recruitment, your integrated member management features should enable your aquarium to:
- Effectively track member registrations for programs, rentals, and visits in order to identify trends and effectively market to prospective members.
- Advertise the discounts nonmembers could receive on merchandise or registrations were they to purchase a membership.
- Offer gift memberships that customers can give to friends or family members as a present for birthdays, holidays, etc.
With an integrated member management system as a part of your aquarium management software, your visitors can purchase memberships online or at the aquarium and immediately receive their membership benefits.
This also makes it easy for members to upgrade or downgrade their membership level without confusion about their benefits.
Don’t forget to welcome your new members with a welcome letter, new member discounts, benefit gift packages, and other such special benefits.
Member management solutions can also help your aquarium to engage members by tracking historical member directories and storing past membership engagements. For instance, if a member visits the aquarium one week, then rents a room for a birthday party the next week, all of this data is stored as a part of that member’s records. Using this information, your aquarium can set up strategic communications to actively engage that member.
When members can print membership cards at home or display them on their smartphone, their ticketing and registration process is that much easier, encouraging them to visit more often and attend more aquarium events.
Set up automatic reminders for members whose membership is about to expire, reminding them that it is time to renew with a personalized renewal letter.
Aquarium Management Software Feature #2:
Simplified Reservation Process
Reservations are an incredibly important educational opportunity to set up for school field trips and other group tours. However, scheduling these incredible opportunities can be a challenge.
Due to the reality of teachers’ schedules, many of them will likely be trying to book a field trip visit after regular business hours on nights and weekends. This means your team may find themselves juggling emails, phone calls, and forms to manually try to figure out how to meet the needs of each group. But what if all of this organizational work could be done online?
The best aquarium management software will simplify and streamline this process for your organization as well as the group leader booking the tour.
This management software reservation solution will offer features like:
- A comprehensive calendar that shows exactly what times, dates, and programs are available. With this feature, group leaders can take a quick glance at your calendar and choose the dates on which both parties are available for the group tour.
- Opportunities to save group information for a school or district to make it easy for teachers and other leaders to book programs now and in the future. They can be assured the billing documents will now, and forever, be sent to the right email address for processing.
- Custom booking forms so that your organization can collect all the necessary information for each reservation online. You may choose to customize forms such as the waivers or rental agreements (if necessary) so that the information you collect fits the specific needs of your aquarium.
When you set up online reservations for group visits, don’t forget to make it easy to find add-ons (like IMAX movies or an animal experience) and available discounts or promotions. No matter what experience you choose to offer to your groups, make sure your staff is informed about the time, date, and number of guests for each of the activities.
With integrated aquarium management software, you can easily offer and apply group discounts for your entire range of shows and interactive experiences.
Aquarium Management Software Feature #3:
Planning special events at an aquarium can be challenging, with hundreds of different details that need to be planned, managed, and track. Relying on an event management system that’s integrated with the enterprise-wide aquarium management system can streamline every aspect of creating, promoting, and managing successful events.
Effective event management software solutions provide flexibility to customize and simplify the event registration process.
When comprehensive event management features are a part of your larger aquarium management software, you’ll see streamlined processes such as:
- Automatic application of membership discounts and the option to upsell memberships during registration.
- An easy way to create, schedule, and send informational emails to everyone registered for an event.
- Stored visitor information (with secure logons) so registrants can easily complete forms without typing the same information multiple times.
- Promotions like immediate discounts on other purchases based on the event registration (or vice versa).
If you issue tickets for your events, make sure that your system allow you to assign a QR or barcode to each ticket, and allow attendees to print their tickets at home or present them on their smartphone. Then, you can easily scan tickets and receipts at the door, and change
Planning events for an aquariums is similar to the event planning process for museums, especially for things like member discounts, upsales and donation requests.
Be sure you track what types of events your supporters are registering for along with the other participant information. This data will help inform future campaigns and materials for marketing and fundraising efforts.
Aquarium Management Software Feature #4:
Merchandise sales are a proven way to increase revenue for your aquarium. Plus, most members and visitors love bringing home a memento remember their experience. Branded merchandise is also a great way to build community awareness.
Be sure you can build an online store through your aquarium management software solution.
Online merchandise sales, especially when integrated with the rest of your aquarium software, can help your organization manage inventory and sales both online and at your on-site gift shop.
Plus, support for online products sales enable your organization to upsell merchandise during other purchases. For example, you may offer event merchandise like customized event t-shirts during the online event registration process.
If your merchandise sales are fully integrated with member management, event management, admission ticketing, and other systems, you can create a complete range cross-departmental promotions designed to specially appeal to your guests.
Aquarium Management Software Feature #5:
Understanding and controlling exactly how and when your aquarium asks for donations has a big impact on both the campaign’s success and overall donor engagement. Fundraising solutions that are built into your aquarium management solution make it easy to target recipients, craft donation appeals and track the results.
Choose a software package that includes full-featured support for fundraising. With this solution your aquarium can ask for donations across multiple channels, ensuring that you reach the right people with the right appeal at the right time.
To maximize your fundraising efforts through your aquarium management software, consider the following effective strategies:
- Include a “Donate Now” button throughout your website.
- Present a donation request during every online purchase.
- Train cashiers to ask for an additional donation at any cash register point of sale (POS).
- Offer to round up the total price of a merchandise purchase as a donation method.
- Ask for donations through mobile POS at the end of exhibits or programs.
- Set up “adoption” programs with customized certificates and thank-you discount codes that can be used on other purchases.
To create the fundraising appeals that work best for your constituents, be sure you have the necessary information from your members, visitors, and donors.
This information can help you decide which will appeal best to your prospective donors and formulate an appropriate fundraising strategy.
These approaches really work! One organization reports that they raised approximately $100,000 in extra donations in the first year that they added a checkout donation request to their membership process.
For more information about software and how to make the most of your aquarium, zoo, museum or other cultural attraction, check out these resources:
- #1 Museum Management Software | What Does Your Museum Need? Take a page from your local museum when looking for aquarium management software; many of the best features are more similar than you’d think!
- Best 16 Membership and Association Management Software. Looking for more recommendations for membership software? Check out the top 16 picks by Double the Donation.
- Member Engagement: The Strategic Guide. If you already have a membership program, this comprehensive guide can help you make sure it’s as effective as possible.
Elissa Miller, M.Ed. is Communications Director for Doubleknot and ClearView CRM. As the former development director for a regional nonprofit, she’s passionate about helping nonprofits and youth-serving organizations effectively harness new technologies to streamline operations and support their missions.