How Libraries Can Leverage Data and Increase Patronage

  1. Home
  2. 2017
  3. August

big-libraryLibraries have come a long way toward shaking off their image as irrelevant institutions from a bygone era. Today’s libraries should adapt to the evolving needs of their communities by leverage data to improve their services and operations with even greater impact — and attract the visitors who sustain these institutions in the first place.

Use Data to Determine Your Community Demographics

What’s one simple mistake that organizations of all kinds make? Thinking you know your customers or patrons. It’s entirely possible that your library may know some of its demographics but even more likely that you’re missing the complete picture. Leverage data from many publicly available sources to “fill in the blanks” about the diversity of your patrons. You might start with these:

  • gov: Try comparing your patrons’ addresses with the addresses of the population area your library is in to see how much of the area you’re truly serving.
  • City or county government agencies: These groups typically manage a treasure trove of demographic and geographic data.

Take It to the People

Do you want to know what the patrons of your library want? Just ask them. There are many simple tools you can use to poll your patrons and community members to discover what, exactly, they want from you. Social platforms are especially useful for gathering feedback on the kinds of programs, activities and media your community wishes your library would offer. For example, if your library is in a predominantly retired community, you might want to shrink the young adults section in favor of titles that appeal to a more senior crowd. Or your social polling might reveal that your community of busy and tech-savvy young families wants to see more children’s literature added to your audiobook collection.

Leverage data from social polling and other direct-to-patrons methods to better align your library’s assets and activities with your community’s needs, which will aid in driving foot traffic through your doors and boosting your relevance among key constituents.

Data on Display(s)

How do you decide which books get the “front and center” treatment? There’s only so much room to promote a handful of titles so be sure to leverage data to ensure your book displays are achieving maximum impact. Technology such as people counters can help you discern which displays are drawing the most attention, and which are being largely overlooked.

From there, you can use the insights gained to inform future displays; for example, feature the same popular novelist whose mass paperback thrillers were a hit the last time around, or set up an eye-catching Harry Potter display including both the novels and films around Harry Potter’s birthday, July 31st.

Program Popularity

You labor diligently on planning your annual programs calendar. Keep that diligence going by leveraging objective data from people counters to get a handle on which of your programs are the stars. Because libraries typically operate under tight budgets, you can’t afford to spend precious dollars on poorly attended programs. Take action: for example, if a monthly program bombs for the first quarter of the calendar, replace it for the remainder of the year with something similar to an activity that attracts good attendance.

And in planning your cadence of programming, keep in mind that the programs that add value in our tech-first world may be different from successful programs of the past. Don’t be afraid of new ideas, especially if you’re leveraging data and researching other institutions’ successes to arrive at a modern new programs calendar.

If your library wants to increase patronage and community relevance, consider all of the ways that data can be your secret weapon in serving a new generation of library visitors.

How Retailers are Using Virtual Reality to Engage Customers In-Store

  1. Home
  2. 2017
  3. August

If you think virtual reality is a passing fad designed for hipsters and Millennials, you might want to think again. Some prominent retailers are leveraging retail virtual reality to provide unique experiences and give customers a reason to visit the physical store. Once seen as a technology largely for video gamers, VR has shaken off that association and is now becoming accepted in many areas of our culture, utilized in environments such as movie theaters to amusement parks and now: the retail world.

Forging an Emotional Connection

Consider the example of TOMS, known for its “one to one” philosophy of giving a pair of shoes to a needy child for every pair of footwear it sells. The company uses retail virtual reality as a compelling and novel way both to engage with customers and inspire them to stop by a store for an experience they can’t get anyone where else.

Two years ago, TOMS acquired Samsung virtual reality headsets for use in 100 stores, giving visitors the ability to immerse themselves in a 360-degree video of children at a Peruvian school receiving free shoes as part of TOMS’s one-for-one brand promise. In 2016 as TOMS commemorated its 10th anniversary, the brand approached AT&T, a longtime partner, to create a retail virtual reality video that followed one customer’s trip from California to Colombia to see firsthand the actual impact his TOMS shoe purchase had on a child.

“Virtual reality is the greatest technology I’ve seen to create empathy,” TOMS founder Blake Mycoskie told Co.Create.

That’s one of the greatest assets of retail virtual reality: forging a potent emotional connection by letting your customers truly experience what your brand is all about.

Stop Guessing, Start Visualizing

Home remodeling and renovations are big business, projected to total more than $154 billion for the year ending September 2016. It’s no wonder, then, that home improvement giant Lowe’s has invested in retail virtual reality as a way to improve the often complex and costly process of renovating your home.

Lowe’s retail virtual reality program is first and foremost practical and goes a long way toward solving a top customer challenge: visualizing precisely how a remodel or room refresh will truly look instead of just seeing a renovation piecemeal. Select Lowe’s stores include what’s called a Holoroom in which customers can use an Oculus Rift headset to experience a 3D visualization of the area they want to redo, complete with the precise room measurements they upload and the paints, fixtures, appliances and anything else they want to check out in the space. Shoppers can continue the experience at home as well using a Google Cardboard Viewer, distributed at no cost by Lowe’s, to view their virtual reality mockup on YouTube 360.

Enhance Branding and Customer Experiences In-Store and Outside of the Store

The North Face, an outdoor apparel and gear brand, sees retail virtual reality as a way to further strengthen its brand. Its virtual reality videos have featured classic outdoors activities and locations, such as rock climbing in Utah’s rugged Moab Desert and Yosemite National Park in California, as well as highlighting far flung locations such as Nepal. The coolest part? The North Face achieved the latter by giving consumers Google Cardboard viewers so they could see the Nepal video on their very own mobile devices wherever and whenever.

The takeaway here is that the retail virtual reality experience that you create doesn’t have to be confined to your four walls. But by keeping your brand in the front of the consumer’s mind with VR, you can encourage future trips to the store.

In sum, retail virtual reality aids retailers in “showing” instead of “telling.” It brings to life unique and memorable experiences that not only extend your brand and drum up footfall but also, as in the case of businesses like Lowe’s, boost conversion by erasing lingering concerns and doubts your shopper might have. Not simply a novelty, retail virtual reality today has emerged as a highly effective customer engagement tool for forward-thinking brands.

After you’ve stepped outside of reality and into the virtual world to drive traffic and engage your customers, it’s time to measure your results. Installing people counters, or upgrading your current counters to the latest technology is a cost effective and more importantly, accurate way to benchmark your efforts.  You’ll be able to quickly ascertain whether you have hit the mark or missed by a mile.