It may house the world's largest collection of toys and games, but when it comes to web metrics, The Strong isn't playing around. A site redesign helped the museum better gauge the ROI of visitors and increase stickiness.
The Strong Museum was founded in 1968 as the Margaret Woodbury Strong Museum of Fascination. In 1982, it opened in it's present Rochester, NY location, and rebranded as The Strong in September 2010.
TheStrong.org serves as an umbrella for the Strong's "play partner" organizations— the National Museum of Play, the International Center for the History of Electronic Games, National Toy Hall of Fame, the Brian Sutton-Smith Library and Archives of Play and American Journal of Play.
The various arms of the Strong target a variety of different constituencies, from families looking for a day out to toy collectors to scholars studying the sociological impact of play. "The website is a way to bring all those audiences together," says Suzanne Seldes, vice president of marketing.
About 600,000 people annually visit the Rochester museum, which has a $12 million annual budget, 40% of which is earned through membership and admission fees.
For many years, the number of unique visitors and clickthroughs to the site per month was the main metric used to gauge the success of the Strong's sites. But because the needs of the different audiences and what they want to find on the sites are so different, more customization was needed to get a better picture of what was driving the best traffic to the play partners' sites.
For example, the National Toy Hall of Fame site gets a lot of traffic from around the world when new inductees are announced, or when PR opportunities (like The Daily Show doing a piece chastising the museum for taking so long to induct the ball) generate a lot of interest. "We want to make those visits more sticky, and encourage visitors to spend more time on the site," says Seldes.
But the metrics for the physical museum are different. During school break weeks, the museum looks at visitors from nearby Rochester, Buffalo and Syracuse IP addresses. Their needs and behavior may be quite different.
"While the Toy Hall of Fame is more an information site, the museum is a different animal and they need to measure how well a visit to the website drives visits to the physical museum," says Andrew Lucyszyn, director of web analytics, Sigma Marketing Group, which helped The Strong redesign the sites. "We looked at their overall web analytics patterns in general, and combined that with actual attendance figures, to graph how people are getting through the doors."
"We want to people quickly to the directions to the museum page," so they can make a visit, Seldes adds.
This means if the site is doing online banner advertising, they can analyze the clicks from those ads to see the propensity of people viewing that ad to look for parking or direction information.
Admission tickets aren't sold online, so other information has to be use to infer the site's influence, such as visits to cost of admissions page. "Actual attendance for nonmembers lined up with that when we looked at it," says Lucyszyn.
The museum currently has about 18,000 member households. Through analysis, the museum has found that a member who joined online was 15% more likely to join on a higher patron level than those who joined in the actual museum, and more likely to purchase an add-on, like the option to add a guest or nanny to the membership.
"We're testing how we can position the membership online with different offers or verbiage," she says.
The Strong has a strong brand presence in the Rochester region, notes Lucyszyn, meaning that generic paid search in that area was wasted promotional dollars. "When you're a lean organization like a nonprofit or a museum, any cost savings are important."
Instead, the Strong is working to make its local search more relevant, says Seldes. "We're trying to buy smarter and not do as many generic terms, highlighting things like traveling exhibits that wouldn't come up in a natural search."