17th September 2020

Fast Tracking Digital Transformation During the Pandemic

Martijn van der Heijden
Head of Strategy

In our latest webinar, we looked at how organisations responded on the pandemic. Our speakers may have had to stop physical learning programmes, member events and attraction visitors, but moving digital proved to open up new possibilities for them as well!

Pivoting from classroom to ‘The ultimate dialogue adventure’ online

Lucy Hayter, Head of Generation Global, the flagship education programme of the Tony Blair Institute for Global Change, told how as a result over Covid-19 over 1 billion students worldwide could not go to school. Schools went into lockdown, teachers and students were stuck at home, and unable to follow the Generation Global curriculum which this had been designed for the classroom. So very quickly Generation Global decided to work with Deeson to produce an online version that was directly accessible to students aged 13-17.

It was launched within 3 months of inception, with 1200 user accounts created since (despite summer holidays). Lucy’s key lessons:

  • Work closely together as an organisation with designers and developers. Involve them early on to develop a shared idea, gauge availability & begin to scope the work. Generation Global and Deeson kicked off with a two-day strategy sprint using online collaboration tools such as Mural, to identify the problem & develop a solution.
  • Agile delivery methods provide control when working to a tight timeframe and budget. Using Kanban methodology, Generation Global’s digital lead could decide daily on what to prioritise. More details on this in our blog about this project.
  • Still, be prepared to go over budget to polish your MVP a little - a contingency of approximately 10% is useful. Only when you start developing it you find out what exactly you are building, and what would make it even better!
  • Decide what’s important for launch and accept that other things have to wait. In the case of Generation Global for example integrated video conferences proved to be too complex for an initial release. The upside: they can now delight users with additional features added over time.

From 25 meetings a year to weekly webinars and daily email bulletins

Bernard Donoghue painted vividly how tourism, the UK’s fifth industry and the country’s third largest employer, was hit first by Covid-19, hit hardest by lockdown, and will take longest to recover. This was felt severely by the 72 UK attractions that are a member of ALVA, the Association of Leading Visitor Attractions, of which Bernard is the chief executive. National Trust, Historic Environment Scotland, Royal Collection Trust (Buckingham palace), Harry Potter film studios, and the biggest museums, zoos and gardens across the UK each normally have over 1 million visitors a year - but suddenly went to zero.

Lockdown also affected ALVA. Normally it organizes 1 physical event per two weeks. Working groups like security, fundraising, membership or digital meeting twice a year to share insights, hear from experts (like Deeson) and learn from each other what’s happening in the marketplace. Overnight, this was replaced by daily email bulletins (142 to date) and 23 weekly webinars. Most of these were themed around reopening, from hygiene, safety and security, and how to market yourself during lockdown.

As is often the case, the move to digital opened up a whole new audience. The average viewing rate of the webinars was a whopping 800 visitors, from the UK, but also from other countries. Generously opening up to an audience beyond ALVA’s membership, didn’t only result in recognition of sector leadership, and new contacts with peer organisations, it also resulted in 5 new members for Alva. That's a 7% increase - and without any member leaving!

Attractions diversifying business models

Bernard also spoke about how ALVA’s members used digital to remain in contact with their audiences during lockdown, even improving some income streams. For the London Transport Museum's Shop and those of many other attractions, 2020 will be their most profitable year to date. Attraction profited from the desire of people to purchase things that gave them enjoyment but also to support organisations they like. The majority of attractions also reported an increases in their membership, some up to even 25% above last year. Happily many people in the UK want their favourite cultural institutions to survive this crisis!

These profits were partly enabled by attractions staying in touch with their audiences with digital content, from zoo cams to downloadable games, and guided tours by curators to behind the scenes tours. Clearly, giving people the opportunity of a free VIP experience, made people feel even more connected - and hopefully gets them to visit as soon as an attraction has reopened. Even then, attractions can use every (digital) income stream they can develop, as with social distancing they can only sell about 30% of their usual ticket numbers.

Flexible digital platforms, for everyone

At Deeson, we are proud to work with organisations like Generation Global and ALVA members such as Royal Collection Trust and ZSL (London Zoo) on their digital transformation journey. Especially now. What we shared during the webinar is that although we all learnt you cannot see what the future holds, you can do a few things to get more resilient and ready to change:

  • Build your digital platforms to be flexible, so it is you who decides what to do and not your CMS, and you can change not just your text, but also page layouts and even user flows quickly. design and develop with all audiences in mind.
  • Accessible websites are not only essential for those with disabilities, but have proven to be easier for all users - reducing the amount of people trying to contact you via phone.
  • Have a measurement framework in place, so you are aware of what people are doing on your website, and where you can improve to serve them even better.

At Deeson, we partner with organisations to deliver proven digital strategies and resilient platforms. If you like to find out more about how we can help you transform, please get in touch. Or follow us on Twitter or Linkedin to learn about our next webinar!