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The National Aquarium Baltimore
Visitor Experience Analysis
The National Aquarium in Baltimore's mission is to deepen visitors' commitment to the aquatic world. They saw the building of emotional engagement as key to achieving this. Our work, which harnessed a methodology called Experience DNA™, gave them real insights into which parts of the aquarium gave visitors the most compelling experiences and where there were areas for improvement. As a result we were able to recommend the most effective investment routes for them to develop the experience and give them the confidence that this would deliver the results they were looking for.
A bit about The National Aquarium, Baltimore (NAIB)
The National Aquarium in Baltimore is Maryland's largest paid tourist attraction and employs around 300 people. It was founded in the 1970s as part of a harbour redevelopment scheme. Its world-class credentials were recognised early, when the US Congress granted it national status. In 2003 it joined with the National Aquarium in Washington DC to form a single organisation with two sites.
NAIB were thinking about master planning. They wanted to develop the aquarium in a way which would help visitors engage with their overall mission "to provide transforming experiences that inspire people to enjoy, respect and protect the aquatic world". They could see that strengthening the emotional connection with visitors was key to prompting the kind of behaviour they would like visitors to adopt.
The Aquarium also had some specific challenges regarding the physical side of the attraction and its flow. Before they invested in developments they wanted to understand properly the current experience they were offering and whether developments would help them deliver their overall mission.
How we got involved
We spent time looking at what they wanted to research and how to use the results to make things better. We recommended using Experience DNA™ to evaluate the visitor experience. They went ahead and were delighted at the level of detailed and the robust understanding this methodology gave them. It showed them in detail how visitors were using the aquarium and where the gaps were in the types of experiences visitors were having, or where they were being offered too much and becoming over loaded. The results were broken down by age group, so that the needs of young children could be compared with teenagers and adults. Most importantly the methodology revealed the psychological elements of the experience for each age group. By understanding how and when visitors were being psychologically engaged through things such as skills and senses, emotions, reaction and motion, they felt better able to develop their site in ways which would enhance visitors' emotional connections with the aquatic world.
- We looked at the relationship between pricing, capacity, and learning styles
- They gained solid evidence about where not to spend their valuable resources because visitor experience would not be enhanced
- By using Experience DNA™, we gave them a checklist to use for future exhibit developments, programming ideas and general visitor enjoyment, which worked across all departments
- Recommendations included more rest times by adding components such as a theater, more benches and seats
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