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How are museums using mobile?

Rebecca Atkinson, 14.10.2013
Findings from the MA’s 2013 mobile survey
This is the second time the Museums Association has carried out a survey of how museums in the UK are using mobile technology – in 2012, it partnered with Fusion Research + Analytics and members of the American Alliance of Museums (then the American Association of Museums).

This year’s survey ran from 16-28 June and was completed by 175 institutions.

2012: the results

In 2012, nearly half the UK museums surveyed offered mobile platforms – from museum-provided devices to mobile features such as QR codes and smartphone-enabled programmes.

QR codes topped the list of mobile features, with 22% of respondents using these, followed by museum-provided audio tours (18%) and smartphone apps (12%).

The 2012 survey also showed that visitor engagement was an essential goal of mobile programmes for museums, ahead of marketing and visitor demand.

Importantly, the survey showed that museums that have employed newer mobile technology features such as apps are more likely to want to take advantage of the full potential benefit of mobile.

In 2012, 54% of museums taking part in the survey offered no mobile features to visitors – a lack of budget, limited resources and knowledge were listed as the key barriers. More than 50% of all respondents said they had no dedicated budget for mobile.

The size of an institution didn’t dictate whether it had a mobile offer or not; one in five non-national museums offered some level of mobile features. But QR codes were most widely used by mid-sized UK museums, and apps were more popular with larger institutions.

Click here to download the full 2012 MA Mobile Survey report

2013: the results

One year on, and mobile has become slightly more embedded in the museum sector. The 2013 mobile survey shows that 50% of those taking part have a mobile offer and 19% plan to within the next 12 months. The remaining 31% have no mobile offer and no plans to introduce one in the next year.

QR codes remain the most popular mobile technology employed in museums; 63% of those surveyed with a mobile offer provide these. This is followed by: museum-provided audio tours (46%); mobile-optimised websites (45%); smartphone apps for Apple (39%); and smartphone apps for Android (36%).

The survey’s participants were asked to select three main objectives in offering mobile technologies. Providing additional content to visitors and creating a more engaging visitor experience were the most popular objectives, gaining 68% and 67% of votes respectively.

Less important is attracting new visitors (33%); keeping up with visitor demand (28%); and widening access for people with special needs (27%).

Three quarters of those surveyed said their mobile offer was targeted at all visitors, rather than specific groups such as teenagers, potential donors or foreign visitors.

Looking ahead to the next 12 months, museums will be considering many different types of mobile offerings. QR codes remain popular, with 66% of museums planning to provide these, as do apps for Apple and Android phones (54% and 57%).

And 70% of those surveyed said they are planning to bring mobile-optimised websites to visitors in the next year. 

Despite these plans, barriers to mobile remain. Insufficient staff time is cited as the main barrier for museums looking to increase their mobile offer (60%), followed by not having a dedicated budget (50%), the cost (41%) and structural barriers in venues (30%).

Those museums without a mobile offer and no plans to introduce one in the next 12 months cite the same barriers.

Click here to download the full 2013 MA Mobile Survey report


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Mark Magidson
Creative Director, Exhibition Plus
27.10.2013, 09:01
The use of QR codes may have topped the MA survey report - but are they any good? When was the last time you saw anyone scan a QR code? Compare this with how often you have seen someone take a photo with their phone - and the answer becomes rather obvious. MPV codes (Mobile Visual Search) - seem they way forward - see