On the Digital Transformation in the Museum Industry

We are, all of us, living increasingly digital lives.

Many art institutions are now examining digital culture and its impact and making use of various digital media, digital platforms and digital technologies to connect to new audiences and to engage in a dialogue with existing ones. According to the “JWT The Future 100” trend report, this is one of the major global trends of this year. In the same report, it is stated that consumers, especially the so-called Millennials, are now taking good design as a given when it comes to digital services and other commodities. How do these developments affect the museum industry?

First of all, for any art institution or museum organization to be able to create a strong, meaningful and comprehensive presence in the rapidly evolving digital world, it – like any other organization attempting to thrive there – needs to create a holistic digital strategy, preferably with measurable, attainable, realistic and timely goals. Add service-specific roadmaps and action plans, and keep updating the strategy as well as the related documents annually, and the organization is ready to start creating digital revenue.

As with many other projects, the best way to get started in creating a digital strategy is by benchmarking.

And when it comes to benchmarking the digital dimension, in the museum industry, one better get started with Tate.

Last year, Tate attracted almost one million unique visitors in its website per month. That makes almost 12 million online visitors per year.

What’s more, Tate has also conducted several in-depth surveys on who these website visitors are and what content they visit, and published the research results in the Tate website. Tate has also published numerous white papers on its digital projects online – including its digital strategy document.

Having a digital strategy is definitely a contemporary prerequisite for success in the web and the rest of the digital world.

But to build a truly digital brand, what has Tate done differently, compared with many other institutions?

Meet John Stack.

In order to achieve its goals in the digital world, Tate recruited a Head of Digital Transformation.

It was Stack who was the visionary and the architect of the Tate’s “fifth gallery,” its new online presence. Stack’s main task when collaborating with others on the digital in Tate was raising important questions about organizational structure, marketing strategy, product and service design, and return on investment, and asking, what would it take for Tate to be a truly digital organization?

The concise idea that Stack and his team eventually came up with was crucial for Tate’s success. It still forms the basis of Tate’s digital presence. That is the idea of “digital as a dimension of everything”.

I think this idea can be applied to any contemporary digital strategy.

According to Tate’s digital strategy document for the three-year period of 2013 to 2015, Tate’s audiences will have digital experiences that:

  • increase their enjoyment and understanding of art
  • provoke their thoughts and invite them to participate
  • promote the gallery programme
  • provide them with easy access to information
  • entice them to explore deeper content
  • encourage them to purchase products, join Tate and make donations
  • present an elegant and functional interface whatever their device
  • take place on the platforms and websites they use
  • minimise any obstacles they may encounter

Read more in the Tate website, see the SlideShare presentation on Tate’s digital transformation by John Stack, and check out the article on “finding the motivation behind a click” by John Stack and Elena Villaespesa: