50th Episode! We’re celebrating! And it’s all about museums using mobile wallets.

That’s right, we’ve made it to another milestone! Honestly, we don’t normally pay much attention to the episode count, but today it is our 50th episode and that’s something to celebrate.

When we started we were going to produce a new podcast every week, but that quickly became a drag on our time and energy, and we ended up going on hiatus until we changed our strategy.


Today’s episode is a case study about one of our clients, it’s a museum that use mobile wallets, iBeacons and geofencing like a duck to water.


[PODCAST 50: Museums using iBeacons is nothing new but this is a great case study.]


I think they’ve actually managed to teach us a thing or two about some of the off the wall possibilities there are for using mobile to really reach out and touch someone.

Bottom line, its the cheapest way to use mobile to get your message across. Rather than spending time and money (and more time and more money) building an app that a tiny fraction of people would download and use (if you’re lucky), you can leverage the hard work that people like Apple Wallet and some third party Android developers who make generic wallets have already done.



That means you’re spending your time managing campaigns, not IT staff, and your money on things that can help grow your business more efficiently.


[PODCAST 28: SMBs -Know the Difference – Mobile apps vs mobile wallet apps, part 2]


Moving back into the museum space, we aren’t allowed to use the name of the museum in the podcast, we couldn’t get them to approve that, although they did agree that we could do a dissection of their implementation. I think the director was a bit wary of a couple of the other museums that directly compete in their city finding out exactly how they were running their program.

They did most of it on a shoe string budget and they certainly don’t want others to copy them, not direct competitors anyway, so if we used their name, it would be sure to get picked up by Google or some newswire and then their secrets would not be safe with us any longer.

These guys have seen a big increase in a couple of key areas –

  • Gift shop merchandising
  • Time spent in specific exhibits being the other.

By transitioning to mobile, using iBeacons, it’s made a tremendous difference in the responses they are seeing from attendees of the museum. Also, funneling traffic between exhibits by using mobile to manage the traffic flow.

There’s one drawback to using mobile wallet passes instead of a stand alone app, but there are a ton of drawbacks to trying to get people to install and use an app they don’t want. It’s also much cheaper and cost effective to go BYOD with visitors to the museum – and it can give them a sense of value because they’re not paying to rent one of those little devices that has the narration built into it, even though overcoming the loss of revenue by removing those from use was also a concern for our clients.

The drawback – each individual mobile wallet pass can only have 10 iBeacons programmed to trigger a response.

If there’s an exhibit that has a lot of items in it, a lot of things to see, and you want to curate the exhibit, you need to think carefully about how to set this up.

Our clients already had a WiFi system in place that they use to monitor traffic in the museum but not to collect data, they didn’t try to marry the two systems, although they can now do much more advanced data analytics because of running parallels than they could with the dumb recorder devices.


The museum effectively sets up zones, for the exhibits and creates a master pass for the specific exhibits.


So far, so easy!


They then use the iBeacons to trigger lock screen notifications for the master pass.


The back side of the master pass is a little mini hub that contains all the content for the exhibit but all of it is divided into sections – so the first iBeacon that triggers a lock screen notification pushes the attendee to go to the back of the pass and to click the top link on the pass.

Keep in mind that the museum provides the wifi for free to the guests, as mentioned, they want to get users to sign in to it, to keep of track their progress and how much time they spend in a particular place by the wifi monitoring.

Again, they’re not keeping any personalized data or even recognizing the users via the Wifi, they are just watching the device that’s logged in make its way through the museum, and they can get stats on how much time a device remained in a certain location versus another one.

The link at the top of the pass simply flips the user onto a web page – a responsive web page – that adapts to their screen size and contains the curated bits for the exhibit, in a specific order that matches the layout of the exhibit. So when Joe is in the first room of the exhibit and he clicks the link on the page, there is a linear list of items, expandable items, that detail the various pieces in the exhibit.

Remember, these guys were working with a shoestring budget on this implementation, and they really spent some time working out how to get the most out of the 10 iBeacons per pass limit, not wanting to rely on geofencing.

Since the museum itself can often block location signals from proper transmission due to the construction and furnishings in the building. It’s also really hard to narrow down a geofenced location to a very small space, it’s just not designed to do that, it is more of a broad location trigger.

A geofenced trigger is used on the front door of the two facilities they think are the most competitive with them – the reminder that Museum X is offering a 50% discount on museum membership today, use offer code BLAHBLAH at the front desk – with different codes based on what institution the guy was standing in front of at the time.

By creatively relying on the web pages to do the work for carrying the curation load, that left plenty of available triggers for other things. One big one that people apparently really appreciate is advanced notice of where the restroom is that is closest to the exhibit. Again, with the Wifi location tracking for signed in devices, it wasn’t hard to figure out that restroom usage pretty much doubled when people were told where to find them.

Overall time spent in an exhibit also went up, so perhaps not having to run around and find a toilet causes a person to spend more time looking at art, who really knows?

We also have a point, about 3/4 of the way through the exhibit, where they decided to use the daisy chain feature of the pass, and they send a lock screen notification that offers the attendee the chance to download another pass (its actually the last link on the back of the pass, but its kind of hidden until it’s brought to your attention) that will give them discount offers in the restaurant, the gift shop, and on museum membership purchases.

Those who are members of the museum are sent a link when they buy their membership, to a different pass, that is members only, that they are instructed to install. This pass is a permanent membership pass that lives on their mobile phone, and can be used to gain admittance to the museum – the same ticket scanner that works on paper tickets purchased at the box office or online is compatible with the bar code system on the mobile wallet passes.


[PODCAST 41: The 5 Biggest Why’s of Mobile Advertising]


This is a great way to keep the member separate from the non-members when it’s time to do direct marketing to the installed passes. Those passes generally tend to stay in the phones for months, even years, after being installed, even if the user is no longer at the museum and the exhibit has long since been shuttered.

Our museum, as soon as one featured exhibit closes and another gets ready to open, they have a policy of sending out lock screen notifications to all installed passes for a big new exhibit, otherwise they tailor the messaging based on the previous exhibit, and they do this to generate excitement and keep people who might not read emails or see ads for the new stuff, to keep them in the loop.



Last but not least on the iBeacon triggers – we’ve got the restaurant and the gift shop, and the membership office, that actually trigger a notification when the user is in a specific location – which is not necessarily matched up like you would think. It turns out that when a user is in the restroom area inside the exhibit, they don’t care about gift shop passes, but they do click through and check out the restaurant menu. Weird, but that’s the data, we’re not judging anyone here.

Since the museum sets up the pass segregation well in advance of the exhibits, they are able to split the groups up by exhibit, by date of attendance, or even by the type of ticket or amount of money spent to acquire the tickets – especially when we’re doing mobile tickets for events or members that can be constantly updated and re-used for new or additional content, educational material or offers.

Wow, well thanks for joining us with for our breakdown of our 50th episode!