Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Arts Professionals and Commercial Web Innovators: Trends to Engage Customers

Commercial web innovators such as Schwab, FedEx, OnStar, and eBay are some industry leaders who are developing strategies and tactics to engage customers online. David Zanca, SVP e-Commerce Technologies, with FedEx and Chris Murphy, Senior Executive Editor, with Information Week, hosted an Internet Evolution Webinar this morning to help explain leadership thought in developing and building valuable business relationships. The concepts being used in the commercial sector are directly applicable to the arts. For example, Schwab uses technology to listen to non-customers. OnStar relies on users for developing research. eBay uses in-person forums and data for information.

1. The arts community must continue to capitalize on improvements to technology access. Access creates an extended marketplace. This in turn creates value and improves overall quality of life.

2. Connectedness, communities, and similar interest forms (i.e. MySpace, Second Life, Yahoo Groups, Craigslist) will help to continue to create a marketplace that transcends time, space, information, and other previous obstacles. Increased access to technology results in increased personal satisfaction, business expansion, national economic growth, higher expectations, innovation, and investment. Similar personal interests will continue to drive community attraction - if you're interested in race-car art, equestrian art, or Japanese silk weaving - there's a community of like-minded enthusiasts for you.

3. The online arts community must work to create seamless electronic transactions and simple integration; key to improved business sales. One-stop "clicking" is imperative. Your gallery customers, museum attendees, and art community must be able to perform the intended action on one site (in one sitting) without having to click over to PayPal to pay for an artwork, or FedEx to ship an item, or worse - having to constantly click back and forth between a home page and various screens where art work is being displayed.

4. The arts world must shift from a "destination" perspective (i.e. clicking on to a particular museum) to a "connection" perspective (i.e. what can I do once I get to the museum - how does the museum connect me to the arts, to upcoming events, to resources, or to other people). Think of your site as a portal or a gateway. To achieve this, the arts world must continue to talk to all different segments of the population, must examine changes in the arts marketplace, and must strive to understand the available functionality of new technologies (i.e. how can we use Blackberry technology to improve arts awareness and advocate arts participation?)

5. Arts professionals must listen to and strive to remain aware of shifts in how people are working and what they need to perform their functions. This is particularly important in fundraising, development, and public relations campaigns. If we can provide people the capability to use technology, we can integrate the services we offer - thereby facilitating the connections.

6. Have you thought about blog applications, social networking, instant e-mail campaigns, using high-end graphics, or techniques for sharing best practices and exchanging knowledge? The arts already has the benefit of being for and about people. The winning business strategies moving forward will be centered on services built around what's valuable to the people in our colorfully intelligent community.

7. Finally, the arts site simply has to be visually engaging, welcoming, and beautifully designed. Some recent estimates give the average computer user 3 to 5 seconds of "decision time" in initial determinations of whether they will stay and browse. The more your site is designed for your community, the more attraction you will ultimately create.