• Blog >
  • Chester zoo and cti digital memberwise 2024 setting the stage for digital transformation

Chester Zoo's Head of Marketing, Memberships and Admissions, Helen Dean and CTI Digital's Strategy & Experience Director, Matt Smith, recently collaborated at the Memberwise Digital Excellence event in London.

Together, they delivered an insightful seminar sharing their insights on embracing transformation one step at a time, transforming customer experiences and how CTI helped Chester Zoo increase Gift Aid by £1 million through a/b testing and optimisation improvements.

Helen & Matt - Memberwise 2024

While Chester Zoo boasts a world-class reputation for animal conservation, their digital infrastructure lagged behind. Multiple, often siloed systems created internal challenges, inaccurate data reporting, and slow manual processes. Approaching CTI Digital, they envisioned a complete overhaul, armed with a technical brief. However, CTI recognised the importance of a deeper business understanding through discovery before diving into developing new tech.

Discovery became the first crucial step. CTI and Chester Zoo began with a collaborative effort to understand the zoo's existing infrastructure, systems, data landscape, and current setup. The initial scope of the digital transformation project was daunting, spanning years of potential development. Acknowledging this, CTI proposed a strategic shift: focusing on "small improvements for big gains."

This approach aimed at building the foundational blocks for future advancements while delivering immediate results. Chester Zoo, initially overwhelmed by the project's scale, embraced this strategy. They honed in on core areas – ticketing, booking, and CRM optimisations – to streamline operations and enhance the user experience.

To get internal support and stakeholder buy-in, Chester Zoo took a data-driven approach. They presented the negative impact of inaction – lost revenue due to cart abandonment and inefficient ticketing journeys. Highlighting the cost of "standing still" made the need for change undeniable.

Recognising the importance of data-driven decision-making, CTI also recommended the creation of new digital roles at Chester Zoo. A "Digital Transformation Lead" would manage the ongoing project, while an "Insight Manager" would focus on data and reporting. By segmenting members based on interests and behaviour, the zoo could gain valuable insights and tailor communications for greater impact. 

Additionally, CTI championed the upskilling of existing teams, ensuring everyone was equipped to navigate the digital transformation initiatives. 

Through a collaborative approach, a focus on immediate returns, and strategic team building, Chester Zoo and CTI Digital set the stage for a successful digital transformation journey.

User Research: Unlocking the Secrets to Success

Price Sensitivity with a Twist:

The research confirmed that visitors were cost-conscious. However, simply highlighting discounts compared to gate prices didn't significantly boost conversions. This revealed that visitors sought more than just saving money - they desired value beyond the ticket price.

Balancing Sales and Generosity:

While some tested changes improved conversion rates, they also unintentionally reduced donations and Gift Aid contributions. This highlighted the delicate balance between optimising for sales and encouraging charitable giving.

Raising Awareness of Chester Zoo's Cause:

A crucial finding was that a significant portion of visitors (45%) were unaware of Chester Zoo's charitable status, and an even larger majority (58%) didn't understand that ticket purchases directly supported the zoo's mission. This lack of awareness extended to Gift Aid, with 70% of visitors finding it confusing. The team realised that promoting Gift Aid effectively required first ensuring visitors understood its purpose and benefits.

Alignment for Impact:

Throughout the research phase, close collaboration ensured that CTI Digital and Chester Zoo prioritised testing the most impactful concepts. By focusing on the biggest questions and testing the largest concepts, they aimed to drive significant improvements across all three key metrics: conversion rates, donations, and Gift Aid.

Moving from Understanding to Action:

With these valuable insights, CTI Digital could carry out a/b tests and data-driven conversion rate optimisation (CRO) initiatives. 

Key takeaways from the seminar

  1. Technology as an Enabler:
  • Don't see technology as a standalone solution. Position it as a tool to enhance customer experience (CX).

  1. Taming the Tech Beast:
  • Legacy systems can be a hurdle. Chester Zoo dealt with a complex network of 10-15 systems. Start with a technical audit to understand your infrastructure.

  1. Balancing Act:
  • Striking a balance between immediate needs and long-term vision is crucial. Address short-term challenges while laying the groundwork for transformative change.

  1. Platform Power:
  • Identify the right platforms and integrate them seamlessly. Chester Zoo revamped its website (CMS), ticketing system, and CRM for a more connected experience.

  1. Knowing Your Members:
  • Segment your membership base to personalise experiences and communications. Chester Zoo used technology to gain valuable insights into member behaviour.

  1. Prioritise Foundations:
  • Focus on core functionalities first. Streamlining ticketing and data warehousing laid the groundwork for Chester Zoo's future innovations.

  1. The Power of Small Wins:
  • Look for opportunities for small improvements with big impact. Chester Zoo's simple A/B testing on gift aid options yielded a significant revenue increase.

  1. Invest in Expertise:
  • Create new roles like "Digital Transformation Lead" and "Insight Manager" to drive the change and make data-driven decisions.

  1. Communication is Key:
  • Ensure clear communication with stakeholders throughout the process. Chester Zoo's focus on "consultations" and "making sure everyone gets what they need" is a key ingredient to success.

  1. Service-Oriented Architecture (SOA):
  • Implement a service-oriented approach to integrate various systems seamlessly. This helps break down silos and create a unified customer journey.

  1. Upskilling Your Team:
  • Invest in training your internal team. Chester Zoo emphasises upskilling for a successful digital transformation.

By following these key takeaways, your business can leverage technology to create a seamless and engaging customer experience, just like Chester Zoo!

● ● ●