2.1. The Conversion Funnel and Its Phases
The conversion funnel, also referred to as a marketing funnel, has been at the epicentre of the marketing literature and research for the past years. The funnel model is widely used in the area of marketing and sales practitioners as it is very useful to postulate how consumers behave throughout the decision-making process [17
]. During this process, customer selects a museum to visit, satisfying a purchase intention and purpose of visiting, minimizing a perceived risk and maximizing the benefits of visiting [7
The conversion funnel model as we know it today can be defined as the strategy through which a company determines the phases to get in touch with potential customers in order to achieve a final purpose, which can be closing a sale or getting a loyal customer [20
]. In the digital marketing field, the author of [21
] states that the conversion funnel refers to a methodology that defines the journey that users take from when they visit a website to when they reach the final conversion goal.
Marketing has mostly associated the above-mentioned process with information processing theory [18
]. This theory is the basis of most customer behaviour models and suggests that customers must go through different reflection stages during the purchase decision process until reaching the final decision: (1) problem or need recognition, (2) search for product information, (3) evaluation time, (4) purchase and (5) post-purchase satisfaction [17
]. This also makes it similar to the widely applied AIDA model (from its acronym attention, interest, desire and action), developed in 1898 by St. Elmo Lewis [24
]. The aforementioned model was designed as a framework for planning and evaluation of persuasive marketing communication efforts [25
The utility of the conversion funnel is vast. First of all, it is a fundamental process to understand how the customer behaves, as well as being a crucial method for companies and advertisers to know how to sell a product or a service [26
]. Secondly, the structuring device of the model makes it very useful [19
]. Its funnel-shaped representation makes it very easy to understand and visualise the customer’s entire journey. In this vein, the funnel is wide at the top and narrow as its bottom is reached. The sales funnel narrows as customers go through it, representing the potential loss of customers at the lower parts of the funnel [27
Although there are several variants of the conversion model process that have been proposed over the last few years, the most widely accepted and used model has four basic phases, or stages: awareness, consideration, conversion and loyalty [22
]. This labelling scheme is precisely the one we used in this research.
According to this model, the conversion funnel starts with the ‘awareness’—or attraction—phase. This first stage is maybe one of the most important, not only because it is at the top level of the funnel and is the starting point of the whole process but more importantly because it is the stage in which the customer is aware of the existence of a product, service or brand [30
] that can solve a certain need or desire [22
]. If the customer is exposed, for example, to an advertisement or lands on a website, this state of awareness can be generated [17
]. Therefore, the objective of every company is basically to generate sufficient brand awareness [1
] through the creation of interesting and attractive web content. We can even define this brand awareness as simply the ability of the potential customer to remember a brand and associate it with a specific category or product line [36
]. Then, it is necessary to gain presence, introduce the brand to potential customers and capture their attention [27
]. In the case of museums, this is of considerable importance because 70% of museum visitors specifically look for information about museums online prior to visiting [14
Once the customer is aware of the existence of a brand, they will try to acquire more knowledge about a specific product or service [22
]. The customer will consider various options to buy from [33
]. Thus, the customer conversion funnel continues with ‘consideration’—often called the research phase. During this stage, it is normal for the customer to view a specific product page in more detail. This is where the customer’s interest can be peaked, potentially leading to a willingness to carry out the purchase action [30
]. The main goal of the marketer during this second stage is to give users as much information as possible and persuade them to remain on the website long enough for them to seriously consider the brand against its competitors [37
]. Good performance at the consideration stage is based on providing useful information, generating good leads and interacting with content on social media [29
The third stage is ‘conversion’—often called the purchase or action phase. Only those customers who are truly interested in the purchase will remain in this stage of the funnel [32
]. The conversion stage has often been defined as a key phase in which the customer takes action and completes the transaction. This stage encompasses the whole purchase process, from when a decision is clear until the purchase order is finally made [33
]. It is important to provide the necessary facilities and information to customers so that they can carry out the purchase action by, for example, making the payment and checkout process as simple and as quick as possible in order to provide a satisfying experience [38
]. The choice of a strategy that has a focus upon either quality or promotion helps stimulate the conversion as well [39
Finally, the last step in the funnel is related to ‘loyalty’ and post-purchase satisfaction indicators. This last stage is sometimes referred to as the retention
phase, where the customer becomes an evaluator and has the opportunity to advocate on behalf of the brand [29
]. According to [41
], it is imperative to engage the customer to inspire and cultivate loyalty. So, the main goal in this final stage is to establish loyalty programmes, customer communities or social platforms to create strong and close relationships [29
]. In the case of museums, customer loyalty can be strengthened by a well-designed website [1
] and the participatory voices of museum curators [16
Although those four steps may seem like an easy process, a multitude of factors influences the customer’s journey from becoming aware of the product to making the final decision to purchase [42
]. A significant number of people will know that a brand or a product exists; only some of them will be truly interested—even fewer will become customers by making a purchase. Finally, only a small fraction of those will be completely satisfied and develop a high degree of loyalty [19
]. The reality is that only a few visitors complete the transaction, and only those customers who have fully consolidated the previous stage go to the next level [37
]. In an ideal model, the customer moves from the top of the funnel to the middle phases and finally at the bottom. In the digital journey, the lines between the four phases have become blurred. It means that the customer can enter the conversion funnel at any of four phases and go back and forth across the phases [33
]. Proper management and understanding of the funnel make it easier to spot potential gaps where customers drop out and never convert; entrance phases; and moving directions.
2.2. The Conversion Funnel Metrics as Criteria to Segment
The conversion funnel model enables tracking customer behaviour throughout the sales process with the help of properly chosen metrics [5
]. In academic and professional literature [43
], we can find many examples of metrics and techniques to measure the different stages of the conversion process. Selection of the proper combination of metrics as criteria to segment the online marketplace is a challenging task even for the most sophisticated marketers [46
]. After reviewing several research works, we selected the most suitable metrics for the segmentation task.
The first stage of the conversion funnel, i.e., attraction, will be measured with one of the most efficient consumption metrics to measure brand awareness: traffic generation. Through this metric, it is also possible to know the number of visits to a website and its significance [45
]. Measurement of visitor statistics, according to [44
], is a core activity for any business. Although there are several techniques for collecting a website’s traffic data, we will use the one in which data is provided directly by internet service providers—webmasters [47
]. Using this technique is a great advantage since the traffic of a large number of websites can be collected on the same site [48
]. On this basis, the first hypothesis is put forward as follows:
The attraction metric of traffic might be used for describing the segments of the museums’ online users.
In the second stage, that is, the consideration conversion phase, links to social networks are of considerable importance because, at the consideration phase, social media has a huge potential to increase traffic, engagement, encourage innovation, and ideation, and to generate leads [29
]. Efficient marketing communication in social networks shifts the customer to the purchase stage of the conversion funnel but by making the consideration stage longer inasmuch as it causes a zero moment of truth [50
]. Consequently, the active links to social networks are of considerable importance since they provide information [51
] and share people experiences [52
]. Social media engages consumers and makes the involvement stage of the decision journey more important in the context of music festivals [53
] and museums [54
]. Likewise, on each web page, we measure the existence of links to official profiles on social networks [55
] because social media can impact positively or negatively segment different groups during the consideration phase [56
]. This influence of social media is through conversations and word of mouth [56
], and it addresses a two-way contact in online museum platforms [54
]. On this basis, Hypothesis 2 is proposed as follows:
The interest metric of social media links on websites might be used for describing the segments of the museums’ online users.
Blogs afford cultural organisations the opportunity for direct and personal interaction with audiences [55
]. The high credibility of blogs as informational sources [52
] might strengthen the intensity of the customer journey through the purchase funnel. In addition to being an informational source, blogs are crucial for intrinsic and affective segments [58
]. Therefore, blog entries are treated as the interest metric that might be used for describing online users [53
], and Hypothesis 3 is put forward as follows:
The interest metric of blog entries per website might be used for describing the segments of the museums’ online users.
The download function is the URL address to the download path [59
]. The possibility to download interactive resources might lead to website satisfaction [60
], so the interest of the user can be awakened as well. There is the possibility of downloading interactive resources such as maps or museum guides since it has been shown that the user is more likely to stay in the conversion funnel and consolidate the consideration phase if the website offers a large number of participation options [55
]. Moreover, the use of tourism apps is even becoming relevant for certain senior segments [61
], and where mobiles are concerned, it can mediate the traveller experience [62
]. Likewise, museum visitors are likely to download online images of artifacts and a wide range of resources such as educational and research materials [63
]. Every so often, these resources are suitable for mobiles [64
] and include location and weather functionalities [65
]. That said, we can put forward Hypothesis 4 as follows:
The interest metric of download per website might be used for describing the segments of the museums’ online users.
Finally, we can actively measure how museums’ websites manage the consideration phase through the analysis of some visit leads. The use of these informational features can facilitate the consideration of the brand and indicate the level of digital transformation maturity as well as the acceptance of technology by the different segments [66
]. Some research even indicates that online behavioural intentions are highly influenced by levels of satisfaction with the information available on a website [67
]. This is the pre-purchase phase, so more information options about the characteristics of the site can significantly influence a later decision of choice. Likewise, visitors rely on the museum website to answer questions after completing forms [63
]. Usually, websites consistently provide information about business hours, addresses and contact information [68
]. In the conducted research of cultural organisations, the contact telephone number, contact email address, forms to request more information and information about opening hours are some of the selected metrics to measure visit leads [69
] and cultural participation [54
]. In line with this, we can put forward Hypothesis 5 as follows:
The interest metric of visits leads per website might be used for describing the segments of the museums’ online users.
The third level, according to the conversion stage, is measured based on the existence of some purchase leads [54
]. The main goal is to measure the sales potential of the Canary Islands’ museum websites and how effectively they convert users. Some of the important items for evaluating websites in this phase include information regarding the existence of a souvenir shop, the possibility of buying some souvenirs online and the opportunity to book or buy tickets online [63
]. What is more, the lack of online ticketing policies allows one to distinguish a group of dissatisfied museum visitors. No doubt, booking and ticketing online reduce paper work and imply the existence of a smart museum with segmentation capabilities by considering different types of requirements for children, adults, seniors, etc. [70
]. We talk about some signals and buttons that facilitate the conversion phase as long as they are useful metrics to identify the efforts of websites to achieve customer conversion. Taking it into account, the sixth hypothesis is put forward as follows:
The purchase metric of purchasing and booking links per website might be used for describing the segments of the museums’ online users.
In the last part of the funnel, the priority is to find out how the Canary Islands’ museums manage their digital presence to create close relationships. In accordance with [73
], lead generation metrics are some of the most effective metrics for measuring customer–company relationships and post-purchase loyalty. With this in mind, lead generation allows us to know how the customer perceives certain content and how they interact with it, being a clear demonstrator of their level of satisfaction and relationship with the brand. Thus, efforts are focused on analysing and identifying the existence of some data collection mechanisms such as using interactive story telling techniques [74
] and generating leads such as subscription newsletters [54
], form completions [76
] or the possibility of getting opinions and new ideas from users through the existence of the complaint and claim forms [78
] as well as by managing community platforms [79
]. On this basis, Hypothesis 7 is put forward as follows:
The metric of loyalty leads per website might be used for describing the segments of the museums’ online users.
As a result of the above, the use of the cited metrics in each of the four phases of the funnel allows us to research how users of the ecosystem of digital museums in the Canary Islands behave and how every segment can be profiled.
2.3. The Interplay between Online and Offline Spaces
Before starting to evaluate the digital management of Canary Island’s museum websites, a phenomenon that can cause an alteration in the results must be taken into account. We mention precisely the interplay between online and offline spaces in which users are under the influence of their physical context. On many occasions, context attributes of the museum, especially physical location, have proven to be important elements because they act as factors that strongly influence the motivation to visit a particular place [80
]. In other words, the intentions to visit an establishment are conditioned by its physical location [80
], and there are even many visitors who seek to feel a big connection with the cultural location before visiting a museum [81
]. In this line, the quality of a location, understood as a central physical placement that is easy to find and that is not so far from other centres of interest, positively influences visitor preferences [82
]. Accordingly, it is highly probable that those museums that are located in more universal, accessible and relevant destinations are going to receive more physical visits as they are more likely to be known and, therefore, they must present different (and higher) digital metrics due to the greater attraction, interest, loyalty and commitment that their physical and cultural location arouses. By contrast, those other cultural centres located in unknown, regional or limited territories are likely to have fewer offline visits and, therefore, poorer visits and lower interest and loyalty rates on their online spaces. This is so because, before physically visiting a museum, users frequently visit its website to obtain detailed information [83
], and, therefore, the volume of real and physical visits largely determines the magnitude of visits to the website, even if this online visit is prior to the physical visit.
This phenomenon might occur in the territory of the Canary Islands, made up of seven islands of different relevance, impact and size. For example, brick and mortar museum buildings located on more remote or unknown islands (El Hierro, La Gomera, Lanzarote or La Palma) would receive fewer physical visits and, therefore, would present lower digital metrics. However, the museums located on islands that are better known, more inhabited or with greater connections with foreign countries (Tenerife, Gran Canaria or Fuerteventura) would obtain more visits to their website as a consequence of a greater number of physical and real visits.
Given that, part of the interest and commitment that users show with Canary Island’s museum websites could be the result or consequence of the influence of the physical museum dimension, understood as the tourist destination and its characteristics of popularity, remoteness or relevance. This continuous interaction between physical context and digital environment, which is not independent, suggests that there could be a holistic relationship between offline and online spaces [84
] and causes many museums to develop their digital presence as an expansion of their physical establishment [85
In accordance with all the above, the characteristics of the tourist destination and especially on which island the museum is physically located are revealed as critical elements for determining the digital behaviour of visitors on their respective websites. On this basis, Hypothesis 8 can be put forward as follows:
The island on which the museum is located relates to the museum segment metrics.