Welcome Wednesday 8 May 2013: The National Zoo’s app in review

national zoo appPresentation by Alan Hayman of XCO, developers of the National’s Zoo’s app.

The National Zoo’s app has had about 21,000 downloads to date. It includes 200 species, maps, webcams, videos, information on conservation and other topics that are important to Zoo visitors.

Feedback shows that people feel they are getting their money’s worth (the app is priced at $1.99). The only omplaints in the app stores have been about the quality of the webcams, but high def cameras are now being installed so we hope to address the major source of these complaints. The webcam streams are delivered through cellular data as there is no WIFI at the Zoo, but that has been strong enough for the technical link; the animals don’t always perform, though!

We are renewing efforts to market the app now; its launch was rushed last year (launched in July 2012).

Setting new goals for the app for 2013:

  • Work with individual departments esp. food service and retail departments to include their offerings in the app and promote the app through their outlets.
  • Focus on areas where visitors spend significant time and congregate (e.g. standing in line, eating places) and add new signage in those locations.
  • Create more value for people who download the app, e.g. deals and specials in the cafes offered on a timely basis.
  • Leverage the Zoo’s dramatic increase in attendance.

The CMS is cloud-based, and allows updating of content in real time by non-technical staff.

Analytics includes downloads but also in-app content use reports. Reports are exportable in Excel and PDF formats.

The XCO platform on which the app is built has the ability to collect personal information in a secure way, but this is not done with the National Zoo app.

Webcam activity indicates that the app is being used to watch the webcams AFTER the Zoo visit. 40% of page views are webcams. Maps also rank high in usage.

The Zoo has no real way of tracking on-site visitors since admission is free, but they have an algorithm for estimating visitorship. The app’s monthly downloads track with the attendance numbers, indicating that most people are finding out about the app and/or downloading the app for during their visit to the Zoo.

There is a higher than expected iPad use (17%), low Android use (12.5%). iOS is over 2/3 of the audience. Getting apps to work across a large number of Android devices is tough and getting harder as this platform fragments.

The app uses GPS to help you locate yourself on a map but Apple and privacy concerns prohibits collecting info on where users are using the app.

The app’s success is largely due to a collaborative effort in PR and marketing the app. As an example, the printed map (sold for $2) now promotes the app – staff understand that there is room for both products in serving visitors. Promotional signage is eyecatching and engaging as well – e.g. “[fill in the blank]: Our App has that!” on the printed maps and signage on just about everything around the Zoo!

Online see: http://nationalzoo.si.edu/smithsoniannationalzooapp/

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