Archive | December, 2012

Mobile Year in Review: Lessons Learned in Mobile in 2012

31 Dec

As 2012 draws to a close, many of us will be reflecting on what we’ve learned over the past year. While perhaps some reflections will be personal or professional, here at TourSphere, we want to take a minute to review the year in mobile. So we’ve tapped our team to present to you the lessons we’ve learned in the mobile space this year.

Mobile must be a part of your strategy.
– Juliet Devries, VP of Community Relations

2012 was the year that a mobile component to your marketing strategy went from being “nice to have” to “necessary.” Even Facebook learned that the lack of a solid mobile strategy can do a number on your company’s value.

A Nielsen study released in February 2012 revealed that nearly half of the cell phones in the US are smartphones, up 38% over the same statistic for 2011. Microsoft Tag predicts that mobile usage will overtake desktop usage by 2014.

These statistics confirm what all of us already knew from our own day-to-day usage: if you don’t have a mobile presence and if that presence doesn’t make it easy for a user to access your information on their device, you’re losing out on a huge chunk of your audience.

The mobile market will become increasingly fragmented, with more choices for consumers.
– Rob Pyles, CEO

Smartphone-OS-share

In the beginning, mobile developers had only to worry about Apple and Android.

Today, the options for mobile devices expand on what feels like a daily basis. From smartphones to tablets, new technology like the Microsoft Surface gives consumers the power of choice and gives developers the headache of having to add yet another platform to their list. A recent Nielsen study showed that Android,  which “dominates” the market, still has less than a 50% market share when it comes to smartphones.

Developing across multiple platforms is going to be increasingly important as we enter 2013. Web apps like those created on TourSphere Builder will provide a flexible, more nimble and more economical option than developing native apps.

You need a long-term mobile strategy, not just an app.
– Clayton Jones, TourSphere Mobile Advisor

In 2011, companies were building apps like crazy. In 2012, we started thinking about other aspects of the mobile strategy. Because so many people are accessing your company or organization’s information by mobile device, it’s essential that an entire strategy take place around the mobile medium, not just a single app, and that that strategy is as flexible as the rest of your marketing plan. We began to see companies turn to TourSphere to help with this flexibility, because web apps can be easily managed and changed unlike native apps.

We began to see that mobile goes beyond simply an app, into location-based services that help with targeted marketing, to websites optimized for mobile devices to coupons delivered by mobile device. An entire strategy around how your audience uses mobile is essential for 2013.  Analytics and data on how visitors are using your app is critical to evaluating, developing and adjusting your mobile strategy.
Tell us: What do you think was the biggest lesson about mobile in 2012, or the biggest mobile story of the year?

App Spotlight: This is Hampton, VA

21 Dec

19eb9e1949b98efcfb150d35271041c18292d866ed749363748b415c.png.301x96_q85Hampton, Virginia is a picturesque city and the site of America’s first continuous English-speaking settlement. Dating back to the 1600s, there’s lots to see in Virginia’s sixth-most populous city, and the Hampton Convention & Visitor Bureau wanted to make sure that no one missed a beat. That’s why they created a digital tour guide with the “This is Hampton, VA” app on TourSphere.

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This smartphone city tour provides six “insider’s” tours in the city of Hampton: Downtown Hampton, The Virginia Air & Space Center, the Neighborhood Tour, Hampton University, Fort Monroe and Phoebus. Each walking tour highlights some of the city’s best features and provides visitors with an easy, free way to make a day or weekend out of exploring the city, making it an even more attractive destination.

To get funding for the apps, the Hampton Convention & Visitors Center tapped into each featured organization for relevant grants. This creative method allowed them to pay for the app from a variety of different sources, defraying the cost and serving the mutual interest of a number of local organizations.

  • Downtown Hampton: This one-hour, one-mile tour features an interactive map of downtown and videos that share with the tourist Hampton’s Civil War history, its connectionwith Blackbeard, the site of Bunch of Grapes Tavern (a colonial watering hole), the city’s art and culture and more.
  • Virginia Air & Space Center: Take a walking video tour of 20 aircraft and 10 spacecraft, from antique planes to space shuttles, and learn about the country’s history in the air through videos on your smartphone.
  • The Neighborhood Tour: A 90-minute walking tour of Hampton’s “heart and soul” drives you through scenic roads while giving the opportunity to explore on foot at times. View Victorian homes, waterfront vistas and more.
  • Hampton University: Tour one of the country’s leading Southern universities and its leading historically-black university. In 90 minutes, learn about Hampton University’s pivotal place in the Civil Rights movement, hear about the pro football players that played at Hampton before they “made it big,” and check out Rosa Parks’ former place of employment.
  • Fort Monroe:  One of North America’s most historic and prestigious forts, Fort Monroe has been been a place of refuge for thousands of fugitive slaves; a prison for rebel leaders; and an active military post. Check out the Lincoln Gun, a 49,000 pound cannon and the cell where Jefferson Davis was once imprisoned, all through video and an interactive map.
  • Phoebus: Take a walking tour of one of the oldest neighborhoods in Virginia’s lower peninsula with TourSphere. Videos will talk about the neighborhood’s Civil War history, the Great Depression as depicted by a Post Office mural, and more.

Hampton’s unique idea–to create a package of tours and a complete tourism experience–helps to enhance a visit for any tourist while ensuring that they don’t miss a beat in the city and adding value for member organizations that can be incorporated into tours.

To view “This is Hampton, VA,” visit http://hampton.toursphere.com or scan the QR code with your smartphone.

To view “This is Hampton, VA,” visit http://hampton.toursphere.com or scan the QR code with your smartphone.

 

App Spotlight: Virginia Air & Space Center

14 Dec

34318154b513a1d053ba071710a8b9d54d30c69b1ffb259d5e97f1fc.tiff.473x313_q85The Hampton Convention & Visitor Bureau in Hampton, VA has created a unique app package that allows visitors to the city to download a package of six tours that will guide them through the city. Featuring tours of neighborhoods and universities, the comprehensive tours give an insider’s view on the city. But perhaps one of the most popular sites in Hampton is the Virginia Air & Space Center, and accordingly the app for the site gives visitors a dynamic virtual tour through the museum, exhibit by exhibit.

Opening with an exciting ride over the clouds, the Virginia Air & Space Center App guides visitors through the museum with video and audio that gives background on each exhibit. The narrator leads the user through the museum with audio and visual cues, ensuring that the visitor doesn’t miss any important highlights. With 20 aircraft and 10 spacecraft in the center, there’s lots to see.

The app highlights such aviation milestones as the Tuskegee Airmen, the first black military airmen, including video interviews with some of the airmen themselves, providing living encounters of their time in combat. Or, get an up-close look at the F-4E Phantom II while listening to a history of its use and a rundown of how the aircraft is used.

Check out the space capsule that carried astronauts to the moon and back…and hear from one of the astronauts who was on the flight. You can even take a virtual tour of Mars.

The Virginia Air & Space Center is a great example of using multimedia–video and audio–to create a virtual tour that simulates an in-person tour at the museum and helps engage the visitor by providing fascinating background information and ensuring they don’t miss any important details in the museum.

To view the Virginia Air & Space Center App, visit http://hampton.toursphere.com/en/virginia-air-space-center-22607.html or scan this QR code with your smartphone.

To view the Virginia Air & Space Center App, visit http://hampton.toursphere.com/en/virginia-air-space-center-22607.html or scan this QR code with your smartphone.

Who Should Be Our Narrator?

13 Dec

When developing your mobile tour, there are many ways to make it particularly memorable for your visitors. One is choosing to incorporate audio into the tour in the form of a tour guide or narrator.

There are many options for narrating a tour, from a single, anonymous voice to a celebrity to a collection of different voices. At TourSphere, we’ve seen many tours come up with inventive takes on the narrator. Here are some things to consider as you decide who will be the voice of your app and, by extension, your museum, tourist destination or other site.

  • Who Might Be the Ideal Guide? For every location, there’s a potential protagonist, and that character–fictionalized or real–can act as your narrator. Developing a tour for a natural history museum? Dream up an archeologist and hand her the keys to the tour. In Miami: An Insider’s Walking Tour, South Beach native, bikini model and bartender Claudia guides the user through the city–the perfect authority for one of the country’s hottest destinations.
  • What Local Celebrities Can You Tap? Boston’s HarborWalk App features an introduction by the city’s mayor, Tom Menino. His distinctive voice and local celebrity status add gravitas and entertainment alike to the app, and his heavy Boston accent provides just the right amount of local flair.
  • Who’s an Insider? Who knows every corner of your tour? Who has insider information that visitors wouldn’t uncover by asking staff or reading signage? That’s the perfect person for narration (and you should be tapping them for content too!). The Mount Auburn Tour provides a specific “Dave Barnett’s Mount Auburn,” which features narration of the cemetery’s special features through the eyes of its president and CEO.
  • Can You Tap Your Board? You may have hidden talent right on your board–the perfect source for professional, insider’s, and pro bono narration. Consider the tour of the Boston Public Gardennarrated by Henry Lee, a longtime Bostonian and President of the Friends of the Public Garden–a perfect example of an insider who can add style and flair to your tour.
  • Are Multiple Narrators Better? Some tours are better told by a variety of voices. If you’ve got great stories to tell, consider weaving together a variety of voices to create a tour with more depth and dimension. Whether through reenactment or interviews with relevant people, this option can draw in your listener in a personal way.
  • Do You Have Hidden Talent? The most popular option for our museum and nonprofit clients involves finding employees, volunteers or other stakeholders at the organization who have acting or voiceover experience and tapping them as the “anonymous” narrator voice. This option provides a polished presence at a minimal cost.

Before you begin developing your app within TourSphere, decide whether you want your narrator to be a celebrity, organization insider, anonymous voice or combination of styles. Consider creating a presence for the narrator within the app and introducing them to the user with visuals and a bio, whether real or imagined. Use the narration to further draw users into your tour and make them feel like insiders.

Need inspiration? Here are some of the notable narrators that have appeared in TourSphere tours:

Transform a Tablet into a Kiosk – in a Snap!

11 Dec

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Museums, hotels, and all kinds of destinations have long-recognized the value of kiosks.  Kiosks are great ways to engage visitors, provide and collect information quickly, offer maps and event info and otherwise cut-down on common questions which can bog down staff members.

The hold-up for most organizations has been cost.  Plain and simple.  Kiosks and software are pricey and take a lot of time to maintain. Not anymore!! We’re excited to say that having a touchscreen kiosk just got waaay easier and cheaper.

Yes, TourSphere is now offering iPad touchscreen kiosks! You can use our app builder to build one yourself (checkout the one Toledo Museum of Art did recently) or we can build it for you, fast and easy.

Using TourSphere to build your kiosk app decreases the costs of kiosks dramatically, for both the software and the hardware – as much as 85%. It also increases the speed of deployment.  You can literally have a functioning kiosk installed at your site within a couple of days.

Kiosk app at the Toledo Museum of Art. Photo by Andrew Weber.

Kiosk app at the Toledo Museum of Art. Photo by Andrew Weber.

There are just two simple things you’ll need to launch your kiosk:

1. The Hardware

Obviously you will need a tablet.  Apple’s iPads are the most popular and offer some great features for kiosks (such as “Guider User Mode” which allows you to “lock” your clients in to an app) but there are cheaper tablets out there if your budget is really tight.  Whichever device you choose you will also need a way to mount and secure it so that it cannot walk away.  Luckily there are dozens of options out there – locking, blocking the power and home button, allowing for continuous power, etc… (we have some favorites if you want to chat).

2. The Software

This is the easy part!  TourSphere specializes in visitor-based apps.  Our apps allow organizations to collect data, provide real-time, remote updates, provide interactive maps, stream audio and video and much more. Clients have built a custom app in TourSphere in as little as 3 days. To see for yourself create a free account and play around with it.

Here’s a couple of ideas on how organizations can use TourSphere kiosk apps:

Exhibits: You can build a kiosk app for an exhibit, then when a new exhibit comes into town, you can re-use the same hardware (the iPads) and simply update the app itself with the new content. Voila! Your new exhibit features touchscreen kiosks!

Photo by Andrew Weber.

Photo by Andrew Weber.

Hotels: You can place a kiosk in your lobby which provides an interactive overview of the entire property.  Guests can quickly orient themselves with the property amenities, view event schedules, log complaints or comments and see area info.  In short, they can access the most common questions which your concierge probably gets tired of answering.

Interested in creating a kiosk app? Just create a free account and get started building. If you’re thinking about touchscreen kiosks or iPad apps but don’t quite have the idea hammered out or aren’t sure how to start, drop us a line and we’d love to chat about it.

Have you worked with kiosks in the past? What do you wish was easier – or cheaper – about the process?

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App Spotlight: Peirce Mill Tour

7 Dec

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Peirce Mill is the last existing mill in the District of Columbia and the only 19th-century gristmill maintained by the National Park Service that operates on a full-time basis. On the National Register of Historic Places, Peirce Mill is a living museum and tribute to the 1820s economy of America and D.C.’s agrarian past. Despite changes over time, the sturdy exterior and interior retain the authentic appearance and atmosphere of a 19th century grist mill, with 170 year-old stone walls, authentic wooden milling machinery, hand-hewn beams and columns, and heavy oak floor boards.

Visitors to the mill can augment their authentic historic experience with a mobile app from TourSphere, providing a richer tour of the old mill. An interactive map of the site  allows visitors to get a real-time read on their location and see everything the mill has to offer. Clicking on any of the sites, immediately calls up the appropriate tour features. This feature ensures engagement of the visitor and that visitors won’t miss areas they’re not aware of. It also allows the app creator to cross-promote local partners and other sites of interest.

At any of the stops along the tour, the mobile app provides history, background and insight that’s not apparent simply by visiting the site. Some stops add multimedia with archival photos. A mobile app provides a more flexible and economical solution to displaying these types of artifacts than presenting them at the site itself.

Custom to the Peirce Mill tour, a hand-drawn interactive diagram of the mill allows the user to touch each component and learn how it works, providing more insight into the history of the site as part of the agrarian economy.

Finally, the Peirce Mill app allows the museum to increase engagement even further with information in its mobile app about school programs, activities to do on the mill site (like picnicking and hiking), and an interactive survey that provides real-time information to the museum about its visitors’ preferences and experiences.

To view the Peirce Mill App, visit http://peircemill.toursphere.com or scan this QR code with your smartphone.

To view the Peirce Mill App, visit http://peircemill.toursphere.com or scan this QR code with your smartphone.

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