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Finding a New Audience for Art Institute Chicago

Alteryx Alumni (Retired)

Finding a New Audience for Art Institute Chicago

Originally Published:  2016 Excellence Awards Entry


Overview of Use Case:


The Art Institute of Chicago is one of the world's greatest art museums, staying true to our founding mission to collect, preserve, and interpret works of art of the highest quality from across the globe for the inspiration and education of our audiences. Today we face new competition for visitor attention, a continued responsibility to expand our audiences, and an increasingly-challenging economic environment. Alteryx has allowed us to quickly overcome our data and resource constraints, develop a deeper understanding of our local audiences, and strike a balance between mission- and revenue-driven activities to continue to deliver on our mission for Chicago.


Describe the problem you needed to solve:


We, as do other museums, face the challenges of growing our audience while maintaining a strong financial foundation. Our strategy to navigate this has been to increase visit frequency from our core visitor segments in the near term and use this increase to further expand outreach to new local audiences. However, our challenges to achieving this have been three-fold. First, visitor segmentation in the arts and culture space is a relatively recent concept, and general segmentation schema are not always applicable to Chicago at a granular level. Second, we have very useful data but in inconsistent formats, ranging from handwritten notes and Excel documents to normalized but disconnected databases. Third, we are resource-constrained as an institution and cannot dedicate large amounts of time or money towards dedicated analytics or external consulting.


Describe the working solution:


First, we built a database describing the Chicago CBSA at the census block group level, providing the nuance necessary for a city where demographics change block-to-block and limit the utility of ZIP code analysis. Alteryx allowed us to get to this new additional level of detail and make our analysis relevant to Chicago. Using the Allocate Input and Calgary Join, we applied information from the US Census as well as Experian data sets. We utilized basic data such as population, income, and education, as well as proprietary Experian segments such as Mosaic groups and ISPSA (Index of Social Position in Small Areas) to describe these census blocks.


Second, we brought together our disparate visitor data into a blendable format. Some of our datasets are well defined, such as our membership CRM which resides in a relational database on MSSQL Server, whereas others are more ad hoc, such as our Family Pass users, which are transcribed from pen and paper into an Excel document. The Join tools in Alteryx provided a simple way to bring these data together without commanding significant time from our small analytics team.


Third, each of these datasets was CASS Encoded and geocoded using the US Geocoder tool, providing us a spatial object. We then utilized the Spatial Match tool to find the intersection of these objects with our universe of Chicagoland Block Groups. Each of these distinct streams were then normalized and combined to the block group aggregation level resulting in our final dataset. We also utilized a shared public custom macro which allowed us to convert these block groups into polygons for visualization in Tableau.


Finally, we utilized heatmaps and scatterplots to identify which proprietary Experian segments correlate with our different offerings. This informed our choice of variables for our final Decision Tree tool analysis, which identified prime target block groups associated with our different offerings. These bespoke segments created via machine learning were more applicable to our own audiences and required a fraction of the time and cost of other segmentation methods.


Describe the benefits you have achieved:


This approach has given us a framework and the supporting intelligence from which to make institutional decisions surrounding visitor outreach and programming, allowing us to focus our resources on actions which we believe will have the greatest impact towards increased participation, attendance, and/or revenue. For example, we can now tailor membership messaging more effectively and quantify the effects on repeat visitation. We also can identify gaps in our geographic coverage of Chicagoland and test different outreach efforts to engage new audiences. Most importantly, we can unify our approach to audience development across departments using a common baseline and methodology. These combined efforts enabled by Alteryx will help us to build our audiences and fulfill our civic responsibilities well into the future.