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Georgia Aquarium

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Using personalized outreach to drive revenues and enable vital research and conservation

To support its animal research and conservation goals, Georgia Aquarium aims to engage and attract visitors with awe-inspiring entertainment experiences. To help keep guests flooding in all year round, the organization uses IBM® Watson® Campaign Automation to reach out with personalized messages on the digital channel.

Business challenge

Visitors and sponsors play a key role in funding Georgia Aquarium’s conservation programs for marine wildlife. How could the company harness the digital channel to attract new and returning visitors?


Georgia Aquarium uses IBM Watson Campaign Automation to identify unique visitor and sponsor preferences and shape highly targeted, relevant and compelling messages.


89% boost

in email open-rates thanks to targeted campaigns

6% increase

in conversion rates helps drive engagement

21% rise

in revenues attributed to the digital channel

Business challenge story

Turning one-time visitors into frequent guests

Every month, Georgia Aquarium’s 10-million-gallon aquarium draws thousands of visitors. The organization aims to offer more than awe-inspiring entertainment experiences, and plays a key role in promoting the conservation of marine biodiversity around the world.

Andrew Carlsen, Digital Marketing Manager at Georgia Aquarium, begins: “As a non-profit organization, our visitors and sponsors are extremely important in supporting our efforts in research, conservation and education. To attract visitors all year round, we’re always looking for innovative ways to engage with our audience.”

Over the last few years, Georgia Aquarium has seen the popularity of the digital channel growing rapidly. Increasing numbers of guests now use their smartphones and tablets to connect with the organization before, during and after their visits—whether it’s through the Georgia Aquarium website or its mobile app.

“We knew that harnessing data on digital customer interactions would enable us to engage with our audience in a more personalized way,” continues Carlsen. “In the past, this data was stored in siloed systems, which made it difficult to build a 360-degree view of our guests’ interests and preferences. To help attract first-time visitors, inspire guests to return and encourage more people to become sponsors, we looked for a smarter approach to digital marketing.”

Transformation story

Making a splash on the digital channel

To identify the unique profiles and preferences of its guests and reach out with targeted messages, Georgia Aquarium deployed a centralized marketing platform based on IBM Watson Campaign Automation.

“IBM Watson Campaign Automation gives us access to comprehensive range of customer data, including first names, zip codes, visit histories and memberships,” explains Carlsen. “This insight enables us to segment our audience into distinct personas, such as non-purchasers, non-members, members and donors. Crucially, we can shape highly targeted messages that are relevant to each member of our audience.”

Today, Georgia Aquarium uses IBM Watson Campaign Automation to identify its biggest fans—visitors who regularly engage with the organization’s newsletters. Based on these insights, Georgia Aquarium uses tailored nurture campaigns to deepen fans’ engagement and share promotions to inspire them to visit again.

Carlsen comments: “Without a doubt, IBM Watson Campaign Automation allows our marketing teams to work smarter by querying our customer data across multiple dimensions.”

Automated, multi-wave campaigns are also helping Georgia Aquarium to enhance the visitor experience. When guests purchase a ticket online, the organization shares a welcome email one day before their visit, including directions and travel information, parking instructions and frequently asked questions. At the end of their visit, customers receive a link to provide their feedback on the day—helping the organization uncover ways to improve its services.

“We’ve been using IBM Watson Campaign Automation for more than a decade now, and we’ve seen that personalization has a huge impact on our engagement rates across the board,” says Carlsen. “Finding new ways to reach someone on a one-to-one level is really important to us. Since deploying IBM Watson Campaign Automation, we’ve added support for SMS and push notifications via our mobile app, which helps us reach customers on the digital channel they like best.”

Results story

Personalized content drives engagement

Thanks to IBM Watson Campaign Automation, Georgia Aquarium can reach out to its audience with targeted, engaging content that keeps guests coming back.

“Digital is becoming an increasingly important part of our overall marketing mix, and in the coming years we predict that the channel will overtake print and broadcast media as our primary way to promote the organization,” says Carlsen.

“Personalization is having a clear impact, and since deploying the IBM solution we’ve measured an 89 percent increase in email open rates and a 288 percent increase in engagement with those messages. The results on our bottom line have been extremely positive, and we have seen a 21 percent increase in revenues attributed to the digital channel—contributing to vital marine research and conservation projects.”

Looking to the future, Georgia Aquarium plans to utilize advances in machine learning and artificial intelligence to re-imagine its approach to digital marketing. By deploying solutions such as IBM Watson Marketing Insights, the organization is confident that it can uncover hidden opportunities to refine its customer segments with predictive audience insights and identify ways to streamline customer journeys on its website and mobile app.

Carlsen concludes: “We highly value our donor and sponsor relationships—without them, we wouldn’t be able to continue the excellent work we’re doing in the field. Thanks to IBM Watson Campaign Automation, we’re finding the best ways to engage with our guests to inspire them to come back year after year.”

About Georgia Aquarium

Georgia Aquarium in Atlanta, Georgia, is one of the world’s most dynamic aquariums, containing more than 10 million gallons of water and one of the largest collections of aquatic animals. A nonprofit that aims to deliver entertaining and educational visitor experiences, Georgia Aquarium promotes the conservation of aquatic biodiversity throughout the world and is an accredited member of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums and the Alliance of Marine Mammal Parks and Aquariums.

Solution components
  • Watson Campaign Automation (All Editions)
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