Instant shopping – how to increase sales in museums with the help of modern technology

It is forbidden to take photos at the Prado. I found out about it when I was trying to capture a donkey at the painting “The Colossus”, which was for a long time attributed to Francisco de Goya. The painting showcases a giant, destroying everything in his way. People and animals are depicted fleeing from the monster, creating a scenery of chaos. Only one creature remains calm: a donkey. I loved this donkey and wanted to bring him home. 
The Colossus, The Prado Museum
If I could have ordered the print of the artwork, I would have done it. Since the shop of the Prado has a special printing station, you can order selected prints from their permanent collection there and take them home. However, I did not have enough time to do it at the end of my museum visit. But what if it would be possible to order this print on the spot (i.e. in front of the artwork itself via smart objects or smartphones) and pick up my donkey at the shop after the museum visit? 
Printing station at the Prado shop
The commercial aspect is of increasing importance to most museums, as funding is usually limited, and new sources of income are hard to develop. The commercialisation of many aspects of life will not stop at museum doors. 30 years ago, airports generated income almost exclusively through landing fees and other service charges. Nowadays, most major airports generate the largest share of their income through shops, restaurants and other services. This has been partially done by moving the shopping possibilities to the centre stage. Similar developments can be expected in certain museums.
Städel App
However, the reluctance of museum managers to move too fast into a commercial environment may translate into more subtle ways of integrating shopping into the visitor experience at museums. Good examples are apps for smartphones and tablets which act as museum guides, but which are enhanced (and paid for) by sponsored content and advertising. A lot of museums are already including links to online shops in their apps (e.g. The Met App, LACMA App). Städel Museum (Frankfurt) went a step further and partnered with Fujifilm and dm-drogerie markt, a German retail chain, enabling visitors to recognise artworks with an image recognition function, order their prints on the spot (using Städel App) and get them delivered at home.
The idea of decentralised shopping will benefit the museum, as it creates revenue for the museum. Furthermore, if done in a proper way, it could also enhance the experience for museum visitors. A good museum should allow you to take your donkey home!
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