VOX Cinemas is known for its emphasis on innovation and unwavering customer-centricity in the Middle Eastern region. Since launching in 1999, they have grown to 243 screens across UAE, Lebanon, Oman, Egypt and Qatar, with Bahrain, Kenya and Kuwait soon to be added. They are the region’s largest exhibitor and continue to push the boundaries of the cinema industry.
Despite having their finger on the pulse of cinema innovation and customer behaviour since the beginning, VOX Cinemas partnered with Movio in early 2016 to further their loyalty efforts through the use of Movio Cinema, and the Strategic Services of Movio Expert Sarah Lewthwaite. Since then, both parties have been working together to bring VOX cinema loyalty up to speed with the rest of the company’s success, and to continue on their path of industry leader.
In light of their Global Achievement Award at CinemaCon, we spoke with VOX Director of Cinemas, Michelle Walsh, to find out what’s next for VOX and how Movio is helping them to change the future of their loyalty marketing.
Congratulations on your Global Achievement Award win at CinemaCon! What does this mean for VOX?
Michelle Walsh: To say we are delighted would be an understatement. We are a small chain in comparison to some of the larger global exhibitors, but a few factors have made this achievable. We are in an emerging market where we are constantly designing and building new cinemas. This lets us create new experiences each time, such as the culinary concept THEATRE by Rhodes, with Michelin-starred chef Gary Rhodes, and our colourful VOX KIDS cinema - both of which are home-grown brands. We also have the backing of our parent brand, Majid Al Futtaim, the largest shopping mall operator in the Middle East, which affords us the opportunity to operate in great malls in high-density areas. Finally, our young senior leadership team come from a very diverse background, bringing knowledge and best practice from industries such as high-end hotel brands, airlines, FMCG and entertainment. We are also grateful to the cinema industry partners that we work with that further add to our success, and Movio is certainly one of them.
VOX have been described as innovative leaders in the cinema industry. How have you used the digital marketing space to reach this status?
MW: We believe that our investment in the latest cinema offerings, digital space and the guest experience are our main points of difference. It’s also one of the reasons why we enjoy almost 50% market share in the United Arab Emirates, dominant market share in Oman, and operation of one of the highest-grossing cinemas in Lebanon. We relaunched our apps and responsive website back in May 2016, and have since seen a spike in our online bookings, sessions and conversions rates. This confirms that customers really do respond well to a seamless ticketing experience, and we strive to maintain this.
How is Movio supporting your strategies at the moment, and how do you see it helping in future?
MW: By the end of 2016, 40% of our admissions were coming through online. This further improved in 2017, with four of our locations during a particularly busy week in January reaching over 70% of admissions being purchased online. This gave us a tremendous amount of data to be captured and analysed by Movio. That level of customer behaviour data and insights is more than we have ever seen before.
We’re only really in the infancy of what we can do with Movio Cinema. Going forward, our focus is evolving our digital strategy to encompass every part of the customer journey; from early engagement when people are thinking about what to do at the weekend, to booking tickets, to a more interactive in-cinema experience and a post-visit strategy to ensure we are gaining feedback and further repeat visits. I can see Movio Cinema helping us with the whole lifecycle, through targeted emails pre-release, food and beverage recommendations sent to a customer on the day of the screening and feedback requests sent after a viewing. We want to be working with our customers every step of the way to ensure unforgettable experiences, and Movio will be an important part of achieving that.
How do you ensure your digital marketing strategy is cohesive yet relevant to the different markets you operate in?
MW: It can be very complex, in that there are different levels of e-commerce adoption in those markets. UAE & Oman are very advanced whereby customers have completely embraced booking online, and even more so on mobile. Egypt and Lebanon are quite different - cash is still king in those regions and they haven’t adapted to online bookings or apps as much, which makes it more difficult to build databases and capture insights in those markets.
In saying that, we started in the same situation in the UAE six years ago. The things we learned during that time will help us to evolve these other markets, and educate our customers on the benefits of loyalty programmes and the use of our digital assets.
You’ve worked closely with our Movio Expert Sarah Lewthwaite over the past year. How has this partnership helped you to improve your loyalty programme?
MW: We’ve done huge amounts of work with Sarah on scoping out a loyalty programme. She’s been a fantastic help for us. We’re about to launch at the end of April, and it’s been a long time in the works. We’ve been closely monitoring what customers want in a loyalty programme, and are very much looking forward to finally sharing it with them. Movio will be the backbone of that loyalty programme in terms of being able to manage and store data, and in helping us define what the future evolution of our loyalty marketing will be.
The future of VOX and Movio Cinema will be cementing customer’s targeted communications, and predictive analysis. We want to get to the point where we’re actually predicting the behaviour of customers, and recommending a movie genre, concept and offer for them before they have even requested it. I think a lot of what we do going forward will be heavily driven by Movio.
About Michelle Walsh
Michelle has 14 years professional experience and has been with VOX for 7 years, now holding the position of Director of Cinemas. She oversees the operational departments of the company including IT, Technical, Food & Beverage, Operations & Marketing Departments, and supports the CEO by providing the leadership and operational direction for the Cinemas Division.