As a long-standing leader in exhibition, National Amusements understands what it means to build and maintain customer loyalty over time.
Long before CRM and loyalty became popular marketing tools, National Amusements made customer service the primary focus, believing that an extraordinary experience in the theatre is fundamental to success.
Our first loyalty program, Starpass, launched in the U.S. market over ten years ago, with the Insider program in the U.K. and the IN Showcase program in Argentina following. We also have a new program in Brazil slated to launch this year. These programs have amassed a sizable membership base of over a million and a half customers, and provide a significant amount of data and insights into our customer base.
Since joining National Amusements in 2012, my focus has been on developing processes to harness, analyze and activate this data. This includes extending the concept of CRM and loyalty beyond the transaction, to each phase of the customer journey. With a background in digital marketing and technology, I am constantly seeking out ways to use emerging products and technologies to achieve greater insights and engagement across channels.
Loyalty and adapting to your markets
Operating theatres in four markets presents unique challenges and opportunities from a loyalty standpoint.
There is no one-size-fits-all approach, and a customized approach is required based on a variety of factors in the local market.
We perform extensive due diligence with our teams to understand all factors that will impact the success of a program. This process includes surveys, third-party research, competitive analysis and pilot programs to ensure the program’s value proposition is sound and meaningful to our customers. Considerations such as market maturity, loyalty penetration in the market overall, current economic climate and consumer trends all influence the planned structure and execution of a loyalty program.
Once the program is established, we are able to evaluate performance and leverage best practices that could be beneficial to other markets. This cultivates an innovation culture and encourages shared learnings across markets.
Tailor your value proposition
We strive to have a core offering in each of our loyalty programs that is fundamentally simple to understand and communicate.
In the U.S., this is a points system, with various thresholds and milestones to strive for. In the U.K. there is highly preferential pricing offered to members on certain days of the week. In Argentina, there are discounts that tie back to associated memberships with complementary businesses.
Once these baselines are established, additional benefits are layered on. These include special offers on concessions, restaurant offerings and alternative programming.
In some markets there is a membership fee, in others there is not, or we may have a free and paid program running simultaneously to different segments. Local competition is always a factor in understanding what other benefits or offers may be available, and at what cost; however, we structure our programs based on research and analysis of our customer base.
The level of program adoption varies by market, but overall is quite consistent. We see a high level of engagement from members of our loyalty programs across markets, and monitor visitation and spend to determine the effectiveness of a program over time.
Through our recent integration with Movio in the US market, we have been able to delve into our visitation and engagement metrics even more deeply, and have been pleased to see that our baselines are well established, with the membership base performing strongly. We are eager to begin tailoring our communications and offers even more precisely to further improve these results.
Know your customer
Knowing our customers is the top priority of our president, Shari Redstone. She works closely with the team to ensure that we are positioned to deliver the most personalized experience possible for our patrons, whether it be through email communications, on our website, through social media or in-theatre.
As one of the first innovators in luxury cinema, Shari has been in the forefront of establishing the cinema experience itself as the true driver of loyalty. We are consistently talking directly with our customers to learn what amenities they find most valuable, and what we can do to enhance that experience, either through the loyalty program, or within the theatre itself.
Utilizing tools to measure our customers’ satisfaction over time allows us to gauge their overall impressions of the experience. Garnering feedback from our long-standing membership base is truly invaluable, and we incorporate regular surveys, focus groups and informal discussions with patrons to keep us on a path of continuous feedback and improvement.
We have been able to successfully tie new initiatives to our loyalty programs to drive trial and encourage customers to level-up in some location with premium offerings. When our patrons are able to personalize their visit, tailor it to their specific preferences, and be rewarded for doing so, our relationship with them is strengthened. The more we know about our customers, the more we can do to craft the perfect message to engage each audience and identify and optimize the correct channels to reach them.
Technology is a critical piece of our strategic approach to the entire customer journey.
We take a holistic approach to technology solutions and have created an architecture that can support the addition and removal of a wide-range of third-party solutions. This has involved developing a highly scalable infrastructure that ties together all touchpoints, and enables the flow of data seamlessly between them.
By removing silos and restrictions around our customer data we are able to create broader customer profiles that extend beyond loyalty, and can be utilized to inform all aspects of our interactions with the customer including: personalized web content, social media, paid advertising and in-theatre communications,
Technology also enables us to begin to know our customer and create a profile around them well before they enroll in one of our loyalty programs. Through profile modeling, we are able to understand trends and behaviors that allow us to better target customers as prospects, and find the best channels and messaging to convert them to members.
Mobile technology in particular is evolving rapidly, and each month we see our customers utilizing mobile more and more to quickly access showtimes and purchase tickets. We have been focused on mobile for some time, and in each market we have developed the optimal mix of solutions by looking at device penetration, accessibility of data services and consumer behavior. Responsive design, mobile-specific web experiences and apps give our customers a variety of options and, in some cases, incentives to use mobile.
A significant amount of our traffic is from mobile and tablet and the shift from desktop is expected to continue. This underscores the importance of developing mobile-first solutions that streamline the user experience, getting them to their desired action as quickly as possible.
Optimizing the mobile experience allows us to leverage a wide variety of mobile and cross-device advertising opportunities to reach our customers as effectively and efficiently as possible.
Location-based targeting is also critical to delivering relevant communications to our customers, and we are currently developing a foundational visitation data landscape as precursor to beacon technology rollout in the coming months.
Social technology is also a core piece of our digital strategy. This goes beyond employing social media and social advertising as powerful tools for targeted messages.
The integration of social data into our loyalty program provides deep insights into our customers that simply cannot be achieved through traditional profile data or purchase history. Additionally, emerging technology in social analytics provides us with a high degree of precision and timeliness in engaging with our customers on social media.
This is particularly important as we operate in very distinct geographic regions, and the more we can minimize social creep outside our market areas, the stronger our social engagement metrics, are and the better our ability to reach the breadth of our audience becomes (based on the constant evolution of social algorithms.)
Movio’s upcoming social integration will provide further improvements and give us a vehicle to carry through the social and loyalty data to email communications, making it exponentially more actionable.
About the Author:
Amber Stepper - Global VP, Marketing & Advertising of National Amusements.
Prior to joining the company Amber worked in digital advertising agencies developing and managing marketing initiatives for Dunkin’ Donuts, Baskin-Robbins, General Motors and UNICEF, among others.. Most recently, she was part of an early-stage tech startup, Reach Analytics, which was successfully acquired in 2012. Her background also includes serving on the Boston University Alumni Board of Directors and supporting charities focused on the empowerment of women and children.