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Independent’s Day: Showroom Cinema Discuss Why Size Doesn’t Matter

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Showroom Cinema is an ultimate destination for moviegoers seeking variety, culture and a true independent cinema experience. With a list of notably successful marketing campaigns under their belt, Showroom is a great example of success amongst our smaller chain and boutique cinema clients. Since opening its doors in 1993, it has grown to include four film screens, a bar, cafe and a dedicated office space for over 50 businesses in the city’s digital and creative sectors. The cinema continues to regularly attract a range of moviegoers to its highly-rotating roster of diverse movies, and is a must-visit for cinephiles in Sheffield and the surrounding area.

We recently spoke with the cinema’s Chief Executive, Ian Wild, and Marketing Manager, Ralph Parmar, to discuss the importance of a large, clean database, their newly introduced under-27 promotion, and how Movio Cinema can be used by smaller cinema chains and independents.  

Being an independent cinema, what made you decide to use Movio Cinema for your marketing campaigns?  Showroom Cinemas: First of all, we wanted to reduce and rationalise our print marketing. We were spending a lot of money on a quarterly 20-page printed brochure and we weren’t sure how effective it was. It was a challenge for us to provide accurate information on our film programme up to three months in advance, plus the brochure was very labour intensive for us to put together. Secondly, as an independent cinema, our film programme is very diverse. Therefore, we were very interested in taking a more targeted approach to email marketing. We show over 30 film titles every month, and couldn’t send separate campaigns for every title to our full database. Using Movio, we’ve been able to split that database into a myriad of different niche customer groups who receive campaigns on different films from our programme. Lastly, the investment that we were making in high volume print marketing was hard to track. We needed to measure the effectiveness of what we were doing, and also wanted to learn more about our customers.

What kind of customer experience do you aim to deliver at Showroom? How do you prepare internally to deliver this same experience across all customer touch points?
SC: We aim to deliver one that is professional, friendly and personalised to our customers. Our Box Office and Front of House teams are heavily engaged with our film programme and consistently make recommendations to customers, and the campaigns we send out using Movio are carefully targeted. We prepare for this internally with our weekly cross-departmental Movio meetings which include staff from Marketing, Film Programming, Box Office, Operations and our Chief Executive. We discuss our forthcoming films thematically, thinking about who the audience for each film is, and how we should target that audience.

How has your marketing strategy changed since implementing Movio Cinema?
SC: We now send a highly-targeted email campaign for every film we show, and monitor the success of each campaign in terms of email unique open rates, ticket sales to the targeted group and sales as a percentage of overall box office. We have scaled back our print, and developing our customer loyalty database has become integral to our marketing strategy.

You’ve recently expanded your member numbers to include a new membership level for under 27s. How do you plan to use this information in future marketing and how does it differ to how you’ve traditionally approached marketing?
SC: Since launching our CINE 26 offer in April 2017 for moviegoers aged 26 and under, we have seen a massive uptake in our membership numbers. Currently, around 40% of our active database are under 27, so we have had to adapt and develop our communications - there is no one-size-fits-all approach. Before we launched CINE 26, less than 10% of our database were under 27. 

This audience demographic engage less with email than older demographics, so we’ve also had to explore new ways to maintain our email open rates. It has encouraged us to be more creative and try out more offers, promotions and recognitions to improve engagement.

We use Movio to monitor the films that have been most popular with our CINE 26 audiences - which has thrown up some surprises! - and the information helps us to decide which films to recommend to them in future campaigns. Bigger blockbuster films such as Dunkirk and Baby Driver were initially our most popular CINE 26 films, but more challenging titles such as Mother! The Death of Stalin and God’s Own Country have also been very successful.

What are some of your tips and tricks for using Movio Cinema as a smaller cinema?
SC: As a small cinema we realise how important it is to develop and build up our customer database to get the most out of Movio Cinema. As soon as we implemented the tool, it immediately revealed that our existing database was not as good as we’d originally thought. It flagged that a large proportion of our email list was old, out of date and basically bad data. Once you’ve cleaned your database and it’s of a decent size, so many more possibilities open up. It is also essential to develop a relationship with customers so that they trust the recommendations they receive. When we first went live with Movio, it was tempting to broaden our targeting to increase the number of recipients for each campaign email, but we quickly discovered our results were improved when we used more precise targeting.

Using Movio Cinema, we were able to analyse our customers to see which parts of Sheffield they came from. We broke this down into sub-postcode regions across the city, which contains approximately 3000 residencies. This was quite enlightening for us, as we found that in our most popular areas, over 10% of residencies had one of our loyalty members, whereas in some parts of Sheffield, it was only a handful. We then sent a free ticket offer to the areas of Sheffield where we had most customers, and to some of the areas where we had least customers and monitored the uptake of this.

We have also used Movio for non-film campaigns, and sent emails and offers to promote food and drink events, and new product lines in our bar.

Some of your most successful campaigns have been your ‘Last Chance To See’ campaigns. Can you discuss your approach with these?
SC: As a small cinema, we can only hold films for limited lengths of time, and that length of time can vary from film to film. This makes it impossible for us to give customers a definitive answer when they want to know how long any given film is showing for. We understand that there will be films our customers want to see but never get around to seeing. We thought it would be a nice touch to share which films are in their final run to give those customers an opportunity to watch them on the big screen before it’s too late. So, as well as letting customers know when a new film opens, we also let them know when a film is coming off our screens. After the initial launch of this campaign, we saw a spike in attendance for films on their final night and, anecdotally, our Box Office team received a lot of positive feedback and spent less time tied up on calls answering different questions about screening durations.

What are you hoping to achieve in the future with your loyalty program, and how do you see Movio helping reach those goals?
SC: Building our database is still a big priority for us, but we are pleased with the progress we’ve made in the last 18 months. The next big step for us with Movio is to fully implement the Movio Cinema’s Web Tracker and develop the members’ area of our website so that customers can create their own watchlists.

Alongside this, we want to add even more value to our My Showroom loyalty memberships in order to increase the size of our database. We currently offer all of our loyalty customers a free ticket on their birthday, but we’re planning to develop more automated rewards to consistently surprise and delight our customers, and do more to incentivise progression between loyalty levels. We already use Movio Cinema campaigns to encourage our customers to visit more frequently, but going forward we’d like to utilise the program even more with these key focuses. Our aim is to be continually building on our offerings, bettering our customer experience and ensuring Showroom is a place moviegoers want to come back to.

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