Battling the blockbuster effect: Why cinemas should prioritize loyalty

Cinemas are no longer just competing against other younger, sexier models that serve pizza and cocktails whilst you watch X-Men, they are also competing against disruptive streaming giants. With the total number of viewers subscribing to Netflix rising to 81 million this year, it is clear that cinemas need to take action or face falling to the wayside (DMR, June 2016). The appeals of services such as Netflix and Amazon Prime are evident. They are easy, cheap and convenient: precisely what the customer ordered.

The reality is that the consumer is changing, and as 80% of cinema tickets are pre-booked online, it is time to match the online experience with the cinema goer's heightened expectations (Econsultancy, November 2014).

So, how do we tackle this? We understand what it means to build and maintain customer loyalty over time. This then leads us to the more difficult question; how do you create a loyal customer in an inherently fickle market.

The obvious answer is loyalty schemes. The question cinema marketing teams need to ask, is whether they’re doing everything they can to maximize memberships. There’s a prime opportunity to do so and cinemas with the right on-site technology in place have the ability to recognize customers who have booked a certain number of times within that month. This enables them to serve those customers a layer to highlight the membership benefits and encourage them to sign up.

However, to truly engage customers we must look at creating loyalty beyond schemes, and what actionable initiatives cinemas can take to own their customer’s digital experience.

Deliver a superior experience

The historic appeal of cinema is the emotional, and often shared experience that it offers. Using customer segmentation to drive relevant, smart personalization is the most important step in recreating this human connection.

Does your customer favor a certain genre of film? Ensure the current release within that genre is what they see when they visit the home page. Targeted messaging along the user journey to offer support can also be utilized to form a deeper customer bond.

Relevance and speed is paramount, particularly with the cinema customer. Geolocating their nearest cinema and displaying a narrower selection of films that appeal to that customer directly allows you to cut through the noise and deliver a simpler streamlined service.

Create a point of difference

In a market where arguably there’s little to differentiate one cinema from another, particularly when considering the mainstream players, creating a point of difference between brands is vital.

With the escalation of tickets and concession costs becoming one of the greatest vices for cinema goers, it is little wonder customers are favouring cheaper online alternatives  (CinemaBlend, 2014). Deals and discounts for returning users can therefore be delivered to act as an incentive, and result in an overall better ROI for your brand.

This point of difference can equally be reinforced with an enhanced customer experience. Giving the customer a voice by enquiring to their needs and providing reassurance messaging along their digital journey allows cinemas to compete beyond price, and therefore set themselves apart.

Remain at the front of your customer’s mind

As we established earlier on, the cinema customer is fickle, and so maintaining brand presence is an imperative when investing in loyalty. Contextualized push notifications and personal interactions across devices coupled with smart email capture creates a memorable omnichannel experience.

Soon mobile will play a crucial part in this. Imagine walking through Leicester Square and receiving push notifications with personalized offers for the latest film release in your surrounding cinemas.

Whilst that’s a future vision for how we will interact with cinemas, the building blocks need to be in place which begins with addressing the fundamental customer experience gaps on your website.

To learn more on how to enhance your customer’s digital experience, have a read of our guide.