Melissa Bourdreau, Founder of Bou Consulting and It Fits Bar, Brittany Catherman, Solutions Engineer at Savantis, and Al Lanlani, Co-Founder and Chief Strategist of Annex Cloud chat about the importance of loyalty management for cinemas. Melissa gives her input on how cinemas can enhance their interactions with loyal guests and continue to drive engagement with them. Learn about the various aspects of a robust loyalty program and how it can drive long-term growth for brands in the entertainment industry.
Welcome to this news series discussion we are calling Cinema Influencers. Today, I'm extremely excited about the panel discussion we're going to have on the impact of COVID-19 on the movie theater industry. I personally am an avid moviegoer. Today with me I have Brittany, Brittany is from Savantis Solutions. She and I had an amazing discussion on this topic a few weeks ago. Brittany, welcome to the discussion.
Thanks, Al for the great introduction. I also like to introduce and welcome Melissa Boudreau. She's an expert in marketing with experience in the cinema industry, as well as e-commerce. She supported campaigns to get moviegoers engaged on social media, such as #MoviesTogether, #QuarantineWatchParty, and #EatWhatYouWantDay. She's also been at the helm for endometriosis awareness. And then we can just get started with the questions, Al if you want to start with the first one.
Yeah, absolutely. So, I think the first one is for Melissa. Melissa, what is your take on the importance of customer attention? Let me key this up. So, we are coming out of a very interesting period where the movie cinemas and theaters were just completely stopped. And for people like me that used to watch a self-proclaimed one to two movies a week sometimes, so I'm an avid movie-goer and so in that sense, for me, I feel the distance, but at the same time, I've got my own reservations about restarting and going back to the movie theaters. So in terms of customer retention, how important is it in these current times as we come out of this, into the new normal?
Thank you, Al and Brittany, for having me first, I want to start with that, and I appreciate you having me here and us having this discussion today because I do think it's an important discussion to have. And retaining guests during this time or customers or the people that frequent your theaters or your stores or anything right now is the most important thing that you can do. And the reason why I say that is because a lot of people are home and they may be nervous about going back, but you need to make sure that you're having that constant conversation with your customers and your guests, even though you may not be able to service them right now, specifically in the movie theater industry, because they miss... you miss going to the movies, right Al? You want to go back and-
And you don't want people to forget that you're there. They might not forget, but if another brand is inching in and doing great marketing and talking to their guests more often than you are, potentially you could lose the guest, but you also just want those guests to know that you're there for them and that you support them and especially if they're loyal to your business. You want to be loyal back to them.
Makes sense. From your perspective, how do you think the experience for these moviegoers is going to be once they get into the prospect of movie theaters open up? What is the right experience for these moviegoers?
Just based on what I'm seeing in the industry, there's a ton of webinars every week and we're all discussing as an industry, right? I would say this is the biggest time that the industry has come together to help each other. And the biggest thing that I'm finding is that the guests really want the communication as to what's going on in the theater. How are you cleaning it? What will the seating arrangements be? What films will you be showing? What's going to be different? What can I expect? Do I have to wear a mask? So, communication right now in explaining what your theater is doing is the most vital point. And then I think what the guests want to see, I think it varies by the guest, right? So either some guests are going to be a little bit more nervous and they may not feel comfortable coming back immediately until they see how things go.
And then there'll be other guests who are avid, avid moviegoers that are like, "I need to go right now", and they're going to go out and they're going to see what the situation is and then give their feedback. And I think that's the best way to work with the guests too, is getting their feedback in the first couple of weeks and seeing how it's going. Now, some theaters are open right now. And the feedback has been generally very positive and social distancing is happening. People are wearing their masks in the lobbies, and then they are taking them off inside in the theaters so they can of course eat their delicious popcorn.
Absolutely. From my own perspective, I'm raring to go but I think the communication part is an extremely important point that you mentioned because all of us have been communicated very regularly and I can draw a parallel from other industries. We've gotten communication from all of our airlines that we're a part of, we've got communications from the, for example, hospitality companies like Marriott and Hilton that are communicating effectively. So having that source of communication coming from your favorite movie theater that you were frequenting, hopefully, that you were part of their communications, is an extremely important point. Brittany, I don't know if you have anything to add there.
Yeah, no, I absolutely agree. It's been imperative to start communicating with your guests so that they understand the expectations going into the cinema so they're not surprised by the expectation of wearing a mask, for example. So yeah, communication is the biggest point and you will have to rely on your loyal guests in order to communicate that to their friends and family as well.
Wonderful. And so from a loyalty program for cinemas standpoint, I guess both for Brittany and Melissa, what are those experiences that the movie theaters can provide? Traditional loyalty programs were more around you pay a certain amount and you're part of a program and you get free tickets, but that was the experience. Obviously you got some other benefits as well, so I'm not discounting that, but what are these experiences now to utilize that loyalty program that can be used?
I can go first if you want, Brittany. I think most loyalty programs will remain the same, but what other things can you offer in addition to maybe what you were offering at this time? So maybe you can enhance the experience by offering double points or some other type of incentives to drive people to come back to the cinema. I think that's a unique way to do it, but then also use your loyalty program to make sure that your guests know how much you appreciate them and the communication because those people in your loyalty program are going to be your biggest champions.
Yeah, no, I definitely agree. And I think part of this is really enhancing your customer journey and attracting people to come in to see how their experience can be curated to an experience like no other. And the solution that I've seen is utilizing and taking advantage of the data management. Right now, a lot of systems have that data siloed and we're looking at solutions that can break down those silos and really push out that data across Omni Channel Solutions. So how can you curate and use that data for the betterment of your guest customer journey? Well, different loyalty programs for cinemas. You can push different concessions offerings based upon that guest’s historic purchasing.
I'll let you go first, Melissa.
All of those things that you said are very, very important, and it's definitely more than points. And I think a lot of exhibitors in this space, or even in retail space, people don't understand how valuable loyalty programs actually are. If you look at the data, people that are in your loyalty program tend to spend more. It depends on the industry and all of that so I don't have an exact percentage, but I can tell you based on data in both of my careers that those people tend to spend more, they tend to be more loyal. There is a quote out there somewhere that 20% of the people in your loyalty program are your most frequented guest. So you don't want to ignore them. You need to stay engaged with them.
And then a part of that with social media is once you have their data, and this may sound creepy to some people, but once you have their data then you can remarket to them on social media. You can make lookalike audiences based on your loyalty program. And you're only segmenting and servicing those guests in a better fashion. So maybe they didn't receive an email from you or you're finding this kind of people who are like the people in your loyalty program and marketing to them in a way that they want to be marketed to. So that's one part. And then the part about the points is that's just a benefit of the program, right? For the cinema or the retailer, having that data is so impactful because you can actually market properly to the guests and offer them things that maybe some other cinema may not offer and that they will then only be loyal to you.
And the example that I can use that's outside of my experiences, I only fly Delta. People may think that that is insane, but that's the only airline I fly. Why? Because I have the credit card, I get the miles. I only want miles from that. Am I willing to pay a little bit extra to fly Delta? Yes. Because I know the experience that I'm going to get, and I know that I'm going to get my points again, but I also know that their guest service for me personally has always been excellent. So I am more loyal to that brand. And I always think about them when I'm thinking about loyalty programs for cinemas and how I can make sure that the guests that I'm working with, they're getting the best experience, they're getting rewarded for being so loyal, but that they're also only coming to me unless there's better showtime or something cinema-wise or we didn't have the film. But otherwise, would say, "You know what? I am willing to wait an extra 30 minutes to see this film because I want to go to the place that I'm the most loyal to."
Yeah. I think this is great. And I think the term you use for experiential loyalty, as we call it, is extremely important and for an end consumer to become loyal to any brand for that matter, points are just an engine. The way to get truly loyal to a brand is to touch their experience from the first touchpoint of them maybe even evaluating you as a company, to having the right experience with your products. And so in this case, the movie theater, to having the great experience after that, and being in touch with them through the entire cycle, to them becoming an advocate. For me, for example, personally, if I and when I start to go to the movies, I will not only just go there, I will share that experience with everyone else. And I'll tell for other people that it was safe and that the movie theater had the right precautions in place.
And because I'm such an avid moviegoer, people will listen to me because I am now an advocate. And so I think that entire experience is extremely important for that entire cycle. Specifically, when we come from different industries and, Melissa, you and I both come from the commerce side of things and then the retail side of things, I think that was extremely applied. I was reading this past weekend that Zappos, back in 2008, 75% of their purchases during that downturn were coming from their loyal audiences. And they build on service, right? That was their core model, but they built a whole loyalty engine. It wasn't the points, it was built on essentially a core service-based model of bringing the customers together. There were benefits for those customers, they were focused on service, and that's how it was.
The other last thing I will say specifically to the points versus no points dialogue is the important part of when there's a downturn, you're always thinking from a financial perspective to not have liability. So a lot of the new age programs we're thinking about or the modifications to programs we're thinking about, are essentially thinking about status and benefits rather than points and dollars off and discounts because those stay on your books and that might not be a great thing from a financial liability perspective so that's more a little bit tactical. And then coming to social, it's such an important part of where we are, especially more now sitting in a home, we are all listening and observing what's happening around us and extremely more active socially, whether it's personal social networks or business social networks, and we're expressing, we're learning to express ourselves and be independently expressive on those things. So tapping into that behavior is extremely important.
I think the airline example is interesting. And one of the things that I like saying is if the airlines have done a great job on service, and in the case of Delta, they've built that loyalty to the program, which is great. One of the things that they can do to take it to the next level is if someone flew Delta now and had a great experience and tweeted about that on Twitter, for example, that person could get rewarded in that loyalty program. And now you're really touching that social aspect of that person, not just the experience they had in the flight or the service they got along with it. And that's how you can tie in the social to the loyalty program as well to your question, Brittany.
Such great points, Al. Totally agree with all of that. And yeah, I didn't even think about reinforcing the positive on social. Yeah. That's a huge component.
Yeah. And just around out that question, I think it's important to know or at least provide your opinion, do you think that this will translate into an excessive footfall post reopening? Can you share some metrics to measure a successful loyalty program?
From my perspective, the success of a loyalty program is very dependent on what parameters you want to drive. And, by default, I think the traditional parameters we might think about is retention. We want them to buy more and we want people to buy more often, that's traditionally what it is repeated purchase rate and average order value increase if you look at traditional terms of improvement. But I think if you just focus on that, we're missing the point, especially now, especially now, because what we want to do is go beyond the basics and start to mobilize your audiences. So depending on which business you're in, especially in this industry, in the movie theater industry, even more applicable, because you want to mobilize your advocates, you want to mobilize your audiences.
And so now it's more about, as Melissa said, communication. It's more about the experience. It's more about safety and that communication of that safety. It's more about getting people that were excited like me before back into the movie theaters and get the movement going again. It's almost like a startup phase. It's almost about using the power you had to bring this audience back, especially in the short term for me. And if that happens, I think that's success in the short term. In the long term, we'll go back to the traditional metrics of saying, are they going more often and are they doing more and are they driving more business? But for the next six to 12 months, I think that those are the metrics for me. I don't know, Melissa, what do you think?
No, I fully agree with you. Right now, it's about trust. It shouldn't be anything about trying to sell or promote or anything along those lines. Obviously, for cinema, you need to get butts in seats. For retail, you need to be selling products. But right now it's rebuilding the trust, that is the most important thing, I fully agree with you.
Yeah, no, I definitely agree with both of your statements. Even for myself and my fiance, talking about do we want to go to a cinema immediately? And those are the concerns that we're going to consider. So I will go on to our next question. So what are some of the key functions and features that a company should consider when acquiring or upgrading a loyalty program?
Yeah, I think, from my perspective, there are two sets of companies now, especially in this industry. There are some that have had an ongoing loyalty program for a while. And as I felt, it was more around the membership focus. You pay a certain amount a month, you maybe get a free ticket or you maybe get a discount on a ticket, around those lines, and you can apply that towards certain perks or you earn certain, you spend a little bit inside the movie theater for food and other items. And you can get additional benefits either for your purchase or you can apply those benefits towards your next movie ticket or something along those lines. So they were very transactional, they were very transactional. And I think what it needs to do is become more experiential, as Melissa said. How can you reward people for social experiences when they are in? How can you reward people for sharing their impact there?
How can you reimagine a program that's focused not just on movie-going, but the experience of a movie itself from that perspective? How can you focus on the consumer and their trust factor? If I go and tell three other people that I had an amazing experience, how much value is to the loyalty program and how can you apply those values? So I think some of the structures, the ultimate structure of the loyalty programs that are existing may need some reimagination and rethink for the short term. For companies that don't have one, I think it's an important time to start thinking of one because what you want to do is start establishing that audience. And it's always more difficult to start, but now you're starting from scratch. So you have the benefit of not having to redo something, which is the good part, but at the same time, you have the challenge that you have to restart something in a time that you're starting to restart your business and operationally it's an impact.
But if this is something you don't build in your armor, in my opinion, personally, it's like building an email list. You'd never had an email list before, and it took time to build that email list and build the audience and start the email marketing. And it took a while to start seeing success from it. But if you never started, you never got there. And now's the time to restart as you restart operations, to restart this with this. And maybe it gives another boost to the company that they can kick off a loyalty program sooner than later to energize those audiences as well. So that's just my quick take from the top.
Yeah. I agree with you, Al. One of the things that I always felt like we missed the sight of, A, I always wanted to do a tiered level, like you were saying, instead of just having it be so transactional and then the most engaged or the most loyal guests were rewarded and it didn't have to be points or something like that. It would be like a VIP screening, but it was the 20 most loyal people to that specific location, right. And then there'd be a gift bag waiting on the seat and just really wowing them with an experience that wasn't because they spent so much money, but just because of how often they come to the cinema, and just thanking them. Almost a gratitude for the most loyal. Sometimes I think one of the problems is too, is we all just keep trying to get new members, new members, new members, but we need to be paying attention to the existing members and the most loyal members, because they really are our champions and they're out there cheerleading for us telling everyone how much they love us.
Yeah. I think that's a very good point that you bring up, Melissa. I think we treat all loyal members the same way. And one of the things that we talk about is there's, even within the loyalty program members, there are different kinds of members. Some are there for specific incentives, some are there because they are truly loyal to the brand, per se. And so are you loyal to the loyalty program or are you loyal to the company that's driving the loyalty program? That's a question I always ask in this case, and especially for airlines, I like to ask that a lot, which is I go on American, but is it because I love American? How many people truly love American airlines? It's tough, right? But I love my loyalty program because I'm invested in it. And so I think that experience on which customers to focus on with the loyalty program that you brought up is highly important as well. Thanks for bringing that up.
Yeah. I think that's a huge point. And I think people miss that, that they have to focus as well on their current loyalty programs. This is the oldest example that I can think of, at least with my parents, it's the dish versus direct TV back and forth that they change the subscription every 18 months because they know that after 18 months the contract is over and they can get a better deal with the competitor. But it happens every 18 months because they promote all of these great discounts but aren't looking at their current customers. So if you can focus your attention on those loyal guests, you can really hype them up. And then, as you said, they become your advocate and they will do your marketing for you. Word of mouth.
So, Melissa, you mentioned the topic of customer wow. And that's important. Having the right experience when people come back to the movie theater is extremely important. Could you elaborate on that with a little bit more examples of how you see it working for what movie theaters should do?
Yeah. Specifically, when they reopen, I do think everybody's going to want to see a clean environment, but it's important to remember the wow experience and making people remember why they love coming to the cinema. Right. And it's getting the people, the teammates that work there, greeting the guests, saying hello to them, cleaning, providing them with all the snacks that they love and enjoy. And then also in the theater, it's the shared experience that people have, right? When people clap at the end of a movie, I don't know about you, but I get goosebumps because I know I'm sharing this experience with a bunch of people. And so keeping that going, even now, as theaters begin to reopen, but then even going forward, that experience is even more important, is being wonderful to the guests, greeting them, looking in them in the eyes, smiling, making sure that their seat is clean and the bathrooms are clean and just going above and beyond to make sure that everything that is in the cinema is presented there for them so they can have this wonderful night out.
There's a lot of conversations about, oh, just stay home and watch TV. But you don't get that shared experience when you're at home by yourself, you get that experience when you come to the cinema and you're crying together and you're laughing together and you're clapping at the end of a fantastic movie. So for me, that's the best part about going to the movies, is that togetherness but then also nobody wants to go into theater where their feet are sticking to the floor as they did in the nineties. Everybody wants a clean, comfortable, wonderful experience where everybody's having a great time.
Yeah. I thought of an interesting parallel that a friend of mine shared on social media this weekend, and this was the Las Vegas strip opening up. And it was about the Wynn and how they opened up the Wynn and it was a video that got shared significantly where they had the whole staff, as they open up the casino, welcoming guests coming in, welcoming them in and essentially making it feel very personal as well as demonstrating the safety measures they had put in place to bloggers, to influencers, to everyone else who then share those videos, and then somehow it got to me. Right. So, while I'm an avid moviegoer, I'm not the person that would frequently they are, but essentially sharing that to everyone else is an extremely important part and probably a peril that can apply to this industry as well. So just wanted to put that up as well.
With that, Melissa, thank you so much for your time. This was amazing. A lot of insight was shared about how the industry can improve. Brittany, as always, it's been a pleasure speaking with you, both of you today. We learned a lot about how movie theaters and cinema can restart, how they can bring back the experience again for those avid moviegoers like me, and how they can essentially restart and build a loyalty program and essentially use their loyalty program to reenergize their audiences and bring them back into the seats. Thank you again, for joining me.
Thanks, Al. Thanks Melissa.
Thanks everyone. It was a wonderful conversation.
Former VP of Sales & Marketing and Chief Marketing Officer- Emagine Entertainment and Founder of Bou Consulting
Solutions Engineer, Entertainment & Hospitality,Savantis
Melissa Boudreau began her career while working at Moosejaw Mountaineering where she began as a store manager but left as a Senior Marketinng Manager and worked on their inventive "Moosejaw Madness" campaign. In 2015, Melissa was lured away by another Michigan based company, Emagine Entertainment, an innovative movie theater chain, where the guest experience is bar none. From overseeing media initiatives and website development, to Emagine’s “guest-centric” loyalty program, Melissa excels at finding and utilizing everything from corporate partnerships to community involvement.
Melissa holds a B.A.. in Business Administration and Management along with a M.A. in Public Relations, Advertising, and Applied Communications. She is considered an expert in social media marketing, print media, and is certified in YouTube and Google AdWords, through the Michigan State New Media Drivers License program.
As an SAP and AWS partner, Savantis Solutions has built and deployed a set of next-gen enterprise solutions aimed at the entertainment and retail industries. Since 1998, Savantis has been at the forefront of delivering and supporting innovative solutions centered on SAP, and more recently AWS. “Our mission is to enable mid-sized and cost-conscious companies to efficiently compete with larger corporations”, says Allan Vanderheyden, SVP Sales & Marketing. Some of our popular innovations include (a) RetailOn – a rapid, cost-effective SAP solution for retailers (b) Intelligent Cinema – an advanced cloud-based SAP solution for cinemas (c) SAMMY - a security and compliance solution for the hospitality, retail, and entertainment industries. Headquartered in Exton, Pennsylvania (US) and with offices in India, Sri Lanka and South Africa, we’re a global team of 500+ Savants servicing 280 customers worldwide.
For more information on Savantis, visit savantis.com