Based in Toronto, Mirvish Productions is Canada’s largest commercial theatre production company. Mirvish operates the Royal Alexandra Theatre, a historic venue it saved from demolition in 1963, the luxurious 2,000-seat Princess of Wales Theatre, which opened in 1993, the 2,300-seat Ed Mirvish Theatre and the intimate 700-seat Panasonic Theatre. Its subsidiary TicketKing provides online ticketing services to both Mirvish Productions and many smaller Toronto theatre companies.
As Digital, CRM & Loyalty Manager, Aubrey is ultimately responsible for maximizing the lifetime value of Mirvish customers. On the CRM side, he manages all email marketing communications, including mass emails and lifecycle-based emails, which Mirvish plans to use regularly in the coming months. In the area of loyalty, Aubrey is implementing technology to help increase lifetime customer value for existing patrons. Digitally, Aubrey manages all of Mirvish’s online advertising efforts as well as optimization, making sure customers can easily find the theatre company, find the show they are interested in and make a purchase.
A masterpiece of beaux-arts architecture, the historic Royal Alexandra is the oldest continuously operating legitimate theatre in North America.
AV: How does technology help a business like Mirvish?
Aubrey: I think technology serves to enhance the experience. I’m probably not the first person ever to say this, but I think the show-going experience starts long before a person gets into the theatre and can continue long after that as well. We are looking at how we make that the best that it can be. From the ticket-buying process to pre-show – making sure patrons have all the information they need to get to the show on time, to find parking, etc. – and then post-show asking them what they thought of the show and continuing on that conversation with relevant messaging based on who they are and what they like.
AV: How is Mirvish using technology?
Aubrey: AudienceView powers all of our ticketing. We are also using it for our pre-show and post-show communications. The latest thing that we are using AudienceView for is our point-of-sale (POS) system. In our theatres, we have rolled out the POS system that AudienceView built with some of our input, so all of our concession sales are going through that system as well with the goal of having a 360-degree view of our customers.
Mirvish knows who is making purchases using their membership card and uses that information to speak more intelligently and on point with its subscribers.
AV: And that’s linked to a membership card?
Aubrey: Yes, exactly. As it stands today, our subscribers have a card that allows them to access credit that’s on their account to then use for concessions. So different from a typical gift card, which is anonymous, this card allows us to figure out who is actually making the purchase so that we can use that information to speak more intelligently and on point with our subscribers.
AV: Why is technology a good complement to a great patron experience?
Aubrey: Technology paired with data allows us to treat individuals as individuals. I think it’s as simple as that. Digital becomes the channel that we are able to do that through and data is the driver that allows us to know what to say to the person we’re talking to.
AV: How does Mirvish plan to use technology to improve the customer journey?
Aubrey: I think the crux of it is using technology to find out who our customers are. We are laying the foundation for what I think is going to be a superior experience – before, during and after the show. What we intend to do is use technology to learn as much as we can about our customers so that we can then speak to them accordingly.
We will be introducing very comprehensive lifecycle programs primarily using email to talk to the customer who we may have identified is at risk of not purchasing as frequently this year as they did last year, for example.
We’ll talk to our best customers who are purchasing all the time but maybe never purchasing concessions at our theatres. And, we’ll be looking at ways we can generate more revenue and enhance the experience as well.
AV: You led the charge in implementing POS attached to membership cards at Mirvish. How has this project brought value to Mirvish and its patrons?
Aubrey: The idea started with incenting our subscribers to renew, to renew early and to pay in full early on as well. We provide payment plans, but obviously we prefer to have things taken care of rather quickly in that way.
The idea was to incent customers with a value that varied based on a number of different things – like when they renewed and if they paid in full. The second part to providing that incentive was that this credit could then be used at concessions, which traditionally for our subscribers doesn’t tend to be part of their show-going habit.
We thought we could achieve a couple of things with this new version of our subscriber card – again, getting customers to renew and encouraging new behavior.
I also looked at this in a grander way and saw the opportunity. By using AudienceView, we are able to tie all those purchases back to each subscriber and complete that full view… then roll it out sometime in the future to all of our customers, more likely by leveraging a mobile app, which we’ll also power using AudienceView.
AV: How can musical theatre and performing arts groups benefit by taking ideas from other sectors and introducing them into their businesses?
Aubrey: A lot of what we’re doing and what I’m intending to do is inspired by Starbucks. I think they do a fantastic job. They are a bricks and mortar business that up until two or three years ago had no idea who their customers were really, then they took what started as a gift card and rolled it into a loyalty program and an app. Now for me, it has changed my behavior. When I’m standing in line at Starbucks and about to make a payment, I look at my app to see if I have a balance. If I don’t, I reload it there to get my points. Right there is an example of other industries that are inspiring what it is that we’re doing in theatre.
AV: Some musical theatre and performing arts groups are just not proactive when it comes to technology, but they could be much more efficient if they were. How can technology help busy professionals do more and improve the overall customer experience?
Aubrey: AudienceView provides a wealth of data on our customers as it is today. Any of the arguments that I’ve had to make internally to sell what it is I’m looking to do have largely been based on the data. If we’re able to recognize or figure out what an average order total is or how many of our customers are actually active, we can start setting benchmarks for ourselves that we can then improve upon and continually measure to see how we are doing and where we need to make improvements.
There is a lot of opportunity to leverage what we know about a customer and communicate with them to bolster their value over time.
AV: What else is Mirvish doing with technology that is innovative?
Aubrey: Subscription upselling. For example, Motown, which is the first show of our 2015-16 season – if you were to purchase a ticket today, tomorrow you would get an email saying you can get a discount on the ticket you just purchased effectively by subscribing to the season. We then go on to highlight the rest of the shows in the season.
One of the things we plan to do – and this circles back nicely to the POS data that we are collecting now through AudienceView – is use concessions buying patterns as a way to incent other behaviors. For example, if we see a customer buys wine every single time they go to a show, rather than giving them a discount on a ticket for another show we can offer to credit their account with the $8.00 it would be for that glass of wine if they purchase tickets to the show. So more than just upselling concessions itself, we now have ability to use that in-theatre experience to encourage other purchase behavior as well.
In addition to that, again related to the POS system…is to allow patrons to pre-buy or load credit onto their card so that they can make their purchase before they even get to the theatre and then just scan their card and go to their seats. With that, we’ve also talked about the idea of having an exclusive line for our cardholders.
AV: That’s similar to Starbucks – don’t wait in line for a drink, order it in advance and we’ll have it ready when you get here!
Aubrey: Yes, exactly. It’s funny, one of the challenges that one of our front of house managers had mentioned was if you come to one of our theatres, there could be eight or ten bars, how do you know where your drink is going to be? Then Starbucks came along, again as a business I’m looking at to see what they are doing, and they’ve introduced this pre-ordering concept. Obviously they have a couple locations around, so they’ve solved that problem. When we get to the phase of rolling out an app, that is something that we’ll look to do.
AV: Why is it important to remain at the front of the technology curve in musical theatre and the performing arts?
Aubrey: I think technology is more and more becoming ingrained in our day-to-day lives and is becoming increasingly important to the next generation of theatre goers who expect to be able to do certain things with a certain ease.
Further, it’s become necessary based on the fragmentation of market: where traditionally we’d use mass media to reach our audience, these channels are becoming less and less effective. Paired with a growing expectation from consumers that we speak with them as individuals, it’s becoming critical to ensure our technology can satisfy these needs and expectations.
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