An easy, flexible ticketing system has boosted sales for a family show in an inflatable theatre that itself makes theatre-going an easier experience, explains Libby Penn.
For some families, performing arts events can be a no-go zone: Victorian-era venues with narrow rows, adult-height loos, restrictive seats and grown-up sight lines are simply not made for kinetic kids and all the kit they need. That leaves a huge market badly underserved and largely untapped.
For the creative minds behind Minor Entertainment, building an offer that would make theatrical events enticing and accessible to families was the driving idea behind a data-driven arts marketing project. In the Night Garden Live has played to audiences of more than 100,000 over the course of a season and has taken the show to audiences with its own 500-seat Showdome, a purpose-built inflatable theatre that can hold four performances a day, six days a week. The production’s cast of six bring to life children’s CBeebies’ stars Igglepiggle, Upsy Daisy and Makka Pakka using full-size costumes, magical puppets, enchanting music and breath-taking projections. The live show enacts new stories based on some of the original television episodes and is narrated by Sir Derek Jacobi.
The company’s model demanded that any system be based on principles of simplicity, flexibility and ease of use for both customers and managers
Minor Entertainment aims to make parents’ lives easier with space to park prams and buggies, nappy-changing facilities and even microwaves to warm up baby food. The Showdome’s spacious amphitheatre seating is tailor-made for families and the practical realities of an audience not likely to stay glued to their seats. Andrew Collier, founder of the company, says: “Theatre venues can be very cramped and awkward places for young families. We wanted to make the experience of taking young children to the theatre as easy as possible, with lots of space for buggies, easily accessible seating and great sight lines for toddlers.”
While the creative and venue concepts offer something attractive and different, overcoming the limitation of traditional theatre pricing models has been another challenge. With a legacy of high booking fees and limited performance timetables, a flexible and transparent pricing model was essential to attract families. As a vertically integrated company that handles every element of production, venue operations, merchandising, marketing and ticketing, it needed a technology platform that would support these activities and help it learn about its audience, their habits and purchasing preferences. With traditional ticketing and box office systems this can be a big ask. The ability to build and display flexible pricing structures tends to be limited, deriving usable insights from customer data can be time-consuming, and integration with a theatre’s online ticketing functionality often involves a high level of technical complexity.
Andrew Collier commented: “We wanted to present families with lots of choice in terms of schedule and price, and to position ancillary purchases in an attractive way. We can take our venue anywhere, so it’s important to analyse geo-demographic data to help work out optimal locations.” Working initially with a third-party, white-label ticketing system, Minor Entertainment was not achieving the conversion rates it hoped to, and realised it needed a better way to present itself and the performance to customers. The company chose Spektrix for ticketing, box office management and arts marketing. The new system has enabled it to develop an EasyJet-inspired pricing grid for the production’s website with a range of option and prices based on time of day and availability for each scheduled performance.
Andrew Collier added: “Too much of the ticketing industry is stuck in the 1980s - very introspective, fearful of change and far too concerned about the physical bit of the ticket.” The company’s model demanded that any system be based on principles of simplicity, flexibility and ease of use for both customers and managers.
Having completed three full tours with the system for ticket sales, cross promotion, incremental sales and audience analytics, the team has been able to consistently achieve target conversion rates for promotions and support for its communications campaigns. Last year it sold more than 18,000 tickets on pre-sale day alone, with strong sale peaks around a series of targeted direct marketing e-blasts. At year end it had sold over 118,000 performance tickets, and through upselling and cross-promotion nearly 13,000 ‘Meet a character’ tickets, and over 10,000 goody bags. And that has continued into January with strong sales across the board.
Libby Penn is Managing Director of Spektrix.
This article is part of a series, sponsored and contributed by Spektrix, aiming to provoke new thinking in how we use ticketing and CRM systems to maximise revenue and grow audiences.