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An ArtsProfessional feature in partnership with Purple Seven

An in-depth project examining Sadler’s Wells’ ‘customer journey’ has resulted in a much more relevant and targeted approach, which should ensure that customers stay happy and, crucially, return. Hannah Mitchell reports.

Photo of Sadler's Wells exterior

Derek Kendall, English Heritage

Sadler’s Wells, located in Islington, London, is going from strength to strength by getting to know its growing audience better, creating a dialogue and understanding how the audience behaves in an actionable way. This was something that the dance house scoped out with Purple Seven in late 2014. Sebastian Cheswright, Director of Marketing & Sales, explains: “Our main driver was the opportunity to undergo a health check and begin to gain a greater understanding of our audience.”

Purple Seven was already working with Sadler’s Wells, but this project created a genuine partnership to bring together the expertise of the two parties to achieve a common aim. The idea of taking a step back from the daily marketing campaign was very attractive as it allowed us to see how the current communications created and shaped a customer’s journey from their first visit through to being an active, engaged booker. Analysing this customer journey allowed us to get a picture of the loyal attenders alongside the ever-present number of first-time customers. The collective objective throughout was to make sure that Sadler’s Wells remains relevant in the way it communicates to its audiences so that they are encouraged to return. As such, it was important to deal with the project in a phased approach.

It was clear that certain events drove re-attendance and so it was key to identify the trends that emerged

We first looked closely at the customers and matched them against our Arts Dimensions profiling solution, which adds a rich layer of understanding of their arts-going behaviour in a holistic way. We could then see if consumers are heavily engaged with other artforms, and if so which ones, and at the same time it revealed which customers only visit Sadler’s Wells. We could then tell Sadler’s Wells when a first-timer was actually a prolific arts-goer elsewhere. Sebastian explains the impact of seeing first-timers in this way: “We wanted to know how many people are totally new to the arts and how many are just new to us, as this would impact on the way we messaged them. We also wanted to find ways of getting to know those customers better and nurture them, supporting them in their next steps of re-engaging with us.”

We then looked at Sadler’s Wells’ audience across its three venues to see if behaviour differs with venue. This meant being able to map the strength of the relationship between events and map the events that drove re-attendance. It was clear that certain events drove re-attendance and so it was key to identify the trends that emerged. Sebastian explains how the marketing team benefited from these findings: “In knowing which shows are the biggest drivers for conversion into future attendance we can be sure that any targeting we are doing for direct mail and eCRM will have the biggest impact and the best return on investment.” Further to this, by mapping each venue and how the booking behaviour can differ, Sadler’s Wells has been able to reposition the way it communicates with customers about productions at each venue. By knowing these variances, it has been more relevant and targeted in its approach. This insight has enabled it to start repositioning The Peacock, its West End home, alongside the venue’s rebranding, with the aim of increasing loyalty and advanced bookings.

We also wanted to understand the impact of promotions on re-attendance. Sadler’s Wells has a ‘multi-buy’ offer that incentivises repeat bookings by giving customers 20% off when booking two shows in one transaction. What was fascinating was that first-timers who used the multi-buy offer were ten times more likely to keep engaging with Sadler’s Wells in the future. Rewarding customers at this stage of the transaction meant that customers were encouraged to make a second visit.

So we learnt what customers were doing, but to round out the understanding it was important to gauge what they thought of their experience. Through our free, audience feedback solution called Did You Enjoy That?, we asked Sadler’s Wells’ customers what they thought of the event they had just attended and the experience of being in the venue.

In summary, Sadler’s Wells now has a greater insight with which to action its marketing strategy and place the ‘why’ behind the ‘what’. This has ensured that its communications are even more relevant to customers. Sebastian commented: ”It’s been a year of massive cultural change and, alongside the implementation of our new CRM and the roll-out of our new visual identity, Purple Seven’s insight has really helped us shape our audience development strategy for the future.”

For us, working collaboratively with Sadler’s Wells has shown us that by bringing our respective expertise together in terms of the arts and data insight both parties have benefited. Having someone from Purple Seven at Sadler’s Wells every week during the project was invaluable to really get under the skin of the organisation and understand the nuances – far more than if we had done it from our office. Sadler’s Wells has been a delight to work with and this is the start of a long-term partnership.

We know how customers behave across the arts sector, and applying this to a venue’s customer understanding brings a very different approach to engagement. And that feels to us like the holy grail of arts marketing.

Hannah Mitchell is Client Services Manager at Purple Seven. This article is part of a series of articles on the theme ‘Insight into Audiences’, sponsored and contributed by Purple Seven.

Purple Seven collects ticketing data for around 250 organisations, covering 70% of the UK’s ticket sales. All ticketed arts organisations can join FREE of charge, and receive a FREE quarterly report on their customers in context with the UK picture of arts attenders. For more information please contact: enquiries@purpleseven.com.

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