When Bradford Theatres recognised that its online booking system was a bit creaky, it chose a phased approach that satisfied customer expectations and resulted in a higher average spend, says Libby Penn.

Exterior of Alhambra Theatre at night

As future-oriented organisations go, Bradford Theatres has been ahead of the curve for the better part of a decade. The organisation’s four venues – Alhambra Theatre, St George’s Hall, The Studio, and King’s Hall and Winter Garden – compete with Leeds and Manchester as well as a variety of arts organisations in the Calder Valley.

The core objective was to stay ahead of customer expectations and create a simplified and customer-friendly booking path on the new website

Programming ranges from classical concerts to big name productions like Wicked and Mary Poppins. Managing resources and increasing customer engagement are a challenge for an organisation that offers so many events and such a broad range of genres.

A more digital approach

Even before austerity began to bite, setting off a wave of industry self-evaluation and innovation, Bradford Theatres’ leaders were re-thinking its approach to marketing and operations. It was clear that audience relationships were fast-evolving and becoming distinctly digital in character, with more and more box office commerce and customer communication happening online.

Liz Hall, Marketing, Press & Sales Manager at Bradford Theatres, said: “Customers clearly wanted more convenience and capability from us online, but old systems and processes were holding things back. The old site was delivering a credible level of traffic and conversions. We had the sense though that the online experience was getting a bit creaky. The whole thing needed to be future-proofed for an increasingly digital, mobile and diverse audience.”

Hall and her team had noted a steady rise in the number of mobile devices being used to browse the site, but could only offer minimal optimisation of site content and functionality for mobile browsers.

So in 2009 Bradford Theatres commissioned a new and improved website that would address the customer move to mobile, while shifting management of the site internally from IT to marketing. A modern content management system allowed box office staff to make their own updates to site information instantly – a huge improvement over the previous system where change requests could take up to a week to action via another department.

A phased plan

The next stage began in 2012 when Bradford Theatres commissioned digital agency 9xb to include digital marketing support, such as email marketing and social media advertising, in the website development brief. An annual budget was committed to the ongoing support and continual development of the website rather than a discreet one-time spend.

That led to the commissioning of a new ticketing system to facilitate online sales and trade up the the digital presence. After a rigorous procurement process Bradford Theatres selected the Spektrix box office management system to improve ticketing, but also to gain new capabilities in marketing, inventory management and pricing, e-commerce and reporting.

Hall adds: “The core objective was to stay ahead of customer expectations and create a simplified and customer-friendly booking path on the new website. We believed improving the theatre’s online customer experience would enhance overall sales and encourage more people to book via the web, the most efficient and cost-effective sales channel. We wanted to see an upturn in operational efficiency as well, so that the resources previously spent by staff on bookings made by phone or in person could be reallocated to other tasks.”

Impressive results

Going live with Spektrix in August 2014, Bradford Theatres has generated impressive results with an improved web presence and integrated box office management system. Over the past three years, the proportion of sales via the web grew from 44% to 63%. The Theatres also achieved an average email open rate of 39%, and crucially, increased the average spend per customer from £123.69 to £150.56.

The Spektrix system helped in this regard by enabling Hall and her team to experiment with bespoke cross-selling tactics. They worked with us to design a VIP package for the Laidler Lounge VIP Bar at the online point of sale, offering customers exclusive use of the bar along with a glass of champagne and a house programme on arrival.

Making the most of what was new functionality, together we ensured the upsell was quick and easy. The offer increased the number of package sales by 225%. Offering the VIP upgrade in addition to memberships and recommended events led to a 29% increase in the average online order value.

Email open rates have been improved thanks to ongoing testing and refining of email messages, targeting and timings by 9xb. The sales and marketing team are also making the most of tools available in Spektrix such as pre- and post-show emails, and analytics that capture instances of ‘basket abandonment’. This allows the theatre to prompt or incentivise users via email when a transaction is incomplete.

“Spektrix has been brilliant,” said Hall. “They worked closely with 9xb to implement the improved system, anticipating potential issues and helping us plan for launch of the new website and system. They were a great source of advice and help whenever needed. Their style is like ours – to work collaboratively with all stakeholders in a project. I felt they were really there for everyone involved throughout the process.”

Libby Penn is Chief Operating Officer of Spektrix.
www.spektrix.com

This article is an advertising feature sponsored and contributed by Spektrix.

Link to Author(s): 
Photo of Libby Penn