5 ways to improve your cinema’s booking flow
July 12, 2016
86% of the United States’ population is online, yet online sales account for only 13% of movie ticket sales, according to the Wall Street Journal. A majority of these purchases are to secure tickets for the first showings of blockbusters, such as “Star Wars: The Force Awakens.”
Online ticket sales are beneficial for both cinemas and moviegoers. Cinemas benefit from online sales by capturing customer data to drive targeted-marketing campaigns and by giving an attendance expectation to help with scheduling and operations. Moviegoers benefit from greater convenience, the opportunity to preselect a seat and potentially earning a discount.
To address the gap between online sales’ potential and actual sales, we analyzed the booking flows of cinema chains with substantial market share in the largest 3 largest European cinema markets - CineStar in Germany, Cineworld in the UK, & Gaumont Pathé in France - and the US market – Regal Cinemas. We highlight 5 best practices that could improve your booking process and drive online sales.
1. Give a clear overview of upcoming films to simplify navigation
Our booking flow journey begins at the same place as a customer wishing to book a ticket: the landing page’s film selection. Easy navigation is essential to increase purchases and decrease bounce rate. Cinemas want customers who visit their site to purchase a ticket; it is therefore critical to optimize the booking flow so that customers can easily find the film they wish to see. Additionally, customers who do not have a specific movie in mind benefit from seeing all films on the landing page. If customers cannot quickly find a movie that interests them, you have the potential to lose sales.
Regal Cinema’s website solves this by immediately directing users to a film selection page containing images of the film posters. By immediately showing the films, a customer knows where he or she should click to begin the booking process. Only after customers select a film they wish to see, they are presented with information about the location or time of the film’s showing. This is an improvement on CineStar’s homepage, which places only 4 film posters at the bottom of the landing page. To increase conversions, make it easy for customers to find the film they are looking for.
2. Place bundling options in the booking flow to increase upsell
Cinema fans go to the theater not only for the film, but also for the experience. For many fans, a film is more enjoyable with popcorn and a drink. This is good news for cinemas, where it has been reported that up to 85% of profit comes from the high-margin concessions. With this importance in mind, cinemas should emulate airlines by offering bundling options throughout the booking flow to drive concession sales.
Airlines, such as Ryanair, incentivize customers to buy more by offering packages that include features such as better seats, baggage check and priority check-in. They typically offer packages to provide ease of booking in line with Amazon’s one-click buy philosophy. Furthermore, if a customer chooses the basic ticket package, they offer the opportunity to add additional features throughout the booking process at discounted rates.
None of the cinema chains in our sample capitalized on the opportunity to upsell by offering an “add popcorn” option directly in the booking flow. CineStar does offer such bundled packages, however they are located on a special offers page that is not part of the standard booking flow.
3. Eliminate booking fees to incentivize online purchases
Once a customer has selected a film and is ready to purchase, they may be surprised to see up to a 10% online booking fee at the end of the process. Presenting such a fee toward the end of the booking process may cause a customer to become frustrated and forgo the booking process all together.
Gaumont Pathé stands out among the cinemas we highlighted, as they do not charge a booking fee. However, the other theaters in the sample charged an online booking fee. While cinemas may earn more in the short term, such a fee discourages online booking in the long run and can lead to customer dissatisfaction.
4. Make data collection optional to increase conversion rate
Collecting customer information benefits cinemas because they have the opportunity to increase sales by using historic purchasing behavior to create individualized offers and targeted marketing campaigns. According to a Network Advertising Initiative study, behavior-targeted advertisements are over twice as cost effective as general advertising. Therefore, it is in the cinema’s interest to collect and utilize this data.
While data collection is beneficial, it is important to give customers the opportunity to purchase a ticket without giving their information. For example, if a customer lives outside of your geographic market, they may decide to not purchase a ticket if they are required to give personal information.
Cineworld handles this brilliantly by clearly stating up front that a customer will receive a discount if he or she logs in to purchasing a ticket. Rather than forcing a customer to give their email address, Cineworld incentivizes them to. Such a practice creates a win-win for cinemas and customers. Gaumont Pathé on the other hand forces a customer to enter an email address to purchase a ticket, which has the potential to deter customers with data privacy concerns.
5. Manage booking and payment in-house to capture surcharge revenue
The final best practice pertains to the most important part of the booking process: payment processing. It is common practice in many industries, including cinemas, to outsource the handling of payment and delivery options. While handling payments in-house requires an initial investment, it allows companies to own all customer data, avoid paying 3rd party transaction fees, and simplify the booking process for the customer. In our research, the redirection from the cinema site to the payment page failed to load properly on 2 occasions. This redirection failure has the potential to decrease sales, because it forces the user to redo the entire booking process.
Cineworld again stands out among the cinemas we researched by processing payment and issuing tickets directly from their website. It not only benefits them, it streamlines the booking process by remaining on a single tab. Outsourcing the payment is especially popular in the US, where ticket sellers such as Fandango and Movietickets.com are prevalent. Though this trend may be changing in the near future, as major US cinema chains are considering ending their exclusivity agreements with Fandango.
In addition to the 5 best practices highlighted above, one feature that none of these cinemas implement is price transparency in the booking flow. Most theaters offer cheaper tickets when demand is lower such as weekdays or midday show times, yet their booking processes do not highlight these opportunities to save.
Due to the extreme price sensitivity of their customers, the airline industry has nearly perfected this aspect of the booking flow. For example, Eurowing’s “Low Fare Calendar” gives a clear overview of the price per day, making it easy for flexible customers to find good deals. Such a feature can incentivize price sensitive customers, balance demand throughout the week and improve the overall booking process. Price transparency makes it easier for time flexible customers select an off-peak time and save. The first cinema to adapt this innovation has the potential to both increase sales and better serve their customers.