By William McMorrow, Senior UX Designer

    Disruptive trends are everywhere in 2018; self-driving cars are poised to redefine transport, blockchain technology could revolutionise banking, and augmented reality could improve the quality of education in the near future.

    With so much change it can be difficult to predict how new ideas and technologies are going to impact well-established sectors like cinema.


    So what is the best way to be the disruptor and not the disrupted

    Steve Jobs once said, “Innovation has nothing to do with how many R&D dollars you have. […] It’s about the people you have, how you’re led, and how much you get it."

    How much you ‘get it’ has to come from a deep understanding of your marketplace, your competitors, and most importantly, your customers. The first step towards innovating any product or process is getting to know your customers, their motivations, and their requirements. Trying to think of innovative ideas without a clear understanding of customer motives is a bit like choosing furniture for a room that you haven’t measured yet.

    By getting out of the office, speaking to customers and finding commonalities between individuals, we can begin to identify what individuals and groups of people are seeking when they visit the cinema, as well as what may prevent them from going in the future.

    Once we have a clear understanding of what customers actually want and how happy they are with the service they’re getting it’s time to start creating solutions that are going to wow customers and disrupt the competition.

    Design Thinking is used by the world's leading brands to turn expertise into tangible solutions- it's customer-centric, collaborative, and experimental.

    Design Thinking is an iterative process that is used by some of the world’s leading brands to turn a team’s expertise into tangible solutions. Following Design Thinking allows organisations to minimise risk and maximise learning for their business.

    There are many variants on Design Thinking, however, they all embody the same principles – they’re customer-centric, collaborative, and experimental.

    The five phases of Design Thinking, according to the Stanford Institute of Design, are to:

    1. Empathise with your customers
    2. Define your customers’ needs, their problems, and goals
    3. Ideate by challenging assumptions and creating ideas for innovative solutions
    4. Prototype your possible solutions
    5. Test your solutions


    Empathise with customers by interviewing representatives and reviewing any field research that has been conducted. Create empathy maps and ‘as-is’ scenarios to get a feel for what the customer’s experiences are actually like.

    A team innovating the cinema-going experience could use research and expert feedback to develop step-by-step maps of how a “Regular Cinema Goer” persona makes the decision to see a movie, round up their friends, buy tickets, get to the cinema, purchase concessions, watch the movie, and anything they do afterwards. Honing in on what these steps are for each of your personas can help to uncover the strengths and weaknesses in the customer experience.


    Defining problems, project goals, and user needs can be challenging as there will be differing perspectives across your business. However, debating these topics is very healthy for organisations, and it will also help shape all of the ideating and prototyping to come.

    For example, if the team found that many of their “Regular Cinema Goer” persona customers have trouble convincing their friends to join them for a movie at the “Round up their friends” step, the team could translate that into the goal of “Making cinemas more appealing as a social destination.”


    The ideation stage is where the team starts to get creative. Participants can think up big ideas, sketch story boards and sort by risk vs benefit. All of these efforts should aim to solve the problems, goals, and user needs set in the previous step.

    So, in order to make cinemas more of a social destination, the team could start thinking of ways that their cinema could serve as a hub that connects fans with each other. One team member might suggest opening a café in the lobby, while another might propose hosting regular events for fans of different genres.


    Prototyping should take the best ideas from the ideation phase and put them into practice. This part can seem daunting but with the right mind set is totally achievable.

    The team could mock up an advertising campaign for a special event fans can attend before they go to see the latest genre film, or create the blueprints for a more inviting lobby.


    The final step is to take the prototype and test it. At this stage, the team would reach out to a number of Regular Cinema Goers and present the new campaign that was developed in the prototype phase. One interviewer can lead the customers through a mock scenario while the team record the customers’ reactions and observations.

    Once a few tests have been completed the team should have a good feel for whether it could be successful in the real world. Even if this step is not successful the time has not been wasted as developing and testing mock scenarios is a lot cheaper than developing and launching something in the real world.


    By the end of the process teams usually leave feeling energised and enthusiastic about the future and more importantly may have managed to create new experiences that will make disruptive environments feel like less of a threat and more of an opportunity. 

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