Today’s cinema audiences are becoming significantly more sophisticated in the way that they consume content. With streaming services like Netflix and Amazon Prime becoming increasingly popular, and catalogues of films and TV series expanding, exhibitors need to adapt to today’s consumer viewing habits - or risk turning the lights out for good.
Technology has played a huge role in driving much of the change in the way we consume content. From smartphones to tablets and everything in between – more and more people are bingeing on box-sets or watching re-plays of the big match on their phones on the commute to work. As a result, consumers are demanding customisable, personalised, and immersive content experiences across a whole range of devices.
If truth be told, most exhibitors are under-prepared for the technological transformations underway. From the box office to the foyer and to the big screen itself, all areas of the cinema must be covered if cinemas are serious about maximising occupancy, enriching the customer experience, encouraging spending and bringing cinema up to date with the Netflixes of the world.
Take mobile phone use in cinemas, for example. A recent study found that 31% of US cell phone owners never actually turn their device off. And there’s already been heated discussions this year on whether texting in cinemas is acceptable or not. But before you recoil in horror, cinemas really do need to think seriously about how they can incorporate mobile devices into the cinema experience. If consumers really are this attached to their phones, then expecting them to turn them off completely from the moment they step into the foyer is too much to ask. That doesn’t mean condoning texting during the movie either – there needs to be a happy medium that appeals to consumers’ 24/7 attachment to their phones, as well as their love of cinema.
The pre-show is a perfect opportunity to let consumers get their mobile phone fix before a film begins. Encouraging cinema goers to interact with the ads and trailers on the big screen before it all kicks off is a great way to let consumers enjoy their phones in the cinema. Mobile devices can also be a key advertising platform for cinemas. Creating engaging advertising, and targeting customers while they’re enjoying a social, immersive experience, can be incredibly effective for brands.
Mobile devices can also be a key advertising platform for cinemas. Creating engaging advertising, and targeting customers while they’re enjoying a social, immersive experience, can be incredibly effective for brands.
iPlateia is one technology provider we’ve been working with that allows audiences to do just that. The software uses audio recognition to deliver relevant vouchers, offers and links consumers’ phones – whether that is a BOGOF offer on popcorn down in the foyer or directions to a store’s nearest retail location.
But personalisation and interaction doesn’t have to be restricted to the big screen – it should be embraced in the foyer too. Another of our Thunderstorm partners, Cinema Conversations, encourages customers to interact with cinemas and each other via Twitter and Instagram. Customers spend hours on these social media channels outside of the cinema, and engaging with them by asking them to send in tweets and Instagram pictures really helps build a relationship, as well as a picture of your audience and, crucially, your key influencers.
Whether exhibitors like it or not, change is on its way. And although using new technologies sounds daunting, cinemas need to embrace the technological age if they want to keep up with cutting-edge companies like Netflix. Understanding your audience and the way they consume content, and giving them engaging experiences, is key to heightening the cinema experience and maximising occupancy. Ultimately, those that fail to do so risk losing out to the online streaming services and the ‘sofa trap’ that are ever-present threats.