This week, Ambassador Theater Group, the U.K.’s largest chain of stage theatres, launched their membership campaign. The program is the first of its kind to operate at a national level. A card costs 30 pounds ($48), and grants access to priority tickets, special offers, priority brochure mailing, fee-free ticket exchanging, 10% savings at the concession stand, and no booking-related fees (on most shows). In addition, cardholders can purchase up to four tickets per show and are invited to exclusive events such as Q & A sessions with casts and creative crews.
ATG’s membership campaign appears to be fully loaded, but how does it measure up to other loyalty programs? In the UK’s theatre industry, there are not many grandiose campaigns similar to ATG’s. Carmarthenshire Theatres has a point-redemption loyalty program where customers receive points on their card every time they go to a show. When they have enough points on the card, they can attend a show free of charge. This campaign may not have all of the bells and whistles that ATG’s does, but the card is free so it offers real competition. In the mind of the Carmarthenshire theatre-goer, they are getting to see a free show every now and then without having to pay a premium for it.
ATG’s program is also comparable to Cineworld Cinemas, a larger movie theater company. Cineworld’s “unlimited card” offers unlimited film (any time or day), invites to advanced screenings, discounts on food and drink, discounts on non-film showings (like live national theatre performances), exclusive competitions, and savings on magazines. The charge for the unlimited card is 15 pounds per month. In comparison, ATG’s program wins out. Cineworld just charges too much for its relatively small amount of benefits.
At TicketForce, are very positive on this issue. We believe that loyalty programs can be used for gaining information and getting the pulse without giving away what we are looking for: ticket sales. According to TicketForce CEO Lynne King Smith, “loyalty with ticket buyers is part of engagement – in my opinion, ticket fees shouldn’t be part of the benefit – you want points gained by attendance, etc to be used for all kinds of benefits – access to practices, sound checks, food and merchandise – but don’t need to hack ticket prices and fees.”
We opened up this idea of loyalty programs to attendees of this month’s #ticketchat and received some interesting feedback. Our friend @ElioMartinez provided some great suggestions, including a suggestion that people enjoy games and therefore it would be beneficial to add “gamification to your #loyaltyprograms without making it cheesy.” @VENUEINSIDER suggested offering “special seating, backstage access, meet and greets, jacuzzi seats, etc.” to loyalty members. Both, in our opinion, our fantastic suggestions.
We agreed with @ElioMartinez, who summed up the core value of loyalty programs: “Service should be the core of #loyaltyprograms. Pick up the phone & call your customers. Ask them about their experience.”
What do you think – should loyalty programs have an effect on ticket prices and fees? Or, should they be based on specialized access and experiences?