GOOD PRACTICE GUIDE How to go to the theatre – post-Covid

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Blackpool Grand Theatre has produced a guide to how technology will guide us into the theatre in the near future.

With six illustrations, the theatre shows its audience to their seat via their smart phones or watches and AI technology. It will tell them hen to mute and dim their phones, help them as they watch from their own homes, which is the least busy bar in the interval, choosing your drinks from your seat, and booking their tickets

“The journey to re-opening is an opportunity to test out new ideas and approaches” said James Akers, Arts Council England’s tech champion. “Start small and review your current processes. What takes up a lot of staff time? What training would be useful? What could you do if you had more resources 

“We have already seen some organisations take huge strides using segmentation to tailor messaging and cut costs with hyper targeted campaigns. The next stage of matching artificial intelligence to box office systems is incredibly exciting as this takes it beyond simple marketing messaging to actually enhancing the user experience and building a deep connection with audiences”. 

There are 1,100 active theatres in the UK all either open now or preparing to open, but The Barbican and Blackpool Grand Theatre, are the only ones streamlining their systems to incorporate AI technology. These technologies, which consist of using customer insights data tool, Activity Stream, use audience data to improve the booking journey to work with multiple items to feed and generate customer behaviours and learnings 

With traditional theatre practices still in mind, the advancements have been welcomed by Blackpool Grand.

“The likes of live tickets, cashless venues and booking through your smart device will be here within the near future. The capabilities are there, it’s more about integrating it with systems theatres already use – that’s the key” said Andrew Howard, Blackpool Grand’s head of marketing. “These changes are already happening.

Blackpool Grand is developing its IT systems to include enhancing its customer relationship management (CRM) and audience data year-on-year, with the theatre having just completed a five year aim to align all of its programmes to integrate, from social media notices to filled seats, using AI software.

Using audience data will enable the theatre to improve booking procedures, so that tickets can be booked from home using devices such as Alexa.

“Theatres like us and the Barbican are leading the way in AI and digital experiences - live broadcasting following the pandemic has boomed 100’s of millions of hours of viewing” Howard said. “Digital tickets are already here, but live tickets should be here very soon. Automated seats, heat-mapping and iBeacons will probably be seen in the next five years. Theatres are already adopting the cashless theatre. Again, the pandemic will make that a sooner than predicted reality.

“These advancements are really key to theatres’ understanding of what customers likes and dislikes are and tailoring the overall message to this.”


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