The Blackpool Grand Theatre illustrates what the future of theatre will look like in the next 5 years
Blackpool Grand Theatre, the premier venue for shows in Blackpool have created six illustrations to highlight technology and advancements we can expect to see in a modern day theatre environment over the next five years.
The theatre, who are leading the charge in the advancements of the theatre industry are beginning to explore and implement automated technology into the theatre to heighten the customer experience when the industry sets to return.
Six illustrations detailing the future of theatre:
An audience of people in a theatre setting holding and looking at their phone, with the show about to start, and their phones all displaying the same message: “It is time to mute your phone and dim the screen”.
A family sat in a lounge watching a theatre production from the comfort of their home
Interval notifications – Someone standing in a theatre looking at a television screen which shows a bar heatmap based on card transactions allowing customers to choose quietest bars in the intervals.
Two people looking at one mobile screen and choosing their drinks to order from their seats
A row of seats with people in them accept one empty chair that has an A5 personalised birthday message from the chief executive to the customer
Consumer booking their theatre tickets through Alexa
Blackpool Grand Theatre is placing a significant amount of importance on developing its IT systems, which 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 the moment they put something on social media through to the customer attending the theatre by utilising AI software. Doing this successfully will increase the customer experience, raising more online reviews and gaining insightful customer feedback for the theatre and the industry to come.
Through using audience data and putting customer experience at the forefront of the advancements, theatregoers in the future can expect to easily book tickets from home using devices such as Alexa, simply asking “Alexa, book me two tickets to see the Lion King at The Blackpool Grand Theatre on Friday”, with Alexa replying: “Yes, no problem - would you like your prefered seats which are available?”. Showgoers will also be able to receive notifications during the interval which show them the quietest bars to visit for a quick drink or snack stop using heat map technology.
If that wasn’t enough, technology is gearing towards sending theatregoers a text, rather than a tannoy message, before the start of a show which will notify them to ‘mute their phones and dim their screens’.
Regardless of size or artform, embracing a digital future is pivotal for the survival of the theatre industry, as many look to postpone shows, musicals and productions until 2021. Ensuring theatres use the time effectively to return stronger and more robust, implementing digital advancements are key:
James Akers, Tech Champion for Arts Council England, said;
“The journey to re-opening is an opportunity to test out new ideas and approaches. 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”.
With 1,100 active theatres in the UK, The Barbican and Blackpool Grand Theatre are the only two theatres in the UK 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. Without losing sight of the traditional aspects of going to the theatre, the advancements have been welcomed by Blackpool Grand who are bringing in modern day elements to the theatre experience.
Andrew Howard, Head of Marketing and Brand at Blackpool Grand, said:
“The likes of live tickets, cashless venues and booking through your SMART device (TV, Phone, Watch) 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.
These changes are already happening, theatre’s 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. 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.”
The Blackpool Grand recognises the importance of using smarter and more effective tools to reach audiences so that individuals working at the theatre can be creative, plan campaigns and use their time to think about new ways of improving the customer experience, which is what AI can’t do.
Martin Gammeltoft, CBO of Activity Stream, commented on how these updates will improve the customer experience: “In marketing, I think the biggest benefit is relevance. By targeting better, the audience will experience that the communication is relevant, and will therefore start listening more to what you tell them. Better segmentation in email almost always results in higher opening rates, higher sales per email, and fewer unsubscribes. It’s an investment that has an enormous impact (and the right tools will help minimise the effort required).
In other areas, like chatbots, customers can experience a very fast handling of their questions, at all times of day. Maybe even without knowing that “Susie” was actually a chatbot. This again frees up time from the team, who can now invest in improving in-person dialogues or exploring customer moments.
When asked about how the older generation would be affected when it came to more technologies in the theatre environment, Martin added that;
“All good technologies are tools that help competent people do more, like the carpenter getting a better tool for his work - but the work is still that of the person. To me, whether it’s AI, big data, realtime analytics etc, it’s all worthless unless it makes a person do things better”.
Customers can find out more about Blackpool Grand Theatre and their future shows on their website. People can also find out more by heading to the Activity Stream website.