Art by numbers: How audience analytics brought ‘In the Night Garden Live’ to the masses

Performing arts events can be a no-go zone for families. Victorian-era venues with their narrow rows, adult-height loos, restrictive seats and grownup sight lines simply weren’t made for kids and all the kit necessary for a modern family outing.

For an age of abundance in consumer entertainment, that has traditionally left a huge market badly underserved. For the creative minds behind London’s Minor Entertainment, building an offer that would make theatrical events enticing and accessible to families was the driving idea behind a made-in-Britain consumer entertainment success story.

The company’s In the Night Garden Live plays to audiences of more than 100,000 over the course of a season and, uniquely, ‘takes the show to the audience’ with its own moveable 500-seat venue, presenting four performances a day, six days a week.

As a brand extension to the massively popular BBC programme In the Night Garden, the production’s cast of six brings to life children’s characters Igglepiggle, Upsy Daisy and Makka Pakka. New stories based on the original television episodes are presented in the live show, which is narrated by Sir Derek Jacobi.

Whilst Minor’s creative and venue concepts offer something unique, the traditional theatre-pricing model can still be a turn-off for families. With a legacy of high booking fees and limited performance timetables, an online ticketing system that would support a flexible and transparent pricing model was essential.

As a vertically integrated company that handles every element of production, IT, venue operations, merchandising, marketing and ticketing, Minor Entertainment needed a technology platform that would support those activities and surface its audience’s buying preferences, whilst also making it easy to find the right ticket and price for their schedules and budgets.

With traditional ticketing and box office management technologies, all of that can be a big ask. The ability to build and display nimble price structures tends to be limited, and integration with a theatre’s ticketing website typically involves a high level of technical complexity. Accessing audience data to assess purchasing trends and inform marketing campaigns can also be unfeasibly time consuming.

“We wanted to present families with an easy way to navigate lots of choice in terms of schedule and price, and position ancillary purchases in an attractive way,” said Andrew Collier, founder of Minor Entertainment and producer of In the Night Garden Live.

“We can take our venue anywhere, so it’s also important that we can analyse geo-demographic data to identify the optimal locations in each community.”

>See also: IT operations analytics: Changing the IT perspective

Working initially with a third party white-label system, Collier and his team weren’t able to achieve the conversion rates they’d hoped for, and realised a better way was needed to present the performance to customers and analyse purchasing behaviour.

Rejecting the client-server solutions, which have dominated arts IT for decades, the company settled on Spektrix’s cloud-based box office management system.

The London-based tech company has built a cloud-first ticketing, marketing and fundraising solution specifically for the arts sector. More than 160 organisations, from London’s Dominion Theatre to The Juilliard School in New York, use it to provide a simple and intuitive ticketing journey for their end customers.

Analytics, e-commerce and marketing modules help arts IT managers control inventory and drill down into the purchasing behaviour of individual theatregoers.

The Spektrix API enabled Collier and his team to develop an EasyJet-inspired pricing grid for the In the Night Garden Live website, enabling parents to quickly see a range of options, seat locations and prices based on the time of day and the current availability for each scheduled performance.

“Every feature in the system has been designed to be as easy-to-use as possible, save arts organisations time, and make it easier for them to derive useful insights about their audience,” said Michael Nabarro, co-founder and managing director of Spektrix.

Minor Entertainment has now completed two full tours with the system for ticket sales and audience analytics, consistently achieving target conversion rates for promotions and using Spektrix’s marketing module to support its communications campaigns.

The company’s third season went on sale in late January, registering more than 3,100 tickets on pre-sale day alone with strong sale peaks around a series of segmented direct marketing e-blasts.

Collier added: “Too much of the ticketing industry is stuck in 1983; very introspective, fearful of change, with long binding contracts and far too concerned about the physical bit of the ticket.”

The company’s model demands that any system be able to surface audience insights and be based on principles of simplicity, flexibility and ease-of-use for both customers and managers.

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Ben Rossi

Ben was Vitesse Media's editorial director, leading content creation and editorial strategy across all Vitesse products, including its market-leading B2B and consumer magazines, websites, research and...

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