7 May 2019

By Tamara HASLAM – UK Sales Director AURES UK

It doesn’t matter what type of business you run – everyone wants to keep customers coming back for more. It’s a case of simple economics. Businesses spend significant sums on marketing to raise awareness and promote what they have to offer, meaning every new customer comes with a price tag. The more they come back, the further that investment stretches.

Besides, if every customer only ever paid one visit, businesses would eventually run out of patrons.

Every company, cinemas included, employs a range of tactics to encourage repeat business, covering pricing, service and the promise of unique experiences people cannot get elsewhere. In recent years, partly due to advances in POS solutions that make them easier to run, there has been a noticeable rise in the number of customer-facing operations running loyalty schemes to lock in those hard-won customers and maximise value in the long term.

Extra rewards for cinemas

A good argument can be made for loyalty schemes offering cinema operators even greater benefits than most businesses. The majority of retailers run loyalty schemes predominantly with competition in mind, using incentives and rewards to mitigate loss of custom to rivals. But for cinemas, an equally important priority is getting customers to visit more often. A trip to the cinema is considered a treat by most people, a once-in-a-while luxury, so operators are always looking for ways to encourage people to treat themselves more often, especially by making it more affordable. Loyalty schemes provide an ideal solution.

Cinemas also enjoy more flexibility than most businesses in how they can incentivise repeat visits. Points-based reward schemes, for example, don’t have to be restricted to ticket sales – you can allow customers to earn points with every purchase they make in snack concessions, bar or cafe. When people can see a free trip to the cinema on the horizon, their overall spend per visit will increase.

Similarly, cinemas can take advantage of membership discount schemes because they know a large proportion of their revenue comes from food and drink sales. A £20 monthly membership offering unlimited visits soon makes a profit if the member buys drinks and snacks every time they visit.

Loyalty and membership schemes make customers feel appreciated as well as giving them the sense that they are getting a good deal. Feeling valued is as important in forming a lasting relationship as offering value. For operators, loyalty schemes also provide invaluable information about your most important, highest value customers. Every time they swipe their card to add points for a purchase, every time they redeem a reward, you know exactly who that transaction belongs to. That provides in-depth insight into spending habits and preferences, so you can optimise your business to suit the tastes of the people who spend the most.

POS considerations

Modern POS software platforms make running loyalty schemes simple and straightforward. In most cases, it is just a case of activating an add-on module, with everything you need ready and waiting. You can also often run multiple schemes, such as a points-based reward offer, a staff discount scheme and membership, side by side, all integrated and managed centrally.

One thing cinema operators do have to think carefully about is redemption. As more and more cinemas seek to streamline POS by integrating ticket and concession sales through self-service kiosks and staff utilising Mobile POS (M-POS) devices, operators have to ensure there are ways to log scheme members and add/redeem points at every touchpoint – ticket office, concession tills, kiosks, staff tablets, and also online for advanced ticket sales.

While cards and card readers have been the stock-in-trade for loyalty schemes for many years, in today’s increasingly mobile-first society things are starting to shift towards apps. On the one hand, this makes schemes even easier to administer, reducing costs and waste associated with plastic cards. For the customer, it further streamlines purchasing across channels, allowing them to buy tickets and even pre-order food and drink in advance through the app. Operators just have to make sure they have the right NFC technology ready on premises so customers can also collect points and redeem rewards as they wish at any point during their visit.