10 ways data can change the way you run your cinema

Posted on January 26, 2017 by Ellen Reay

Categories: Training & Conferences

data dashboards

Last week we had the pleasure of working with independent cultural consultant Sarah Boilingon our Data-driven Marketing course up in Leeds. After four days of talking engagement and analytics, we’ve some up some of the key learnings with ten tips to get you started using data to drive your marketing strategy.

1. Is your data useful or just interesting?

There is no shortage of data – download any analytics report and you’ll see just how many Excel columns it can occupy – but not all this data is useful; in fact a lot of it isn’t. When analysing your current data or thinking about the data you want to collect, it’s important to remember this and ask yourself: will this data lead to a practical insight? All of our speakers spoke of the centrality of this idea in their own data-driven marketing strategy.

data ladder

2. Context is key

Getting your own useful data is only part of the picture. What does an open rate figure mean if you’ve got nothing to compare it to? Before you start a campaign set aside some time for desk research as well as analysing your own data. There’s a wealth of secondary data available to help you understand your context, from free resources such as the BFI’s weekly box office figures and Statistical Yearbook or statistics on your region from the Office of National Statistics to paid insights about arts engagement in your local area such as an Area Profile Report from the Audience Agency.

3. Get your data upfront

You may be hesitant to ask for too much data too quickly, but people are at their most willing to engage when they sign up, so ask then as it’s much harder to do it later! If you’re wondering how to ask your existing audience, maybe there’s a membership scheme or film club model that could work for your organisation. Try signing up with other cinemas and arts organisations to see what data they’re collecting and whether any of that could work for you. If you really can’t ask much, then, as Sarah Leuthwaite from Movio (and Mark from Bristol Museums and JP from Picturehouses) says, the best bit of data you can get from your customer is their postcode. The rest you can build from there, with a combination of desk research on the area and the knowledge you gain from their transactions.

4. Get acquainted with Google Analytics

It’s tempting on any analytics programme to look straight to the commonly used metrics they lay out, citing numbers without gaining any real insight. Google Analytics is no different, offering metrics such as Bounce rate, Time on Site and Site-wide Averages, but there are much greater insights on offer if you dig a little deeper. From event and campaign tracking to setting goals, Google Analytics can provide the data you need to back up your hunch or challenge the ways you’ve been thinking your audience engages with your site. There are a number of great free resources to help you get to grips with Google Analytics: Analytics Academy’s Digital Fundamentals,  Annielytics’s Guide to Campaign Tagging and Koozai’s Event tracking guide.

5. Put the time in: segmentation is your friend

It can take some time to segment your audience, but it pays off. JP from Picturehouses explained demonstrated how their goal of sending more targetted email campaigns and less blanket emails, led to a drastic increase in open rates and click throughs.

There are four broad ways in which you can segment your audience: demographically, geographically, behaviourally and attitudinally. Each of these can be useful, but behaviour and attitude give the most away about how, when and with what method your audience likes to be contacted.

There are a number of models of segmentation. Dan Cowley from The Audience Agency talked us through their model, the Audience Spectrum, in which the UK’s population is divided into ten segments reflecting their habits and preferences. You can find out more about the Audience Spectrum here.

6. Don’t fear a data cleanse

It can be daunting to see your subscriber list drop so drastically in numbers, but it’s worth checking in on those people who’ve stopped opening your emails. Beyond being good practice and keeping down the number of unhappy subscribers, a data cleanse helps you truly see what’s working for your audience when you try a new slant or message through A/B testing.

7. Automate where you can

There are simple ways to maintain non-invasive contact with your audiences. Set up automated messages of thanks for bookings, or celebrate their loyalty by recognising membership anniversaries.

8. Data doesn’t always mean digital

It’s easy to get caught up in the cycle of e-newsletter, Facebook, Twitter, e-newsletter… but data can help you take informed risks in other styles of marketing. Faith Taylor from eOne spoke to us of their approach to marketing I, Daniel Blake. Given the lack of similar films, they started cold, analysing who interacted with the trailer through Facebook and how, which led to investing in grassroots marketing in areas of high engagement and a campaign that celebrated the thought-provoking content of the film.

data discussion

9. Communicate!

One of the biggest takeaways from this course was the need for better communication, internally and externally, and the role data can play in fostering it. Four key areas where data could help:

  • Between your organisation and your audience: it goes without saying that data lets you know how, when and with what content your audience likes to be contacted.
  • Within your organisation: dashboards can help create easy visuals around your data to show your colleagues what’s working and what’s not.
  • Between exhibitors: take a leaf from the theatrical world and start sharing your findings with other independent exhibitors, learn about shared problems and triumphs so you can recognise your own
  • Between exhibitors and distributors: we share the same goal; get people to see more independent film!

10. Start small and learn as you go


The data maturity levels – we’re all aiming for Level 3 but it takes time!

It’s tempting to believe ‘We don’t have the resources for a proper data strategy’ and it’s often true that you’re already pressed for time, but it’s not the case of a complete overhaul and heavy financial investment. Start small, do some A/B testing on your next social campaign and e-newsletters, or follow one campaign through on Google Analytics. Little by little you’ll work out what data and platforms work for you.

Looking for more insights around data? There are a number of great newsletters you can sign up to, here’s a handful we’d recommend: Katie Moffatt’s Digital SnapshotStephen FollowsChris Unitt’s Cultural Digital.

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