How Village Roadshow brought voice of the customer into the heart of the business

Head of digital and customer marketing talks about the marketing technology transformation she's led and how executive buy-in and cultural change was achieved

Data knowledge

One of the cultural challenges along the way was overcoming bias on what customer data across different parts of the business. Smith pointed out data knowledge was mixed, and many had a perception that data was beholden to email address.

“That has been a big education piece all of our business up to speed on what data options really look like,” she said.

In terms of rollout, the Web platform came first, followed by email. The team then merged 5-6 social communities, opting to focus on two channels more deeply: Facebook and Instagram.

“A lot was culling as much as building,” Smith said. “Then the DSP came in, and now we’re moving again.”

People piece

Alongside the data education piece, restructuring teams was a must. This meant pulling digital out of the remit of product teams, who tend to be generalist marketers.

“That was probably the hardest stakeholder management piece I had to wade through,” Smith said. “People love digital and don’t want to give it up, so we worked with the teams to say we’re not taking it away from them, we’re working alongside them, it’s just that this takes a lot of time and energy and they didn’t have enough of that to put into it.”

The team has also grown from two staff to 14 over the past two-and-a-half years. At the same time, Smith has had to build a culture that understands customer engagement is a never-ending improvement exercise.

“A lot of businesses think they can spend $1 million, build a site and that’s it. But a website is a garden – just because you plant it, doesn’t mean you can then walk away and leave it. You have to constantly tend to it,” Smith claimed.  

“I’ve had to get my CEOs back on track with that stuff. I’m in front of them every couple of months talking about where we are at, and about the things we have learned and things we have stuffed up.

“That has a lot of implications on timing as well. The website hasn’t gotten to the point we wanted it to as quickly as we wanted it to, for example, but again, everything is a learning.”

Low hanging fruit

Email was the obvious first point of optimisation for Smith, who noted Village Roadshow was doing generic emails to a database acquired through promotions and offers.

Four programs of work were created. The first was a preference centre. “We’d been assuming stuff about them, so we asked them if they wanted personalised emails from us, tell us your preferences and we’ll give you Gold Class Tickets,” Smith explained.  

The second program was automating the onboarding process, again encouraging consumers into the preference centre. The third element was cleansing the database to remove bad email addresses. The work saw Village Roadshow cull about 200,000 records from a 500,000-strong records list.

Then it was time to bring in a profile of the customer. Ten levels have evolved out of the original five, which stretch from ‘active engaged’, or those opening eight of the last 10 emails sent and clicking on six, to ‘active’, ‘casual’, ‘disengaged’ and ‘dormant’.

“Doing all of that gave us a much clearer view of our database, which we could then use to build custom audiences in our media strategy,” Smith said.

In addition, the website was hooked up to email to ensure a continuous communications and personalisation loop.

To further help executives understand how teams were performing, Village Roadshow brought in Qlik’s dashboard so all KPIs could be visualised. These are based on different team remits and stretch from time on site to pages viewed, returning visitors, email open rates by programs and social metrics around organic versus paid.

In the first year, these efforts saw 200 per cent improvements through every one of those tracks, media being the highest, Smith said.

The next phase

The next step for Smith involves both more technology and optimisation. For example, the team has just implemented Lexer, an Australian offering for social listening. This is being used to unite email-based audience information with an individual’s public social and Web behaviour.

“We now have a much better picture of people that we previously only had an email address for,” Smith said, pointing to device and location information as examples. “That then allows us to paint pictures of individuals and behaviours and export that data straight into Facebook or our DSP to create ‘tribes’.”

This has been particularly useful around promoting smaller release titles, such as the 2Pac movie, All Eyes on Me. In this instance, Smith’s team used the technology to find people on the database who live in certain suburbs, are male, like hiphop, building a cohort of about 40,000 people that matched those attributes.

“We pushed that into the DSP and Facebook to find look-a-like audiences. All of a sudden, we’re harnessing data to get really targeted around small titles that then allows us to spend our money very efficiently,” Smith said.

As the technology and approach matures, Smith admitted wins aren’t always as big and said it’s important to manage internal expectations.

“For us, it’s now becoming tweaks, especially across the media and social products,” she said. “With the Web, we’re putting more and more technology into it and still getting exponential leaps. We’re also bringing in new tech, which is that additive approach that keeps executives engage.

“If I had to present three years of small upticks, it seems like a lot of money and I’m not sure the upticks are worth it. But because we have come from quite far back and been progressing every year, our results are quite big.”

  • Nadia Cameron travelled to Adobe Summit as a guest of Adobe.

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