How this cinema brand is using a CDP to re-engage customers

TGV Cinemas marketing chief talks through the technology and digital investments driving its responsiveness and relevance as a business

Being able to personalise engagement on the fly to suit audience diversity and drive visitation frequency is in the sights of TGV Cinemas after deploying a customer data platform.

TGV Cinemas is a Malaysian-based cinema and entertainment chain operating 38 locations across the country. Its CMO, Mohit Bhargava, told CMO that as one of the most multiculturally diverse countries in the South East Asian region, finding a more engaging and emotive way to connect with the Malaysian population was critical to marketing effectiveness.

Historically, TGV’s content and marketing has relied on the business language of English. Yet most consumers interact in their native tongues of Malay, Tamil and Cantonese. What’s more, such diversity inevitably leads to different values, interests, cultural sensitivities and responses to cinematic programming and content.

“We have to better understand our segments in order to service them with diverse content,” Bhargava explained. “The challenge of connecting and personalising communications means cultivating relevance through everything from thematic content to imagery. We know sensitivities can be different across these communities too.

“We did have a sense of these segments, but we have to personalise to them in a more sophisticated way. The requires both the element of data and EQ. And to be able to adapt quickly.

“Our present customer segments don’t work,” Bhargava said, adding the context of a customer and time of day also play a part in how to engage effectively. For example, an individual customer could be on a date one day, or be Dad taking his kids to a movie the next.

While these diversity and context considerations are reason enough to want to improve customer data capabilities, Bhargava said a further imperative is being able to achieve real-time segmentation agility and optimisation. He pointed out more than 80 per cent of TGV’s inventory of 55,000 seats, which turn over six times per day, are purchased two hours prior to the show. Even as TGV engages in a variety of acquisition and demand generation activities, a key part of the task at hand is therefore being able to convert prospects close to when inventory is being executed.

“We needed to automate, with rules-based segmentation, to move quickly,” Bhargava said.

CDP investment

And that requires the right technology stack. For Bhargava, a customer data platform (CDP) to unify customer data then better orchestrate marketing and engagement activities made sense.

As a B2C operator, TGV has a wealth of first-party data and boasts 4 million customers in its database. Yet historically, data has sat in functional or customer stage silos, such as transactional data versus online behavioural data, Net Promoter Score (NPS) and customer satisfaction versus service and support.

As a result, it’s also been a challenge to answer a key business question: How many customers does TGV really have? Like the data set in question, the answer depended on who you asked, Bhargava said. What’s more, latency was an issue because of the manual processes relied on to analyse data sets.

To get a handle on customer numbers, it was therefore critical to have a unified, single view of customers, Bhargava said. Having an insights-driven dashboard to run the retail-oriented business and drive more operationally effective decision-making was yet another reason to invest in a CDP.

Having worked with Australian CDP vendor, Lexer, during his tenure a marketing chief of Village Cinemas in Australia, Bhargava has chosen to again adopt the platform at TGV. As well the support capabilities on offer and the vendor’s presence in the South East Asian region, Bhargava saw bringing on Lexer as a way of accelerating five years of learnings into a rapidly reduced timeframe.

He pointed to the high sense of urgency at TGV to undergo technology transformation, driven by the Covid-19 pandemic and significant business disruption experienced by entertainment operators over the last two-and-a-half years. This has clearly only heightened revenue pressure.

“We looked to technology and our choice of vendor to leapfrog on learnings,” Bhargava said. “As an entertainment brand, we also need to speak the language of the customer for sales and to re-engage our customers. This is an emotive space and content therefore is critical.

“We need to better analyse what does and doesn’t resonate with audiences, and we have to digitally optimise.” While TVG’s performance on this front had been good, it wasn’t fast enough, he added.

The CDP rollout was set to a 13-week timeframe from zero to go live. A few weeks on from achieving this initial milestone, Bhargava confirmed TGV has a unified customer view in one platform across all performance and marketing data as well as CRM and guest experience.

Re-engagement priority

The top priority use case Bhargava and his team are now pursuing is re-engaging existing customers to come back to the movies. Despite seeing many high-value customers back onsite and blockbuster movies returning to blockbuster turnovers, a sizeable percentage of TGV’s database has only returned once or not at all.

It’s by harnessing the power of the CDP and data in one place Bhargava and his team have been able to observe this growth opportunity and bust several myths about current cinema attendance.

“It’s about reactivating this secondary customer set,” Bhargava said. “While most top-line figures indicate people are back at the cinema, a deeper dive shows us 10 per cent of the top 100,000 customers still have not come back. There are various subsets of audiences yet to engage as they did previously.

“Having this view of customers and insight gives us more visibility of what is going on under the surface.”

Post Covid Lockdowns, TGV has accelerated its digital roadmap and today almost 100 per cent of its ticket sales now via the website or through the TGV mobile app. This presents enormous opportunities to enrich knowledge of the customer and to deliver a superior digital experience in real time.

Helping TGV harness the power of the data is the decision to democratise access to data insights across the organisation. This empowers staff with real-time access to customer type by things like sales channel, loyalty status, guest experiences, frequency, transactional and lifetime value.

Now the CDP and single view of customer are in place, Bhargava said TGV has the ability to transform its ways of working and build significant capability around post-sales activity long-term. Helping on this front is an appetite across the organisation for change.

“The biggest enabler of these new ways of working is technology and simplicity,” Bhargava added.

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