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Compelling Experiences Lead to Brand Loyalty at Marcus Theatres

The movie theater industry is one that is built on customer experience. Especially considering today’s landscape, in which movie lovers can just as easily turn on Netflix or Hulu, the role of a movie theater is to provide a customer experience that can’t be replicated anywhere else. Marcus Theatres takes this responsibility to heart, working to give every customer the service and amenities that can only be found in a cinematic experience.
In a recent conversation with Loyalty360, Loyalty Program Manager Steve Mathwig spoke about how Marcus Theatres is interacting with customers in an inherently engaging industry.
Can you give us a quick overview of your loyalty program?
Mathwig: We started Magical Movie Rewards in April 2014. The program was formed because we wanted to drive loyalty and create a stronger connection with our guests. The best way to do that, in our opinion, is to use the program to recognize and reward the customers that are loyal to Marcus Theatres. From there, we looked for ways that we’d be able to personalize communications and the experience according to our guests’ preferences.
How are you able to personalize the program, and what kind of challenges have you seen in doing that?
Mathwig: It all starts with the data we obtain through the program. This information grants insight about our customers into things like which genres they prefer, what time of day they prefer to see movies, what size screen they like to watch movies on, and what kinds of concessions they enjoy. After mining that data and putting it all together, we can personalize our messaging to fit the preferences of each guest. We also try to give added value in the form of special offers on our concessions, and the Magical Movie Rewards data allows us to provide a unique experience for our customers.
Along those same lines, what have you seen in terms of challenges dealing with the amount of data coming in?
Mathwig: The challenge can often be to identify and mine the most relevant data. If you’re not careful, it’s easy to get to a point where you’re getting so much data that it feels like you’re trying to drink out of a fire hose! What we have now in terms of granularity has proven to be really helpful in sifting through the massive amount of data and finding what is actionable. We’ve also been working with an email campaign management company that specializes in the theater industry, and that has been a huge help in gathering data and building that customer experience on the email side as well as the in-theater side.
How much does this data affect the decision-making process? Do local genre preferences have an impact on which movies are playing at the theater?
Mathwig: I’m glad you asked, because one of our big initiatives in 2016 is going to be starting to share this data directly with our individual theater managers and working with them to show movies that their audiences want to see. You’re always going to have big blockbusters like “Star Wars” that will be in every theater, but in terms of secondary movies and alternative content, there’s definitely some opportunity to target based on  specific audience preferences. Bollywood movies, for example, do very well in some markets, and we’ve targeted those to show more of these kinds of movies. Likewise, some markets respond well when we have showings of the metropolitan opera. So, in short, we’re starting to leverage that data to try and target specific theaters for these more niche genres.
One thing your organization seems to emphasize is the simplicity with which customers are able to earn and redeem points. Is that something that was a big priority in designing your loyalty program?
Mathwig: Absolutely,. The program has to be simple and easy to use, and the customer has to be able to see the value in it. The idea of earning a point for every $1 spent  and getting a $5 reward after accruing 100 points is something that’s very easy to follow, and it provides great value..
How do you measure the success of these loyalty programs? What kind of metrics are you keeping an eye on?
Mathwig: Our goal was to hit a million members in the first year, which we were very excited to reach. We’re always tracking things like program enrollment, attendance and transaction penetration, as well as the activity data we get from those members. We also monitor reward earning and redemption rates, making sure that our program engagement is at a good level.
We’re also able to see things like how long it’s been since a loyalty member last visited our theaters, and we’ve been using that to launch a few very successful re-acquisition win-back campaigns. These are designed to reach out and let members know that their points won’t expire if they remain active, and that we’d love to re-engage with them and provide them with value in return for their loyalty.
How is customer loyalty being prioritized in your organization as a whole?
Mathwig: Since we launched our program in 2014, it’s been a top priority. It’s been a big emphasis for us, from our frontline employees working to get people signed up, to our back office that’s been making investments into systems that support targeted communications . It’s definitely been a primary topic for us over the past two years, and I don’t see that changing in the foreseeable future.

About the Author: Mark Johnson
Mark is CEO & CMO of Loyalty360. He has significant experience in selling, designing and administering prepaid, loyalty/CRM programs, as well as data-driven marketing communication programs.

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