Monday, June 20, 2016

Partner Showcase - Seattle Shakespeare Company

When you think of Shakespeare, you probably don't think of mobile apps.  But Seattle Shakespeare Company does.  For the past two years, they have used their mobile app to connect contemporary audiences with the power and vibrancy of Shakespeare and other classical playwrights.

We recently spoke with Communications Director Jeff Fickes to find out what prompted Seattle Shakespeare Company to pursue their mobile engagement strategy.

Jeff Fickes
Why did you decide to offer a mobile app for your patrons?
When mobile apps first appeared in the marketplace, I knew that I wanted Seattle Shakespeare Company to have one. We had meetings did some research, and then saw that the development was going to be out of our reach since we’re a relatively small company.

But I kept dreaming. I had been doing a lot of reading about the direction of consumer trends and everything I read pointed me in the direction of optimizing for mobile usage. We redesigned our website to be mobile responsive and optimized our email campaigns to be read on mobile devices. I still kept thinking about a mobile app.

Click on image for a closer look.
We’re a theatre company that performs in three different indoor venues, 13 different outdoor venues, and has a tour that performs all over the state. We are a mobile theatre company. I wanted us to be easily accessed where ever our patrons are and to be able to communicate with them whether they’re in a theatre, seeing a park show, or a student seeing Shakespeare for the first time with one of our tours.

Why did you choose InstantEncore’s mobile app solution?
I actually stumbled upon InstantEncore. I was searching around in the App Store to see what other theatre companies were doing in terms of mobile apps, and saw that some of the larger theatre organizations across the country (Guthrie Theatre, Arena Stage, and Berkeley Rep) were using InstantEncore. I immediately requested a demo and got very excited about the prospect of making a long term goal happen.

InstantEncore offers a great deal of flexibility and allows you to tailor the app to your own needs. It worked with our ticketing system and the pricing was within our budget. I didn’t need a lot of convincing. We started devising a plan for how we wanted to use the app and got it set up within a week or so after signing up.

Seattle Shakespeare Company uses
their app's At-The-Venue feature
to engage audiences at performances.
Click on image for a closer look.
How have you promoted your mobile app to your patrons?
We’ve promoted the app through lobby signs, curtain speeches, our website, email notices and program ads. We’ll most likely do a small facebook digital ad campaign in conjunction with our upcoming outdoor shows this summer, as we’ve found it to be very useful for locating which park show is performing where - since the shows are in a different location practically each night.

What are the main benefits of your mobile app for your patrons?
Aside from being able to engage with patrons on a device that many people have a personal attachment to, I believe it’s worked well for us from a branding standpoint. We were one of the first theatre companies in Seattle to have a mobile app.

Just the fact that a theatre company of our size who focuses on classical plays has an app says something about the company. It sort of shakes off the perceived stodginess of classical plays and gives people a digital interaction in addition to the stage experience.

I believe that patrons start to experience the play well before they enter theatre. They’re conceiving of it in their mind through the advertising images and words written about it. If they’re engaging with the play (learning about it and the company) through a mobile device and can do it where ever they may be (on the bus, waiting in line at the store, at home on the couch) we become much more a part of their lives. The perception of the work on stage takes on a different relevance because we’ve engaged with them on their terms, on their time. The art can seem more relevant to a contemporary world because the engagement was digital.

SSC uses push notifications to
send contextually relevant messages
to patrons. Click on image for a
closer look.
Which feature do you like best? Why?
I love the At-The-Venue feature. I believe that if a patron feels informed about the show they’re about to see, that their experience of it is better. We include video welcome messages, things to know, directors notes, cast bios as well as special offers to entice them to buy in our shop or make a purchase of their next ticket.

We’ve also run some very unique sales promotions (including a one day $12 ticket promotion in honor of the Seahawks being in the Super Bowl) that utilized the push notifications and custom tabs.

What’s the feedback on the app been like from your patrons?
We’ve gotten good feedback and have seen the app consistently utilized, especially on show days. I think that adoption has been slow and most of the people regularly using are “super fans.”

What has customer support been like?
Customer support has been great. I like that the product continues to be developed with new features added.

Monday, June 6, 2016

Partner Showcase - Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra

The Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra (PSO) has been enriching the lives of audiences with world-class music for 120 years.  In 2012, PSO launched their mobile app for Apple and Android devices.

We recently caught up with PSO's Joyce DeFrancesco, Director of Media Relations, to find out what prompted this established performing arts organization to launch their own mobile app and how have patrons responded to it.

Joyce DeFrancesco
Why did you decide to offer a mobile app for your patrons? 
When we began considering a mobile app, it was clear that mobile viewing of our site was growing. Having a mobile app would provide a better customer experience for our users.

Why did you choose InstantEncore’s mobile app solution? 
We reviewed a variety of options when selecting a mobile app solution. Instant Encore stood out because the framework is geared towards performing arts organizations. Also, they have a relationship and understanding of Tessitura, our ticketing database, if we should choose to integrate. 

PSO Mobile App
Click on image for a closer look
How have you promoted your mobile app to your patrons? 
We include a notice about our mobile app in our monthly e-newsletters and e-blasts about specific concerts. We push it on our social media and in many print publications.

What are the main benefits of your mobile app for your patrons? 
The mobile app provides our patrons with up-to-the-minute information about the concerts they’ll be attending and an easy way to provide them with links and access to even more information!

Which feature do you like best? Why? 
The push notification feature and its targeting function has been a wonderful way for us to get information and special offers to the patrons who are interested in a direct and noticeable alert. 

What’s the feedback on the app been like from your patrons? 
We haven’t received much feedback on the app, which we take as a good sign. When people don’t like something, they usually don’t hesitate to let you know! This is a “no news is good news” situation.

PSO welcomes app users to the concert with a geofence push notification.
Click on image for a closer look.

How easy was it to implement your app? 
The app was very easy to implement. We simply had to entered our concerts and created any pages we wanted. After that, we alerted Instant Encore, and they launched it in the app store.

What has customer support been like? 
Customer support is a breeze with Instant Encore. They are very responsive to any questions – from emergencies to simple inquiries.

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Maximize Convenience and Customization for Your App's Home Screen with Cards

The Home screen is crucial for your mobile app's success. It's the first thing people see when they use the app. Making a good first impression sets the tone for their entire experience.

If they see old information or a blank screen, then they might assume the app has nothing relevant to them and delete it.

So how can you avoid this without spending too much time doing maintenance? With the newest option in your toolkit - the Cards home screen!

Cards combines the convenience of the What's New home screen's automatically updated content feed with the endless customization options of the Slideshow home screen.

Activating the Cards Home Screen

Turning it on is easy.  Go to Mobile >> Tabs, and look for "Home: Cards" in the Type column.  Enable the Display checkbox for that item.

Activate and manage the Cards option in the Tabs area.
Click on image for a closer look.
To manage your Cards tab, click on the link in the Text column.

Once the tab is set up, users will be able to scroll through a list of all available Cards that link through to your content.

Header Image

Examples of Header Images.
Click on image for a closer look.
The first feature of your new Cards tab is an optional Header Image.  This banner image can be whatever you like. Just make sure it isn't too tall that it eats up all of a phone's real estate. We recommend a 3:1 width to height ratio.

Some popular examples are:
  • A photo of your ensemble, performance venue, or building exterior
  • The logo and branding of your organization.
  • A major sponsor (Note: It will not link to their website)

Content Cards

Without having to do any extra work, this tab will automatically create Cards for your active At-The-Venue Experiences and for your upcoming Event listings.  There will also be Cards that highlight the most recent Music, Video, or Buzz content. If there is no content for any of these, then that Card won't display. Everything is taken care of for you.

Access specific content or view all.
Click on image for a closer look.

However, you still have the power to do more.  You can drag-and-drop them to rearrange their order. Managing them lets you customize their label or decide if you wish to hide it. You can even add Custom Cards to supplement what your new home screen has to offer.

Custom Cards

Custom Cards in action.
Click on image for a closer look.
Custom Cards are very similar to Slideshow Slides, just smaller (and in some ways better!). Instead of a full screen graphic, all you need is another 3:1 banner.

You will be able to add a Headline and Description to give your users an idea of what content they will access through the Card.  This should just be a short paragraph at most. You will want to have multiple Cards visible on the screen at the same time to retain the Cards feel.

The Action Text should be a short phrase that tells users what you want them to do. "Tap Here", "Read More", "Learn", etc.  Then, provide an In-App URL to another tab or content item, or even an external URL. The entire Custom Card will act as one large, easy-to-tap button that links the user to that content.

This gives you the power to do whatever you want. Link to another Custom Tab with parking information, highlight a specific Music Album, link to your most popular Social Media platform, or highlight a Season Sponsor. 

One other big change from the Slideshow Slides is that in addition to being scheduled, you can leave the date fields blank to have the card always display.

Additional Resources

Video: Managing the Cards Home Screen
Video: Adding Custom Cards to Your App's Home Screen
Partner Example: Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra (for best results, view on a mobile device)