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Case study: How Cinemark and Urban Airship drive mobile engagement

Posted by Kyle Montero on October 20th, 2013 at 11:56 am

Bob Garcia, director of agency programs for Urban Airship, and Allison Jernigan, director of revenue marketing programs for Cinemark Theaters, took the stage during the Mobile Bootcamp at the iMedia Breakthrough Summit to discuss their approach to driving mobile engagement with customer rewards.

According to Garcia, Urban Airship has been "pioneering push notifications…to send relevant, timely messages that users opt-in to receive." Push notifications are different than advertising because they enable "real-time communication that is welcome and invented." Garcia provided five quick tips for keeping your place in a user's mobile device.

  1. Create utility for your customer: Your app has to matter; it has to play an important role in a user's life.
  2. Create a reason for engagement: What are you going to message? How are you going to keep people coming back?
  3. Capitalize on location profiles: How can you leverage location to reach consumers with relevant information?
  4. You may want start with a “mini-app” (like Passbook)
  5. Not every push deserves a shove: Interruptions are not welcome.

Garcia passed the microphone to Jernigan, who provided a bit of background on Cinemark. According to Jernigan, Cinemark is a "global movie theater circuit, we have about 500 theaters around the globe and roughly 330 theaters in the U.S.," with an annual attendance of roughly 265 million – which is a greater level of attendances than the five major sporting organizations – NHL, MLB , NFL, NBA, and NCAA – combined; an outstanding amount of consumers to engage.

Cinemark built their app with a number of essentials in mind, according to Jernigan: "Making it very easy for our customers to locate the nearest theater to search show times and buy tickets" and also enabling users to "take their smartphone to the box office to check-in to the movie." But, Cinemark wanted to take their app to the next level and into the future.

One of the major complaints coming from moviegoers was that users were operating their phones during the movies. So, this presented Cinemark with a difficult challenge. As Jernigan put it, "How do we encourage smartphone use in our building while also listening to our customers and not driving away those bothered by glowing mobile screens during movies?"  To address this issue, Cinemark added a feature its app called CineMode, which is like "airplane mode" we are all familiar with.  When users open the app, they are reminded to silence their phone by pressing a button to activate CineMode. Users that remain in CineMode for the entire movie are rewarded with digital coupons.

According to Jernigan, the app has been very well received, "with a few million downloads of the app and the use of CineMode growing substantially." The reward at the end can now be altered depending on users past concession stand purchases, because not everyone likes popcorn. Here's a deeper look into how the app works:

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