Fandango has become such a part of the moviegoing experience that it can be easy to overlook its technological breakthroughs. But the company credits those innovations for leading its growth — and it has no plans to relax moving forward.
Throughout its evolution, the tech advances Fandango has pursued have followed a theme: Remove pain points for customers.
“It’s been a journey about reducing frictions and enhancing the customer experience as they go to the movie,” says Kevin Shepela, senior vice president of commerce at Fandango.
That started in 2000, when the company offered movie lovers a way to buy and print tickets at home. But it was the 2009 launch of the Fandango app on iTunes that revolutionized the ticketing process, allowing users to call up mobile bar-coded tickets on their phones. Today, the app has been downloaded 49 million times.
Fandango executives say the first two phases of the company’s history were the “Utility” stage, when they built a useful service, and the “Ubiquity” stage, when that service was made available to as many theaters and consumers as possible. Next comes phase three: “Engagement.” That means engaging the audience with an ongoing experience, starting with finding a way to keep movie-lovers going to theaters — and the best way to do that, Fandango’s people say, is to keep focusing on convenience.
Among the initiatives is reserved seating in over 600 locations around the country. (To do that, Fandango had to build individual seat maps for each and every theater at those locations, 4500 in all.)
Other prominent moves include offering customers the ability to return or exchange tickets; and a Mobile Ticketing initiative that bypasses bar codes and theater scanning of tickets, letting customers simply show ticket takers their phone as they walk in.
“Plans change, and the consumer wants the ability to return and exchange their ticket,” says Mark Young, Fandango’s senior VP of strategy and business development. “Our early hypothesis is this is going to lead to more advance purchases, and it’s proving (true). There’s more confidence in buying that ticket a day or two out.”
With the theatergoing habit protected, it’s a matter of holding fans’ attention both long before and after they see a film. The 2014 acquisition of Movieclips, YouTube’s top trailer and movie-related channel, will play a big part in that.
In addition, Young says Fandango is using social media to help build pre-release interest. Fandango’s release of the trailer for “Star Wars: Episode VII — The Force Awakens” racked up 33 million views on the Movieclips channel in the first 24 hours and has been watched over 70 million times to date.
Phase four of Fandango’s evolution? That’s still to be determined, but early indicators seem to point at Fandango harnessing the voluminous data it compiles every day. The company has put together tools to analyze customer purchasing behavior by categories such as genre, time of year and other factors.
Those tools are used internally at present, but Fandango says it does have plans to turn them into a data product for studios, exhibitors and partners.
“We have to thread the needle,” Shepela says. “We don’t want to be too early or too late with any of this.”
Three Fandango Experiments That Are Raising the Bar
Fandango has spent the past several years building tools to analyze consumers’ purchasing habits, breaking them down by everything from movie genre to geographic location to the time of year. They’re internal tools now, but Fandango plans to develop data products that will nudge the studios and exhibitors toward big data.
Fandango was a leader in paperless tickets, which you could scan at kiosks at the theater. Now it’s taking the next step: with its Mobile Ticket program, audience members can buy a ticket and have a countdown to start time appear on their phone 90 minutes prior to show time. Tapping “See My Tickets” brings up the actual ticket, including show time, auditorium and seat numbers (if they’ve reserved seats). To get in, they just show the onscreen tickets to the theater staffer, swipe left (to ‘rip’ the ticket) and head to their seats.
Enhanced YouTube presence
In May, Fandango kicked off “We Love Movies,” which uses celebrities to promote the theater experience, androlled out “I Love Movies,” a video series where celebrities and tastemakers talk about the movies that touched them. In July, it joined YouTube’s Space LA Residency Program to create the online comedy series “Movie3Some.”