Click and collect ticketing could be cinema’s future

Paul Skeldon
Written by Paul Skeldon

Paul Skeldon has some mobile ticketing ideas for cinema operators

You’d think that the movies – or if you are Tim Green’s age ‘the pictures’ – would be one of the key early adopters of mobile payments. It is something that is often a spontaneous purchase decision; it is often researched and booked online; and is something that could clearly benefit from being dragged into the 21st century.

And yet the only real mobile experience you get today at the cinema is a clunky version of the website to book a ticket – which needs a credit card – and a big booming message at the start of the programme telling you to not use your mobile while the movie is showing. Then, bafflingly at the Odeon at least, there is a multiple-choice quiz that you can join in with on your mobile that they just told you to turn off.

Outside of this, mobile is nowhere at the flicks. Even the Orange 2-for-1 tickets promotion that ran for many years – and which made movies synonymous with mobile – has been canned. Now its being offered by Compare the Market (insert your own joke about having a meerkat popping up in front of you while you try to enjoy the movie).

Yet it could all be so different. I should be able to book and pay for my cinema experience on my handset using Apple Pay, PayPal or charge to mobile in one click. I can find the film. I can choose my seats. I should be able to pay. And I should be able to use my phone as the ticket. I should also be able to use my phone to get snacks and interact with trailers and even get a ride home.

And that is the key here, the whole process. As with most things mobile, m-payments shouldn’t be looked at as the thing, but rather just part of a wider purchase process or even, dare I say it, ‘the experience’.

What cinema goers today actually want is a ticket on their mobile as the end point of the process of finding the film they want to see at the cinema they want to see it in the seats they want to sit in. The payment process is part of that, but to understand how mobile payments can shape the cinema experience you really need to understand the wider cinema experience.

The key to this is in using payments, as ever, to close the loop between mobile marketing and receiving ‘the goods’, which in this case is the cinema experience.

Cinema related promotions such as vouchers for free admission and reductions on confectionary are increasingly being delivered via the mobile handset. The next step is to make the purchase – the actual payment – part of the click through from here. And as ever, charge to mobile could offer the ideal solution, since it is quick and easy to do and relatively low value.

The process is then completed by the ticket being delivered to the handset so users can jump the queue. You could even apply this to then pre-buying your refreshments.

In fact, the whole process is very much akin to the click-and-collect phenomenon that is sweeping the retail sector: the only difference is that you are collecting a slice of Hollywood (and possibly some nachos).

All over the world, payment provider Boku already uses charge to mobile and its e-money licence as an option for low-cost convenience purchases for ticketing and for pay-ahead for a coffee as ‘a click-and-collect item.’ In fact, Boku estimates that 25% of click-and-collect transactions come via the mobile – rather than from within an e-commerce environment – so there is a good fit with mobile payments, especially carrier billing.

“Outside the US and Europe, there are also plenty of examples of how this is changing into a channel for the purchase of items that fall in to the physical/digital hybrid model,” explains Rimma Perelmuter, CEO, MEF. “Turkish mobile operator Turkcell works with Neomobile’s charge to mobile service, Onebip, to enable mobile ticketing for three Turkish international football matches. And there is more to come with Turkish football.”

German cinema chain CinemaxX is also starting to see how this can be replicated for the movies. It has partnered with payment app Yapital to let cinema goers buy their ticket and their refreshments using the Yapital app. The catch is that they have to use the app to scan a barcode at the cinema to initiate the process, and rather than being aimed at making the cinema going process better, is a sop to get people used to using mobile payments.

“Big blockbusters regularly attract millions of spectators to cinemas. As one of the largest operators of modern multiplex cinemas, CinemaxX is a crucial partner to help establish mobile payment with Yapital in people’s daily lives,” explains Karsten Cornelissen, Managing Director at Yapital. “It’s just so easy to pay for the ticket, snacks and drinks quickly, simply and safely with the one device that I have with me at all times – my smartphone.”

While it is clear that consumers could benefit from making the process easier, there are benefits for the cinema chains too. Juniper Research analyst Nitin Bhas, whose report into mobile ticketing for transport and events/entertainment predicts that global m-ticketing will top 16 billion tickets in 2015 alone and could rise to 32 billion by 2019, believes that: “Mobile ticketing solves key problems for facility operators whether in the transport or events markets. The ability to sell and deliver tickets through the mobile channel without the need for extra staff or real estate has a significant impact on operator profitability, especially as user numbers are continually increasing and need to be supported with minimal investment.”

So what will make cinemas start to take this seriously? The obvious benefits of more tickets with lower staff costs is a clear boon, but changes in user habits and devices will be what makes this go.

Young people, who treat their mobile as a necessity not a luxury, are the key market for today’s films and, as research in 2012 by InMobi found, 75% of under 35s use their mobile to research and select the film they want to see. This is only going to increase.

The proliferation of mobile payments – driven by Apple Pay – will also make all industries sit up and take note and start to look at what payment tools they too can use.

But devices could well be the key. Smartwatches may well today be very niche, but many believe they hold the key. “Smartwatches with NFC capability offer a convenient replacement for contactless debit-cards and smartphones.

Integrating new devices and wearables should be a key strategic directive for all players across the ticketing value chain,” notes Juniper’s Bhas. Could it be that soon I will be able to go see a movie with nothing more than a wave of my wrist?

photo credit: Little Havana Trail Theater Ticket Booth via photopin (license)

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Paul Skeldon

Paul Skeldon