The cinema scene is dying. Here’s the minimum level of improvement Shaw Theatres should make to remain competitive.

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Newsflash: The average cinema attendance is dipping (Read this). Internet streaming sites, such as Netflix, are aggressively disrupting the movie industry by providing viewers a wide selection of movies and TV series at incredibly low prices, making it difficult for movie-lovers to leave the comfort of their own homes.

Nonetheless, watching movies in the cinema gives off a completely different experience to viewers as compared to Netflix. As quoted in the article, watching movies in the cinema is now considered as a social activity. Friends and family see watching movies in the cinema as an opportunity to get together and share the joy of a movie experience. Moreover, nothing can compete with the whole cinematic experience. From the smell of sweet popcorn to the well-designed cinema acoustics, it is hard to envision cinemas to be permanently disrupted, at least in the short run.

Just like any other disruptions, cinema operators need to explore ways to stay relevant in the market and provide patrons with an overall pleasant experience. WE cinemas, for example, has implemented ticketless admissions via the use of e-tickets and therefore, removing the need to queue for tickets over the physical counter. Golden Village, another cinema operator, has recently launched their new app called iGV to provide a seamless experience in the booking of movie tickets for their users. Both WE cinemas and Golden Village has done one thing in common — they both have incorporated technology to improve the overall experience of their users.

Upon analysing our competitors, my team and I realised that Shaw Theatres are lagging behind in terms of technology. Of course, building a mobile application and tech-oriented products seem to be the trend in today’s era. However, the goal in our case was to make a tech product that is purposeful — a product that caters to the users’ needs and at the same time, fulfil business goals.

Market Potential: Promising figures

We did a thorough analysis of the market to ensure that going tech-centric will ensure returns-in-investments. What we found was that the demographic, 15–34 years of age, are the biggest users of the internet and at the same time, the most frequented patrons of cinemas in Singapore.

Similarity in the age group between cinema patrons and internet users in Singapore

If the age range of the most frequented cinema patrons in Singapore and the age range of the largest internet users in Singapore are similar, then surely it would make plenty of sense for Shaw Theatres to capitalise on such congruency and create a product that would be aligned to the users’ current behaviours.

Our research also found that 38% of the smartphone users in Singapore are choosing to use their smartphones as their preferred mode for their online purchases, as compared to conventional devices such as laptops and traditional computers (TodayOnline, 2015). More interestingly, 34% of the internet users in Singapore are making the switch from traditional laptops and computers to smartphones as their preferred device to access the internet (DigitalInfluenceLab, 2015). This shows that Singapore is slowly adjusting itself to be a mobile 1st nation. Therefore, with the increasing use of the internet through the use of smartphones, old industry players such as Shaw need to adjust and adapt to continue being relevant to its users.

Understanding the Current Users

Understanding the users’’ needs and pain points are as important as understanding the current market conditions. The aim, in any product creation, is to create products that fit the users’ needs and alleviate any difficulties users experienced while executing their task. Products that do not cater to users’ needs would generally be under-utilised, resulting in the product’s failure.

My team and I conducted a short online survey as well as user interviews to better understand the cinema patrons in Singapore. What we found was that users ranked Cathay Cinemas as their number one choice of cinema operator in Singapore while Shaw Theatres came in second. The difference to why the two choices are preferred by users, however, is really surprising. Users of Cathay Cinemas are in favour of Cathay mainly because they felt that Cathay has an overall stronger branding and that Cathay provide a “more complete” experience — from their customer service to the ambiance of their cinema foyers and the comfort of their cinema seats. Users of Shaw Theatres, however, preferred Shaw mainly because they felt Shaw provides unbeatable promotions that cannot be compared to other cinemas in Singapore (such as the Safra 1-for-1 deals).

Nonetheless, the use of promotions as a reel for increased viewership is definitely not the most prudent method for the business. In order to affirm itself as the biggest player in the industry, Shaw needs to take steps to improve its overall brand presence and more importantly, contrive a customer experience that is seamless and efficient for their users.

In terms of ticket booking options, users chose “website booking” as their preferred method, “mobile applications” as their 2nd most preferred method and surprising, physical “cinema counters” as their 3rd most preferred method. These results reflect the earlier discovered research — that users are becoming more internet-centric even in their purchase habits.

The survey brought about an even more alarming discovery. 80% of the mobile application users are turning to 3rd party ticket aggregators such as Popcorn. 3rd party applications, just like any platform services, are a double-edged sword. The upside to 3rd party apps is that they provide another means of revenue to the business. The downside, however, would mean that users of the app are also able to view options provided by competitors and hence, result in possible leakage. Such third party applications also dilute the concept of brand loyalty as users turn to the cheapest tickets available that fits to their convenience.

So how do we build brand loyalty then?

There are many factors that could influence this decision — ambiance, convenience, promotions, payment methods and ease of purchase — all of which are factors of service design. To adjust some of these factors, however, would be too time-consuming, especially in the current market situation where competitors are aggressively implementing changes and new marketing efforts to bring in revenue.

Golden Village’s “interesting” attempt at product diversification to increase revenue. Read more here

Therefore, the market conditions, coupled with the research mentioned earlier, led to the team’s decision to redesign the Shaw Theatres’ App. The goal was not to position the app as “a nice to have” product but rather a necessary tool that can improve the overall ticketing booking experience. The improved experience aims to encourage repeatability and retention in the app usage, which in turn could pave way to the increase in customer loyalty.

The Redesign Process

Currently, Shaw Theatre does have an app that facilitates the booking of movie tickets. However, our user interviews and survey showed that they either (1) do not know that the app exists or (2) know that the app exists but choose not to download it onto their smartphone. A quick search showed that the app is available on Google Play but not the App Store. Upon downloading the app, it was found that the app is identical to their mobile site version, This means that the app is likely to be a Hybrid app and hence, likely to perform slower than the Native Apps of their competitors. Hybrid apps have the tendency to be “bugsy” as well and may fail to perform from time to time.

Screenshot of Shaw Theatre’s App

Further research also led the team to stumble upon Shaw’s Cinime App, which was discontinued on 30 June 2016. The Cinime App was built to provide users with various content, games, and contest. The failure of The Cinime App is perhaps a classic example of building “cool products and features” that users do not need.

Cinime’s app description on Google Play

Before coming out with new concepts and improved features for the app, the team went through 3 critical stages of redesign — heuristics evaluation and usability testing of the current app and further user interviews to better understand user needs and pain points.

Heuristics Evaluation

The team found 5 critical issues with the current app after evaluating using Jacob Nielsen’s 10 Usability Heuristics.

They are:

Usability Testing

The Usability Testing exercise aims to measure the efficiency of the task while using the app. The test also aims to gather some qualitative feedback on the user experience of the app.

Results show that users in one group take an average 121.25 seconds to book a ticket while users in another group take an average of 276.4 seconds to explore the promotion and food combo options available on the app.

The team also observed key pain points users faced while navigating through the app. They are:

User Interviews

The team conducted further interviews to understand the users’ needs and pain points that they experience during the movie ticket booking process. We found out that there are 3 main user needs — type of movies, time and date of movies and the location of the theatres. For the ease of the readers, we consolidate all these findings and categorise it under 3 distinct personas that represent the different user scenarios.

The 3 main personas identified during our user interviews

The New Shaw Theatres’ App

The consolidated findings from our market and user research gave shape to our new product. There were plenty of usability issues throughout the user flow of the current app. At the same time, there was a need to improve the overall interface of the app to make it more appealing to the users. These reasons led to the team’s decision to completely overhaul the entire app despite the shortage of time we had on our end.

Nonetheless, the team placed emphasis on a number of features that were built to address the critical issues faced in the old version of the app.

Here are some key features we introduced in our redesign:

The Next Steps

The team plans to implement an optional account feature for users of the app. The use of registered accounts could prove to be very useful for Shaw as it provides invaluable amount of data that can be utilised for the planning of future product iterations as well as other marketing initiatives. On the user-end, having a registered Shaw account on the app could mean special loyalty benefits and other membership perks that non-members could not enjoy. Moreover, Shaw could set push notifications for their users from time to time to bring notice to their latest promotions and marketing efforts. The team also plans to create a recommendation list that is specially dedicated to the users’ movie purchase preferences.

In conclusion, the integration of technology is something that Shaw Theatres should embrace in order to remain competitive in the field. Optimising the existing mobile application is only the start to many possibilities for Shaw. The use of wearables or even augmented reality is some of the possible things Shaw could look at in the near future. However, Shaw needs to constantly ensure that they place the users’ interest at heart and continue to create user-centric products in order to establish themselves as the Number 1 Cinema Operator in Singapore.

View the full interaction of the new app below

I would love to hear more from you and your inputs on my redesign of the Shaw Theatres App. Comment below or connect via Linkedin!