Ask the Audience: Loyalty Programs

Ask the Audience

Ask the Audience is a monthly feature from Film Journal International and National CineMedia (NCM) that allows you to ask an audience of 5,000 frequent moviegoers, known as NCM’s Behind the Screens panel, the pressing questions of our industry. 

Loyal customers are one of your most valuable business assets. Not only are they a consistent source of revenue, but they become your biggest brand ambassadors, encouraging others to become loyal as well. Even better? Getting them on board when they’re young and hopefully gaining a customer for life. One of the most popular strategies in our industry for creating an enduring relationship with customers is loyalty programs. The concept is simple—the more they visit, the more you reward them. Everybody wins, right? Thanks to a request from Cineplex, we decided to investigate what is most effective for drawing customers in to loyalty programs, and how you can make them even better. Let’s ask the audience.

91% of the Behind the Screens panelists are loyalty program members, including 91% of Millennials. (Keep in mind that many of the respondents are avid moviegoers, so this number may be higher than the general population.) The ability to store points that can later be redeemed for rewards was the most popular reason for joining, with 40% attributing their membership to that perk. 27% said discounted concessions were the determining factor, and 21% argued that discounted movie tickets were the most attractive benefit. One interesting finding is that Millennials aren’t incentivized by the opportunity to skip lines, but older generations were much more likely to appreciate jumping to the front of the queue.

95% rated their loyalty program membership positively, with 22% saying that they felt the rewards were “great,” our highest ranking, and Millennials were significantly more likely to give the top stamp of approval. However, there is always room for improvement. In fact, of the panelists who were not members of a loyalty program, 25% said it was because the benefits weren’t enticing enough. 28% of our panel felt that offering discounts more frequently would be the best way to stand out against the competition. 23% argued that awarding more reward points per purchase was more effective since it allows users to earn their discounts more quickly. Offering higher value discounts took third place, such as offering a free large popcorn rather than small. Basically, the moral of the story is that customers want more free stuff. Not a big shocker, but good to know as you evaluate your own program. Millennials were also especially interested in priority access to high profile tickets, such as allowing loyalty program members to purchase pre-sale tickets a day before non-members. Might be something to think about, since this group is all about being the first to see big movies on opening weekends.

In the customers’ perfect world, everything would be cheaper or, better yet, free. Obviously that’s not feasible, so finding ways to keep their interest – and loyalty – through exciting rewards, exclusive discounts, and priority access seems to be the most effective way to keep your customers excited about your loyalty program.

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To submit a question, email with your name, company, contact information, and what you would like to ask the Behind the Screens panel.