We try to get our features behind a flag before rolling them out. I always insist on this as it helps us mitigate risk. Feature flag is a big thing for us. We utilise it as much as possible and in some instances, feature flags evolve into full-on experiments.Monty MohamedProduct Insight Manager, Ambassador Theatre Group
Scripting success: Ambassador Theatre Group utilise Optimizely Experimentation to drive conversions
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- 2 experiments run weekly
- More than 10% increase in overall checkout conversion
- Improved digital user experience
An industry-leading force in live entertainment
Founded in 1992, Ambassador Theatre Group (ATG) grew from a UK theatre organisation to a global leader in live entertainment, serving over 10 million customers globally with 58 iconic venues.
Today, Ambassador Theatre Group runs three ticketing platforms that serve over 50 million sessions a year. It owns and operates well-known theatres in the UK, US, and Germany, and creates award-winning shows through its in-house production companies.
ATG’s industry-leading success can be attributed to its close working relationship with top producers and creative talent, committed investment into its teams, and a customer-first approach to experiences.
Serving both sides of the market, ATG’s B2C customers consist of showgoers, and its B2B customers are producers and promoters of a wide array of live entertainment.
Both of ATG’s customer groups seek an exceptional digital user experience that can drive excitement for shows and provide a seamless checkout process.
ATG improves its approach to digital product development
Before 2018, ATG’s digital function was outsourced to different vendors, leading to feature rollouts that were sporadic and lacked monitoring.
Director of Product at ATG, Stephen Taylor, shared that bringing the digital function in-house was the start of ATG’s digital transformation. The initial team consisted of 12 engineers, one product manager, and one designer.
Although the lean team started on a high note with great ideas, they needed a digital solutions provider to help keep them on the right track of features monitoring, hypotheses testing, and data analysis.
The digital team’s proposal to engage a technology solutions provider was initially met with resistance as each feature rollout was producing results consistently.
However, they knew that various factors including performance an affiliate marketing, traffic influx from new theatrical titles, and more could affect results. The digital team wanted to identify the best practices for measuring their impact amongst the noise of a busy ecommerce platform.
The team knew they needed more than a digital solutions vendor. They needed a strong partner to facilitate ATG’s journey to its ideal digital experience.
Putting customers first in ATG's experimentation approach
ATG found its answer in Optimizely.
Not only did the ATG team receive mandatory training during the onboarding process, but Optimizely also acted as a partner that prioritized ATG’s growth.
ATG wasted no time in leveraging Optimizely’s Feature Experimentation to elevate the digital experience for its B2C customers, especially its core ticketing journey.
The core ticketing journey makes up two-thirds of ATG’s experimentation efforts. The most pressing issue was the significant drop-off rate during the seat selection process in the ticketing journey, which can reach as high as 82%.
To ensure controlled experiments, the Product Insight Manager of ATG, Monty Mohamed, shared that Optimizely’s Targeted Rollouts function has helped the team immensely, especially Feature Flags.
Feature Flags enable ATG to canary test with quicker cycles in a real-world setting without making disruptive code changes. ATG can also quickly roll back tests by a toggle of a button when it is set up with a Feature Flag, easing the work of developers and engineers.
Use case 1: Optimising use of screen real estate
ATG identified its seat selection step as the key to its conversion conundrum. The team hypothesised that if customers were given more screen real estate on their mobile devices to view seat maps, it would aid conversion rates.
Monty and the team put forth a feature flag that hid summary details before a seat selection was made. Upon choosing a seat, the hidden summary will show up at the bottom of the screen.
This removes clutter from a small mobile device screen so that customers can focus on the task at hand, selecting the best seats for their needs.
The experiment was a momentous win for the team, contributing to a decrease in drop-off rates via mobile devices and increased overall checkout conversions.
Aside from in-house experimentation requests, Stephen shared that ATG also receives requests from its B2B customers to optimise B2C experiences for specific processes.
Use case 2: Seat preview during seat selection
To truly deliver on the immersive musical promise of a high-profile West End show, the Producer wanted to provide customers with a view from their seats to know what they will be experiencing.
As seats will have different viewing experiences, ATG and the Producer worked closely to integrate this preview into the seat selection process.
The objective of this seat selection preview was to remove uncertainty from potential buyers and give customers as much information as possible about what they can anticipate when viewing the show.
The result of the experiment was a positive for both ATG and the Producer, increasing revenue per visitor (the north-star metric) by 7% and conversion by 6%.
ATG’s experimentation effort steals the show with proven conversions
Since testing with Optimizely, the overall perception toward experimentation has shifted favourably at ATG.
Stephen shared that the digital team’s impact can now be presented clearly and credited to specific decisions that work towards growing ATG digitally.
Monty also shared that the digital team’s proven work is making strides in building ATG’s experimentation culture. A growing number of ATG employees are expressing interest and submitting test ideas, tasks he worked hard to get people on board with.
ATG has also increased its experimentation velocity to two experiments per week.
The customer-centric approach taken by the digital team with experimenting has also improved the overall customer experience.
ATG’s biggest experimentation win thus far was increasing seat selection rate by 10% and overall checkout conversion by over 2% via its experiment showcased in Use Case 1.
With Optimizely making up an integral part of ATG’s experimentation culture, Stephen shared that both he and the digital team are encouraged to learn more and test faster to keep pace with Optimizely’s developments.
ATG’s digital transformation has just begun
ATG is in the process of expanding its platform internationally with a 50% increase in reach, traffic, and sales. With new markets, ATG is looking to tap into new opportunities.
The digital team will focus its resources on growing the business digitally in both existing and new markets. Stephen shared that the team is keen on increasing revenue per visitor.
On a more granular level, Monty shared that testing efforts will be channelled to improving the UI of ATG’s platforms, including displays of pricing, seat map, and more.
The team will also increase their testing velocity with Optimizely Web’s Visual Editor to empower more non-technical ATG employees with easy-to-use tools to improve the experimentation culture at ATG.