How Stage Entertainment runs the show with AI-powered insights
saved with optimized social media management in FY21
hours saved with social media reporting in FY21
of assets reused in 2022
Stage Entertainment is the world’s leading musical theater production company. Headquartered in the Netherlands, its productions play in local languages to audiences in six countries. With both original, premium content and licensed productions, Stage Entertainment welcomes some seven million visitors a year to 16 world-class theaters. During the global pandemic, the company endured a shutdown of all theatrical productions for many months – followed by a stutter-stepped reopening as COVID cases surged, abated, and surged again. Despite the disruption, Stage Entertainment has emerged more connected than ever to its customers, which Social Media Specialist Nino van Zandwijk says is largely thanks to a decision to deepen its digital transformation in order to better understand and cater to customers’ needs.
“At the heart of our company is a desire to tell stories internationally, but with a local touch,” says van Zandwijk. “We want to transport our audiences from their day-to-day realities and to create memorable experiences for them before, during, and after the show — and to do so in a digital, data-driven way.”
Stage Entertainment first partnered with Sprinklr in 2017, but when van Zandwijk took on social media management in the summer of 2021, he wanted to refresh the company’s approach to how it listened to and engaged with audiences throughout the entire customer journey. Van Zandwijk wanted to leverage Sprinklr’s unified customer experience management (Unified-CXM) platform to enable local teams to:
Listen closely to theater-goers in order to identify and address health and safety concerns related to the global pandemic
Listen to sentiment around Broadway shows to inform Stage Entertainment’s show selection process
Use social listening as an integral part of concept testing for future productions and to monitor and guide marketing efforts around them
Measure social-post performance in regional markets, then easily share and re-use top-performing assets locally
Harnessing AI to connect with audiences as they return to theaters post-pandemic
When van Zandwijk took the social media helm, he not only wanted to help guide Stage Entertainment forward out of a worldwide pandemic, but to leverage the Sprinklr platform in new and innovative ways for a theater production company — on both the commercial and production side of the house. To start, he broadened the way Stage Entertainment uses Social Listening from Sprinklr’s Sprinklr Insights product suite, in three key ways. First, as European audiences emerged from lockdowns and returned to live shows, van Zandwijk wanted to understand how they were feeling about the experience of being in theaters again.
“After we reopened, it was very important to reconnect with our audience, get the right content to them, and, more specifically, to comfort them,” explains van Zandwijk. It was important to understand if visitors felt safe from a health and hygiene perspective. Did they feel comfortable with the new processes in place intended to keep them healthy, and how was color-mapped seating being received?
“That’s where Listening really helped us because we saw that we had quite positive sentiment, and all our safety measures were working well for audiences,” says van Zandwijk. This knowledge then informed the content that the commercial teams put out on social channels. “We used that information to reinforce the sentiment and positioning on social – to say, ‘It’s safe to go to the theater, not because we say so, but because our customers are saying so.’”
Using AI-powered Social Listening for concept testing theatrical productions
Next, van Zandwijk had an idea to use Social Listening as part of concept testing. When a production company wants to introduce a new show in a market, it tests the idea with in-person audiences. Van Zandwijk’s idea was to, additionally, set up keywords and topics to monitor online sentiment around upcoming productions, then analyze the data to help guide marketing activity for the show.
“We have tested this when shows have low familiarity,” he explains. “Then, based on that, we plan new marketing activities around that show.”
Now, he says, Stage Entertainment has a new Social Listening use case: the marketing team has defined KPIs around marketing efforts against which they measure campaign performance and adjust course as necessary.
Leveraging Social Listening in the show-selection process
Van Zandwijk had one more idea for Social Listening: he wanted to see if he could deploy it in support of Stage Entertainment’s show selection process. When selecting musicals to put into production, Stage Entertainment has always listened to the market to determine which shows will resonate best with its audiences. Now, Van Zandwijk wanted to see if he could leverage the power of AI to understand sentiment around specific shows playing on Broadway in the U.S. and to predict their success in Europe.
“And where sentiment is overwhelmingly positive, can we maybe invest in those shows and bring them to Europe?” he explains. For a recent show selection, van Zandwijk used Social Listening to monitor keywords and topics related to a production that was playing on Broadway. He listened to sentiment in the U.S. and around the world, including in Stage’s European markets. Based on insights he gleaned, Stage Entertainment made the data-informed decision to move forward with potentially producing the show for audiences in the Netherlands, Germany, Spain, and France.
Asset-sharing performance dashboard enables social media collaboration across markets
With numerous concurrent productions playing in theaters across six different countries and in five different languages, Stage Entertainment’s social teams are creating a lot of content. Teams in each market aim to create full-funnel experiences for audiences — reaching them with relevant, engaging content before, during, and after the show. Social Publishing & Engagement, part of Sprinklr’s Sprinklr Social product suite, serves to strengthen collaboration across markets. This enables local teams in different markets to work from a common platform to optimize their time and their content and fosters a true esprit de corps and sense of community among them.
“We have amazing content, and we have certain shows running in multiple countries,” explains van Zandwijk. “So we thought, ‘How can we optimize that? Let’s share content.’” Content that is performing well in Germany may also play well in Spain and France, for example. So van Zandwijk and his team developed an asset-sharing performance dashboard to which Stage’s social teams have access. They’re able to evaluate the performance of content for each production in each country, identify top-performing assets, and easily share them for re-use in another market.
One of Stage Entertainment’s best markets for social asset performance is Spain. Backstage content from The Lion King production there, has an engagement rate of over 20 percent – compared to a more typical rate of two percent. When those assets were re-used in Germany, where The Lion King has been playing for more than 20 years, it performed equally as well.
“Sprinklr has supported us in building capability for all our international markets, enabling us to become more data-driven,” says van Zandwijk. “In fact, we don't perceive our Sprinklr partners as just partners, but more as colleagues because we work together within Stage as a community.”
For us, the most important thing is to become more data-driven and to listen to our customers because, in the end, we deliver a product that is supposed to transport people from their reality for a moment. Sprinklr really helps us to listen to our customers and their needs and translate that into a new experience online.”
Empowered by insights gleaned from Social Listening about the type of content that resonates best with Stage Entertainment’s social audience, more than 85% of the company’s social teams now work from one, unified platform to produce and share content across six countries and five languages. Van Zandwijk says Stage’s social teams have been able to re-use 58% of assets in the first five months of 2022 and that optimized social media management saved the company some $65,000 and an estimated 2,000 hours worth of work in FY21. Additionally, videos shared on social have reached a phenomenal engagement rate of 15%.
Going forward, van Zandwijk says, he is interested in further exploring opportunities with user-generated content (UGC). Many customers post about their visits to shows, and van Zandwijk is thinking about fun ways to use that content, beyond re-sharing it.
“One idea is to use Sprinklr Display to project UGC within the theater,” he says. “So if you post online, you can see it in the theater or maybe even on billboards outside.”
Stage has already begun to use Link in Bio on Instagram and TikTok to link users to their website to buy show tickets, and van Zandwijk is dreaming up ways to further optimize that experience to reach a younger generation.
“We need to nurture new, younger audiences, so that they understand that musicals are awesome — and that it’s not just online, but it's something physical that you should enjoy together with your family and friends.”
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