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Royal Shakespeare Company targets more groundlings with Progress

The Royal Shakespeare Company revamps its web site and gets its customer engagement act together with content management and digital marketing tools from Progress

The Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC) has revamped its web site as part of a digital drive to capture bigger audiences, making its interactions with customers and prospects more personal as it is available on any device.

Richard Adams, consultant digital programme manager at the RSC, came into the arts organisation two years ago to put into effect the beginnings of an ongoing digital transformation effort signed off by its senior management team.

The web team at the RSC – which consists of, in addition to Adams, a content manager, a web designer, a product manager, a head of web apps and two assistants – uses a content management system from Progress, called Sitefinity.

The supplier offers the Sitefinity software thanks to its 2014 acquisition of Telerik. Sitefinity combines content management with digital marketing functionality. Adams says he prizes its “advanced customer insight” capability in particular.

Adams looked at a range of similar technologies, but considers the Progress product, wrapped in the supplier’s Digital Experience Cloud (DEC) software-as-a-service environment, to be “good value for money, which, since we are a charity with public funding from the Arts Council, is very important”.

The RSC is international in its span, with a significant reach into North America. Adams describes how tourists visiting Stratford-upon-Avon will be browsing on their smart phones looking to buy tickets on the spot.

This behaviour contrasts with more regular UK customers searching on the web site on a desktop or laptop computer, perhaps looking to buy tickets in bulk.

The RSC is also looking to expand its audience beyond typical high culture theatregoers, who are middle aged and older. “It’s similar to the challenges facing Radio 3 and Radio 4 at the BBC,” says Adams, whose career includes time at the BBC as a digital producer.

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The RSC puts on such productions as Matilda the Musical, as well as the more traditional fare of Shakespeare – and company: John Webster, Ben Jonson, Aphra Behn and the rest. “We need to meet our audience where they are, not where we think they should be,” says Adams.

And so the RSC did an overhaul of their website, making it mobile and tablet friendly, using Sitefinity. The site launched in November 2015, but Adams stresses the iterative and agile approach the RSC web team has taken, adding features on a monthly basis in response to user behaviour.

“For instance, we’ve learned that the ticket-buying needs to be more at the front for people browsing on mobiles,” he says.

Sitefinity also allows the site’s content to present differently in North America than in the UK. Adams says the RSC has seen a rise in mobile ticket purchases, and it is reaching a “more diverse audience with the mobile and tablet apps”.

He concludes by saying the close alignment of IT and marketing has been very important to the success of the project.

“The management at the RSC have been very enlightened. That’s enabled us to have a balanced team, like a good football team. If you try to do this in silos you will fail. We are probably in advance of other arts organisations with digital customer engagement,” he says.

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