I caught up with Ted Hong, CMO of Fandango, at The CMO Club Summit in LA this year. Ted is a super sharp guy and has done amazing things for Fandango, having launched their nationally-recognized Bag Puppet ad campaign. And while I guessed that mobile was important to them, I had no idea how it had literally transformed their business. Consider the fact that this Thanksgiving weekend, 23% of Fandango’s movie ticket sales came from mobile devices (including mine!) So as you read this interview, be sure to ask yourself, are you ready for mobile and the transformational impact it will have on your business?
DN: I was delighted to be able to use my Fandango iPhone app over the holidays to buy movie tickets while in a cab. Can you give me a bit of background on the Fandango app?
Mobile has changed the way that people go to the movies and has sparked a huge change in the way we do business. Since the company’s founding in 2000, Fandango has always been looking for ways to make the moviegoing experience more convenient for consumers.
In some ways, you could say our mobile roots started out in the IVR space with our toll-free phone number, 1-800-FANDANGO, launched back in 2003. We were pretty early in launching our WAP site on several carrier decks in 2005, and our WAP site was iPhone-optimized in 2007. Mobile represented about one or two percent of our overall ticket sales at the time.
The big sea-change began in March 2009 when we launched our iPhone app, and it was an immediate success. We saw more than 1 million downloads in the first 90 days. Within six months, we tripled the percentage of tickets we were selling through mobile.
Today mobile devices and tablets contribute more than 20% of our ticket sales. Consumers have downloaded our apps more than 20 million times across various platforms. We’re seeing 10 million visits per month from mobile devices and tablets, representing 40% of our overall traffic. On Thanksgiving weekend, we saw 23% of our ticket sales on mobile devices, contributing to our best Thanksgiving holiday weekend in the company’s eleven-year history, and a 60% year-over-year increase in mobile ticket sales from last Thanksgiving.
DN: Can you give me an overview of Fandango’s other mobile-related marketing activities?
After our iPhone app launched, we pursued apps on every important platform, including Android, BlackBerry, and Windows Phone 7. Tablets are big for us – we’ve designed apps for the iPad, the Android tablet, the Kindle Fire – with tablet-specific features like “The Pulse,” which offers a real-time visual representation of our hottest ticket sales at any given moment. We’re also on connected devices like the Samsung Smart TV, TiVo and Vizio.
We aggressively market our apps on Facebook at www.facebook.com/fandango and on Twitter @Fandango. Our latest marketing campaign on Facebook has been the “Anywhere Everywhere” Sweepstakes, where fans can answer daily movie trivia questions for a chance to win some of the most popular consumer electronics that offer our apps.
DN: How important is mobile accessibility to Fandango’s business. Has this changed over the last couple of years?
Mobile has fundamentally changed our value proposition. If you are untethered from your desk, you can now take Fandango on the go. Previously, if you were at your home or at the office, you had to decide then which movie you wanted to see at that time – but thanks to mobile, you can make that moviegoing decision closer to showtime. In order to be more helpful in that process, we added the “GoNow” feature to our mobile apps. “GoNow” allow you to easily check out the nearest theaters and nearest showtimes for the movies you want to see.
In addition to our mobile site and ticket-buying apps, Fandango has been rolling out other innovations, like our paperless and eco-friendly Mobile Ticket product, allowing fans to redeem their tickets on their phones via a mobile barcode scanned by the theater’s ticket-taker. We recently launched our Mobile Ticket program at more than 1,000 Regal Entertainment Group screens, and we have plans to provide this convenience to more than a thousand additional screens in several months to come. Before we launched the iPhone app, we would see consumers buying their tickets about four hours before showtime on average. Now it’s closer two two hours – and it some cases it’s just a few minutes.
DN: Do you expect mobile marketing (including advertising) to become a greater part of your mix in 2012 and if so, why?
Yes, because the audience is going in that direction. Advertisers are aware that mobile is a great way to reach a large, sophisticated media-and-tech-savvy audience. With Fandango’s multiple apps across various platforms and huge traffic, it’s a unique opportunity to get in front of an audience of influencers making their purchasing decisions.
DN: Since Fandango offers a highly functional WAP website that works on any smart phone, do you still need to offer phone-specific apps?
We’ll continue to support both the mobile site and our apps. Some people are app-people and some are mobile Web-users. The apps can offer more bite-sized information and some consumers find them easier to use. Fandango’s iPhone app has recently garnered the 5-star customer rating – the highest possible ranking among customer ratings – in the iTunes App Store. On top of this, the company won three Webby Awards for its apps earlier this year. So clearly the apps are working well for us.
With an app, you are able to get the benefits of promotion in the app marketplace, if your company provides a unique value proposition.
But the advantage of the mobile site is that it shows up in the “Search” results, which allows immediate access to information and services without having to download something. So there are benefits to both.