In which we take a look at the experience of searching for a product, looking at a brand’s paid search ad for the item and its subsequent landing page, all from a customer’s point of view.
This week: at last an (admittedly tenuous) excuse to write about Star Wars… booking Force Awakens tickets!
Last night I caved.
I was going to wait till Friday to see Star Wars: The Force Awakens with a few friends, but the unrelenting excitement and the knowledge that I would have to impose a complete media blackout for 48 hours after the Wednesday midnight screenings was all too much.
I’m weak. But at least I’ll be able to do my job properly on Thursday without fear of somehow accidentally seeing Force Awakens spoilers in the SEW Twitter newsfeed. Although I’ll probably be fast asleep at my desk anyway, so that may be a moot point.
I would have assumed that booking a ticket this late in the game (two months after tickets became available, three days before release) would be a foolhardy endeavour.
According to Bloomberg’s latest calculations, The Force Awakens will make $1.65bn in ticket, $734m in the US, and in the UK it broke the record for the most advance ticket sales in history, selling more than 200,000 pre-sale cinema tickets within the first 24 hours of going on sale.
So you’d think that unless you were sat at your desktop, constantly refreshing the screen or screaming at the automated Odeon robot down the phone on October 19, then the chances of getting opening night tickets this far along would be slim to none.
Well no actually…
Although cinema is the most pre-booked form of entertainment, 80% of all tickets sold are booked on the day or the day before. Which means that even a seminal, generation defining/distressing event, like a brand new Star Wars sequel we never expected, will still have advanced tickets available for the opening weekend a few days beforehand.
So Force Awakens tickets are still available. However when searching for my own Force Awakens tickets I was surprised at the lack of action in paid search…
‘star wars force awakens tickets’ and ‘force awakens tickets’
These search terms (used Sunday PM and Monday AM) revealed the standard cinema chains you would expect (Odeon, Cineworld and Vue) but none of them had taken out PPC campaigns for the term.
I understand the lack of concern for these large visible chains not to bother spending money they don’t necessarily need to, but what about the smaller independent cinemas or chains like Picturehouse or Curzon that don’t even appear on the first SERP? They could make a massive impact here and take some traffic away from the mainstream players.
‘star wars tickets’
One surprising find however was a paid search ad for ‘star wars tickets’ taken out by The Science Museum.
It’s a tempting ad too… “See 40% more of The Force Awakens at the Science Museum.” Good work Science!
It’s a great landing page too, there’s no doubt about its relevance to the ad and the pricing is clear.
Although that ‘book now’ CTA could be much bigger and bolder.
Another great example of a landing page found in among the above organic search results is the official Star Wars tickets page. This appears underneath most of the large chain results.
Its large animated background is incredibly persuasive and the ‘get tickets’ CTA is well placed.
This then takes you through to a lovely and very user-friendly page that, thanks to geolocation, shows you cinema results nearest to you, with clear drop-down menus for times and dates.
If you click on a cinema choice in the middle, the map on the right is automatically prompted and offers directions on how to get there.
There are also buttons that allow you to easily create an event on Facebook or add it to your integrated calendar. It’s also fully responsive and looks great on a mobile.
These bespoke one-page sites, which are designed by Powster for individual films using subtle design elements from a film’s poster, are becoming more popular. I like the fact that it’s putting the emphasis on the film itself rather than a cinema brand, and they can be great for sharing on a film’s official channels, social or otherwise.
However, these pages act as an aggregator, rather than having actual booking functionality. Which basically means once you’ve chosen your film and time, you’re taken to the respective cinema’s website to finish the task.
So these pages are just middlemen, and you’ll ultimately still have to log-in/sign-up/navigate another company’s website, and for anyone who regularly books cinema tickets online, this is normally only just preferable to using an automated phone system.
‘star wars force awakens’
So far, all of the previous search terms have escaped the grasp of Google’s own knowledge graph, but however not for ‘star wars force awakens’.
Here Google presents you with a ‘very handy’ local guide to showtimes over the next few days. There are no other results from cinemas selling tickets on the page, it’s entirely dominated by Google.
There’s no deeper benefit of this, other than a quick reference for the searcher. It’s pulling in information from various cinemas, and Google doesn’t run its own booking service (yet), so it’s not taking away business. However this particular tool is a nightmare to navigate.
If you click on the cinema of your choice, it then just shows you all the films that cinema is showing, rather than, as you’d expect, serving you with a landing page for that particular film screening. I just kept going around in circles on it, and I ended up giving up.
Cinemas would be doing everyone a massive favour by taking out some PPC to push this tool further down the page.
After checking the above search terms again on Tuesday morning, I’ve discovered that Cineworld has now taken out a PPC ad for ‘force awakens tickets’, so let’s take a closer look at this…
Well its intention is clear, you’re definitely getting the opportunity to book Star Wars tickets here. But there’s no differentiation from other cinema brands.
Perhaps it could explicitly state that tickets are available, or it could use some urgency in a ‘book now to avoid disappointment’ message. Perhaps it could use the searcher’s location and offer the nearest cinema to them. Cineworld has a loyalty scheme offering discounts, maybe that should be mentioned?
The landing page itself is relevant to the ad, although its rather functional in appearance, it is simple and quick to navigate the drop down menus, which is the most important thing for a user in a hurry.
You then have multiple options to proceed. A standard log-in, a Facebook log-in, a ‘register an account’ option and my personal preferred method as its great for speed and theoretically removing as many barriers to purchase as possible: the guest checkout.
Throughout the remaining guest checkout journey you are reminded that if you had registered at the beginning you will have saved £1. These messages get fairly belligerent, and one of the pop-ups can easily trick you into going back to register.
Yes I understand that I could save money, and yes the message is friendly enough, but I’m in a hurry and it’ll piss me off clicking on a CTA that I assume will take me further to checkout but instead sends me back to the beginning.
The remainder of the process is simple, clear and straightforward enough. Certainly not the worst online booking experience I’ve ever had despite the pop-ups.
If you have time enough to register your details, there’s a Facebook log-in that populates your details automatically later in the process. I will admit that this is even quicker and more convenient then the guest checkout, and you’ll save a pound. It’s just up to you if you want Cineworld to access your social media profile or not.