26 Mar Is Flix Becoming a Technology Company?
By: Matthew Baizer, Senior Vice President of Operations
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One of the three foundational blocks upon which Flix is built is enabling technology. At Flix we embrace technology but at the same time want to ensure that the decisions we make on deployment support our values: Guests First and Teamwork. To explore just how we do that, as well as what the future holds, Allan Reagan and I made a March trip to Auckland, New Zealand (a.k.a. Aotearoa — “the land of the long white cloud”) for the biennial users conference hosted by Auckland-based Vista Group, our enterprise software vendor.
Vista Group is comprised of nine businesses that provide world-leading software, digital and online solutions to the global film industry. Functionally, Vista provides Cinema Management, Film Distribution, Customer Analytics/Business Intelligence, and Predictive Analytics solutions. We were able to explore how certain products would help enhance the Flix guest and team member experience, as well as learn about ideas that Vista has for the future and how Flix can play a leadership role in helping drive that agenda.
At the risk of getting too technical, I’ll break down the takeaways into four sections:
This is the largest bucket of tools that impact what we do every day. For starters, Vista is enhancing our Cinema Manager with a complete overhaul by the end of 2017. Included will be a web based Cinema Manager as opposed to our current server based model. This will allow for greater collaboration between our Support Center team and our cinemas as information such as reports and show schedules can be reviewed remotely with each user seeing the same thing, and changes will be reflected everywhere in real time. In addition, the point of sale software that our Flix service “ninjas” use is getting a major overhaul. Some of the benefits include:
- New customizable screen layouts and faster response times, which should increase server efficiency.
- Multi-use vouchers and passes which create the ability to be flexible with bundled offerings, which is particularly useful in driving business at valley times; not only seasonally, but by day of the week and daypart.
- Revised seat maps and enhanced seat types so that Flix guests can better see and understand our EasyGlider seating vs. tablet arm seating vs. cross aisle seating vs. recliner seating.
- A web-interfaced point of sale, which will allow multiple hardware choices for tablet ordering and ordering on multiple operating systems, which permits us to take advantage of different hardware to provide more features and innovations at a reduced cost.
There are two major products in this area. One we are considering and one we have deployed. Specifically, we launched a product called MovieTeam to the entire company. MovieTeam is a cloud-based application that is designed to take the guesswork out of scheduling. It allows our general managers to set scheduling parameters based on forecasted conditions, our team members to set their availability, and department managers to write schedules accordingly. That data is then integrated with our advance ticket sales and scheduled films to write an optimal schedule on a weekly basis. The deployment of MovieTeam also enables the transition to a more robust system in our payroll department that will provide human resources information, applicant tracking, benefits, PTO information, and a portal for our team members to communicate electronically with our payroll and benefits department.
MovieTeam is working on integrating with a product called Cinema Intelligence, which is designed to optimize the forecasting, planning and scheduling of movies. The sophisticated algorithm combines advanced forecasting (based on historical box office information for a specific genre or similar film), with film scheduling technology to optimize the box office and food and beverage sales of any given film. If the result is better film scheduling and more accurate forecasting that integrates into our team member scheduling, the cost of deploying these intelligent algorithms should pale compared to the expected gains in both revenue and expense control.
In October of 2015 Flix Brewhouse launched The Circle, which is our loyalty program. Since that time, we have built a membership database in excess of 40,000 users. Loyalty not only builds frequency with our guests, but it gives us a wealth of data on their likes, dislikes, habits and patterns. Now that we’ve got a large list of users and data, there’s an opportunity for us to use this “big data” in an efficient manner to build additional revenues.
One of the Vista Group businesses is Movio. Movio software maintains real-time, authoritative data on loyalty activity and transactions as well as capturing the behavioral information of all the Flix Circle members. It will allow us to analyze and segment the audience of loyalty members as well master campaign management to design and execute highly targeted campaigns and promotions to those users likely to be interested.
Vista is also working on a solution for non-members of The Circle, but who buy from us on-line, so we can utilize some type of identifying information to target their habits via Movio as well. Once this feature is in place, with nearly 150,000 purchasers and members in the database, we feel our existing loyalty platform will be at the point where we can truly maximize return on investment with an advanced tool like Movio.
As we all know, data security is mission-critical and sits at the forefront of potential liability and reputation issues for all businesses that rely upon a robust tech platform. Flix is no exception. Vista has some strong enhancements on the board specifically in the areas of building and maintaining secure networks and systems as well as protecting personally identifiable information and cardholder data. Vista is now moving to certificate authentication for all trusted third-party connections so that they can connect to our servers. While inconvenient, data security cannot be taken lightly, and although sometimes costly, significantly enhanced security is the new normal. We will begin to use these new tools and standards to ensure we mitigate data risk in keeping with the latest standards and requirements.
At end the conference, all attendees got to vote (using casino chips) on product related enhancements to the Vista platform products. Allan and I were pleased with the outcome in that not only were some of our enhancements included in the final tally, but they landed in the top three initiatives that attendees wanted to see Vista develop. All in all it was a worthwhile trip and we are excited about what the future holds for Flix in the area of technology that enhances our ability to deliver on our purpose of creating and sharing happiness.