Un.titled and JW3 are old friends: our team started working with JW3 to provide support for their CMS many years ago. We then collaborated with JW3 to design and build them a new website, which you can read all about here.
Most recently we added a new feature to the JW3 site in light of the pandemic and its effect on live performances. The organisation needed to continue to provide exciting live content to customers during a period where physical attendance was an impossibility: JW3 chose to use paywall-gated content.
Adapting to big challenges at JW3
JW3 were used to welcoming thousands of people through its doors each year for various events, programmes, classes and school holiday camps. Within the parameters of the pandemic, an expansion of their digital channels was the obvious choice.
Audiences have embraced streaming (by necessity, for the most part) in staggering numbers since March 2020. Yet properly monetising content when there is loads of free stuff out there — much of which is pretty good! — is a challenge for a lot of organisations who rely on ticketing revenue.
Last summer, JW3 approached this by making their three biggest events (in terms of reach) free to view, but with an interstitial paywall soliciting donations.
Un.titled added a paywall to help JW3 deliver on their income streams. Adapted to JW3’s needs using our bespoke Spektrix paywall module, event booking is as seamless as ever while also providing a number of additional advantages.
The three events in question—a David Baddiel book launch, a follow-up event with Baddiel in conversation with Yehudis Fletcher, and an event celebrating 50 years since Fiddler on the Roof hit the big screen—were much anticipated. With no physical limitations on the number of attendees, people from all over the world were able to enjoy a JW3 event for the first time.
JW3 tailored their communication strategy to promote contributions to the organisation in lieu of any booking fee. This led to a surge of generous donations, with JW3 safely securing more revenue than they would have made had they sold out their main hall.
Enabling continued positive engagement
This successful transition to a new digital stage has helped enable JW3 continue the excellent work they do throughout the course of the pandemic. But the benefits for the organisation go way beyond, thanks to the additional customer data they have been able to secure through digital sign-up.
“The process has allowed us to funnel how to take bookings, with a lot of people opting-in to receive marketing,” explained Zoe Steel, Director of Marketing and Communications at JW3. “The paywall-gated content really allowed us to capture customers and their data. 20% of customers have bought a paid ticket after their initial free event. 60% have made a donation. And there’s been plenty of positive engagement with our vision and mission.”
The move to a paywall for selected events has allowed JW3 to get actionable data on 4,000 new customers who they wouldn’t have had information on otherwise. This data can inform and shape engagement with customers moving forwards.
Throughout the entirety of 2020, JW3 added 2,000 customers to its database. Thanks in part to the paywall-gated content approach, JW3 has now added more than 4,000 people to their database just this year. JW3’s ladder of engagement has proven itself to be sound, but as the additional data has made visible that which was invisible last year, JW3 isn’t resting on their laurels.
“Because what have we planned for the next few months will re-engage with that audience again, we have needed to think about themes, demographics, customer profiles and how this all pieces together,” Zoe says. “There is a sense of needing to go at pace in order to capitalise on what the paywall-gated content has brought.”
“Booking patterns are always changing because customer behaviours are changing. But having the data to be able to analyse engagement levels is key to us. It’s important to move quickly, but also to move smartly and have as much access to as much audience data as possible and use it in an intelligent and decisive way.”
Onwards and Upwards
The move towards paywall-gated content and the various insights that have come with it has given the JW3 team food for thought.
One thing they have changed is the narrative they create for big events JW3 hosts: this includes more strategic thinking on the calls to action it uses, and a shift towards donation solicitation instead of fixed pricing.
“We have found that a customer who has engaged with us in the past but hasn’t engaged with JW3 for two years is 35% more likely to donate when they do reengage,” Zoe explains.
“Engaging with lapsed customers is great for developing brand loyalty and affinity. These customers are more compelled to make a donation than somebody engaging for the first time, so it’s really made us think about our levels of retention and reattendance.”
With the chance to potentially welcome audiences back to JW3’s physical location in North London soon, combining online and physical event experiences and ensuring all types of visitors have an equally enjoyable experience is key for the JW3 team.
The pandemic and the move towards paywall-gated content has forced a re-evaluation of certain elements of JW3’s business model, but the overall experience has been a very positive one.
“We have been able to move to more of a ‘freemium’ model, and the digital side of hosting events and engaging with customers has a much more solid backing from the whole organisation now,” Zoe says. “A lot of change was scary for the people in the organisation. But what’s happened is that we’ve seen massive, exciting growth, strong engagement, and now a strong affinity to donate through freemium content.”
“We’ve done a 180-degree turn as a company, with a greater digital focus for the future. We really want to appeal to customers in a holistic way. I want everybody to feel that they can engage with JW3 on their terms, whether it be online or physically, whether it be with live or archive content. I want JW3’s customers to feel like they can decide how they engage with us and what we do.”
We think this is a healthy outlook, and we can’t wait to see how JW3 and our other clients explore this new world.