case study

UE helps the Royal Shakespeare Company meet their audience where they are

Personalized user experiences

The Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC) is a major British theatre company, based in Stratford-upon-Avon, Warwickshire, England. The company employs over 1,000 staff and produces around 20 productions a year. The RSC plays regularly in London, Stratford-upon-Avon, and on tour across the UK and internationally.

The company’s home is in Stratford-upon-Avon, where it has redeveloped its Royal Shakespeare and Swan theatres as part of a £112.8-million “Transformation” project. The theatres reopened in November 2010, having closed in 2007. The new buildings attracted 18,000 visitors within the first week and received a positive media response both upon opening and following the first full Shakespeare performances. Performances in Stratford-upon-Avon continued throughout the Transformation project at the temporary Courtyard Theatre.

As well as the plays of Shakespeare and his contemporaries, the RSC produces new work from living artists and develops creative links with theatre-makers from around the world, as well as working with teachers to inspire a lifelong love of William Shakespeare in young people and running events for everyone to explore and participate in its work.

The main objective of the RSC website revamp was to make its interactions with customers and prospects more personal and optimized for any device. Richard Adams, digital program manager at the RSC, came into the arts organization to put into effect the beginnings of an ongoing digital transformation effort signed off by its senior management team.

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 smartphones looking to buy tickets on the spot.

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

The RSC was also looking to expand its audience beyond typical high culture theatergoers, 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.

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. Adams stresses the iterative and agile approach the RSC web team has taken, adding features on a monthly basis in response to user behavior. At United Experts, we identified the ongoing trend where organizations tend to opt for an approach where websites are developed as a minimum viable product (MVP) and then incrementally improved in response to identified user behavior and needs. Thus, our service and workflow were perfectly matched to RSC needs. United Experts helped RSC to streamline the continuous delivery process and optimize development inline with WCM best practices. In such a dynamic environment, it is also essential to enable everyone within the organization to benefit from this complex WCM solution.  Developing a website is no longer a simple project where someone develops it and hands it over. Digital projects are increasingly about involving a wider group of people within an organization, and about providing a comprehensive service around digital transformation.

At United Experts we are grateful for the opportunity to work with the amazing RSC team and to contribute our bit to this important cultural community.

"Backstage" at the RSC digital project: