Canadian Opera Company performs Web site study

Toronto’s Canadian Opera Company is turning to a new technological partnership to improve the usability and flexibility of its online experience.

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One Web site, hold the Web 2.0

After opening its new opera house in 2006, the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts, the COC experienced a surge in ticket demand and Web traffic. In order to better take advantage of its recent success, the opera house joined forces with Toronto-based digital marketing firm Delvinia to revamp the COC Web site and establish other strategies to improve the company’s interactivity with its dedicated audience.

The first phase of the plan, which is currently underway, has both the COC and Delvinia trying to understand the digital behaviour of opera goers and what online features would best appeal to them.

“The temptation for this sort of thing is to put a whole bunch of bells and whistles into the site as quickly as possible,” Jeremy Elbourne, director of marketing at the Canadian Opera Company, said. “But with the luxury of having sold most of our tickets for the season, we can take the opportunity to understand who are digital market is and what they’re looking for before we jump into the redesign.”

Adam Froman, president and CEO of Delvinia, said that after reviewing how the COC can better meet the digital needs and habits of the opera community, work will begin with the opera house’s ticketing and digital media staff to initiate a total redesign.

“They have a great facility right now, but they don’t really have a great online experience yet, so we’re trying to figure out what their audience will want and then adapt their technology to meet that experience,” Froman said.

One of the COC’s major concerns was the need to improve the flexibility on its online e-ticketing system.

“As with any large ticketing system that deals with many clients, you tend to take a bit of a cookie cutter approach to it all,” Elbourne said. “We’re currently subscription-based, so in essence, we might sell all seven productions that we do in a season all at once. But the flexibility to service our single ticket buyers, in addition to those buying those smaller or larger subscription packages has given us some frustration in the past.”

Froman agreed that improvements are needed in the ticketing system, but stressed the fact that integrating the back-end with the front-end would be the most critical challenge the COC needs to face.

“Right now, it seems that what they’ve done is put in a ticketing technology and sort of just bolted it on to their Web site,” Froman said. “So, it does provide an ability to purchase online, but there is a disconnect with the system and the rest of the Web experience. We want to make it an intuitive process so users can purchase tickets and find their subscriptions in the Web site, without getting frustrated and opting to order over the phone instead.”

Elbourne said that using the partnership to address front-end presentation concerns as well was another strong reason the COC entered into the project. He said that being able to determine how the existing and potential audiences want to interact with the COC is something that a more feature rich site will be able to provide.

“What I’m particularly interested in is the social marketing aspect of our site,” Elbourne said. “Opera is a very niche market, so I’m interested in the ability for our audience to spread the word amongst their friends. Our research has shown that the number one way people come to the opera is through being invited and we want to facilitate that process through our site.”

The partnership is part of a contribution being made by Delvinia – who are acting as a sponsor for the COC – in order to foster Canadian culture and the arts. The company hopes to complete work on the project sometime next year.

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