Samuel French, the world’s leading publisher and licensor of plays and musicals, launched an all-new e-commerce platform for the US and UK markets in collaboration with Engine Digital, a New York City and Vancouver-based digital consultancy. The new e-commerce platform provides a modern experience for the company’s unique customer base that spans Broadway, community theatre, and school productions.
The new Samuel French web platform improves discoverability of the company's extensive catalog of scripts and provides self-serve features that enable customers to explore, select, and ultimately license a show and purchase all of the related materials. In a blend of content and commerce, the redesigned e-commerce site helps visitors learn more about the authors and their shows while shopping.
At any given moment, visitors to the website include professionals producing Broadway and Off-Broadway shows, producers from small community theatres, and grade school teachers. The design challenge within is providing a robust yet supportive experience for a broad audience with varied levels of experience in theatre and the producing of plays and musicals.
The teams at Samuel French and Engine Digital brought together their expertise in theatre and customer experience, respectively, and collaborated through a workshop-driven concept sprint to define the ideal-state customer experience. These collaborative sessions, done early in the process, identified a set of optimal user interactions that influenced the planning and design of the platform.
“Collaboration is often key in creating something truly new and great for customers,” stated Ryan Opina, VP Strategy at Engine Digital. “This method of working closely with our clients – with their industry expertise and our focus on design and user experience – creates opportunities for the best work to emerge.”
Samuel French currently sells over 26,000 products, consisting mainly of theatrical properties, each unique in its complexity, characteristics, and constraints including duration, genre, cast size, themes, suitable theatre formats, level of appropriateness, and associated costs.
This complex matrix needs to be navigated by producers, especially for small-scale productions like those at grade schools, which are often constrained in the types of performances they are able to produce. Through product tagging and filtering, the new e-commerce site helps users search through titles to find those that match their unique requirements.
The website's new license estimator lets customers quickly calculate potential costs associated with a particular show based on ticket price, number of seats and performances, and whether music and scripts are needed. Customers can make more informed decisions in a shorter amount of time, giving producers confidence in planning and financing their productions. For Samuel French, this self-serve feature allows the licensing team to be more efficient with their time, helping customers in other areas.
"For our customers, finding a show to perform or read is part of an artistic process that is both deeply personal and inherently daunting," stated Ryan Pointer, Marketing Director at Samuel French. "Ultimately, a platform like this needs to showcase the remarkable artists in our catalog, as well as give our internal team tools to continue being a resource in our customer's process."
Behind the curtains, the technical side of the platform is equally sophisticated. The website runs on a WordPress front-end, integrated with the existing back-end system that enables the e-commerce experience, and several other technologies that power the licensing side of the business. The website also leverages the Google Maps API for its "Now Playing" feature which shows geographic locations of current and upcoming performances for a particular play or musical.
The platform's dashboard feature allows authors and agents to review statistics like licensing payouts for each of their titles. Authors and agents can also manage content updates including descriptions, author bios, and more. As a result, content can evolve and stay current with a limited effort from the Samuel French team.
Following the launch of the new e-commerce site, Samuel French quickly saw signals of increased engagement. Returning users have increased by 19% while the number of visits per user rose 12.5%. The number of one-time visitors decreased by 15%, indicating an increased desire to return and engage the new website. Engine Digital continues to support Samuel French in implementing a roadmap of new features and experiences as the brand invests long-term in improving and expanding their digital ecosystem.