‘Intermission is over’ says Cirque du Soleil as it relaunches using Sitecore to capture the wonder and delight of spectacular live shows, engage fans, grow revenue, and reach new audiences.

Q. Cirque du Soleil is an iconic, live-performance spectacle that wows and delights audiences around the world. Please tell us why and how you brought that experience to the digital space.

Cirque du Soleil was founded in 1980, transforming live, circus-like performances into shows that have entertained, stunned, and delighted 365 million spectators in more than 90 countries across six continents. In addition to relaunching over 37 shows, we developed several digital initiatives designed to bring the flavor of a staged event into the digital space.

Now that we’re back doing live performances, we are expanding and deepening that digital experience beyond capturing the magic of Cirque de Soleil to reach out to existing and new audiences.

The essence of Cirque du Soleil is its shows. So, at the start of Covid we used Sitecore to launch CirqueConnect to broadcast show highlights online. Within weeks, CirqueConnect was watched by millions of fans all over the world and now has over 67 million views.

Q. It seems like out of loss came invigorating digital transformation.

We had already started rethinking our digital strategy before shutdowns. But it was certainly a spur. We needed to rebuild brand awareness and audience connections post-Covid and let everyone know live events were back. The website was doing well, but we knew we could do better. For instance, we were mostly connecting with the main ticket buyer, but not so much with other members of their group.

We also noticed that besides the shows themselves, there was growing interest among fans about performers, which is a rich, untapped content source. And of course, there is mobile. Two years ago, some 60% of Cirque du Soleil audiences were engaging with us via mobile; now that is more than 75%.

Cirque du Soleil has a lot of great content to share like booking packages, promos, pricing, calendars, and – most importantly, videos which are a key selling tool. That is a challenge. Marketers want as much content, images, and video as possible, while the digital team has to find a practical way to deliver that on a mobile platform.

Q. How did you address these challenges?

About a year ago, we launched our Interactive Program, a mobile-friendly site customized for each event that enables ticket-holders to familiarize themselves with a show as well as access practical information about the venue. We added QR codes to event posters to connect users quickly to our mobile website.

A Jamstack/headless approach using Sitecore and JSS meant that with a small development team of just five people we could build these powerful, world-class digital tools in just a few months. Sitecore also provides us with a robust content management solution where we can leverage our baseline foundation to duplicate and build custom brand sites, including our new Cirque du Soleil Blog featuring performer life-stories.

Q. It seems that Cirque du Soleil has come a long way in a short time.

At its heart, Cirque du Soleil is one of the most awe-inspiring live performance events. With help from Sitecore we have taken the essence of Cirque du Soleil and magnified it in the digital sphere. As well as enhancing the live show experience with useful information, we are using digital to expand and deepen engagement with fans. For example, connecting them with the performers and their personal stories.

Through digital, we can open the curtain and invite Cirque du Soleil’s fans behind the scenes of our creative environment. With the improved digital experience, now we are focused on driving more engagement opportunities. Sitecore tracks fan activity and interests via our websites, search tools and Interactive Programs, which we use to inform and drive new marketing opportunities.

Cirque du Soleil Entertainment Group has more than 12 different websites to support, and Sitecore has made creating and posting content and building content pages easier and faster. We used to build each site separately. Now, we can upgrade common features once and have them automatically reflected across all sites.

It also means new websites can be launched quickly and for less cost. Previously, building a site might cost thousands of dollars and take months, but with Sitecore a small team can do it in six to eight weeks. We are also using our website and social media to drive more people to the loyalty initiatives like Cirque Club and newsletters to connect with fans beyond the lead ticket buyer.

Q. What does digital transformation mean for Cirque du Soleil?

Better data and insights into customer behavior as well as cross-team collaboration has helped bridge the gap between marketeers wanting to prioritize branding elements and the digital team streamlining the experience with personalized, relevant content when a visitor needs it. It is getting the balance right between the practical, revenue-generating capabilities of an Amazon-like site with the color, vibrancy, and spectacle of the Cirque du Soleil brand.

Today there is a lot of talk about digital transformation. For me, one of the true indicators is when most of the decision-making shifts from marketing and branding to digital optimization. Senior managers everywhere are starting to realize that focusing on digital generates more revenue.

Q. You have put a lot of effort behind digital transformation at Cirque du Soleil. What’s the impact?

We are still gathering specific data on the results of our digital programs. But I can say that on the Interactive Program, the dollars generated for each visit increased far beyond any other marketing initiative Cirque du Soleil has ever done.

As first-party customer data becomes more and more essential in a cookieless world, Sitecore’s personalization features help us overcome onsite retargeting challenges.

Search has also been transformed. One trend we discovered with our new search capabilities was that people search based on city, rather than a specific show. So, we focused the search tool on city locations. When someone selects the city they are interested in, they are presented with all the shows available in that city or nearby. The associated interactive global map visualizes city locations and Cirque du Soleil shows and has driven an increase in ticket sales.

The Interactive Program has improved the fan experience, added a new communication channel, especially for previously hard-to-reach audiences such as non-ticket buyers, and increased up- and cross-sell opportunities as well. Recently we hit 1 million pageviews from people who have seen a show.

Pierre-Luc Camirand is the Director of Digital Customer Experience at Cirque du Soleil Entertainment Group.