The Royal Ballet School’s Digital Transformation: From an E-Commerce Shop to On-Demand Courses

In early 2021, The Royal Ballet School laid out a new strategy for a multi-stage digital transformation. Spearheaded by Commercial Director Carol Dray, the strategy sought to enhance and optimise the School’s engagement with online audiences in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Here, we’ll explore the School’s digital strategy, touching on its:

  • First year of the plan.
  • Upgraded website.
  • Online shop.
  • Video-on-demand platform.
  • Intensive Courses on Demand.
  • Primary Steps on Demand.

The Royal Ballet School’s Strategy for Digital Transformation

When designing a new strategy for digital transformation, The Royal Ballet School first identified how the global pandemic has:

  • Driven an increase in online activity.
  • Escalated the reliance of all age groups on digital channels for work, education, and leisure.

During the pandemic, digital channels allowed people to stay connected and to continue engaging in services and activities that they could not access in person. The School recognised that, in the post-pandemic landscape, people were likely to continue consuming content online.

Reflecting these findings, the new digital strategy aimed to maximise the School’s already strong social media presence by gaining a better understanding of audiences and increasing engagement.

Year One: Testing and Learning

In the first year of the new strategy, the School expanded its existing online platforms and resources and adopted a “test and learn” approach to inform further digital transformation. This approach involved testing innovative ideas with new and existing audiences and adjusting the strategy’s course after gathering feedback and data.

Year one of the plan also saw the School introduce a digital marketing manager to upskill the existing team and oversee an increased focus on digital provisions. The School pinpointed two immediate priorities:

  1. To upgrade its website and increase engagement by better reflecting the brand and improving user journeys.
  2. To establish a video-on-demand platform.

Upgrading The Royal Ballet School Website

Before embarking on the new digital strategy, The Royal Ballet School’s website received more than 300,000 visitors each year. Nevertheless, the School identified areas for improvement here, too.

After performing extensive audience segmentation research and mapping improved user journeys, the School launched an upgrade of its website, which is currently underway.

The website upgrade seeks to:

  • Optimise the website’s performance, including improving loading speeds and bounce rates.
  • Better reflect the School’s values and reputation as a centre of excellence in classical ballet training.
  • Represent the plethora of activities and services on offer at the School.
  • Improve user navigation across all audiences on all devices, including mobile phones.

Launching The Royal Ballet School’s Online Shop

In November 2020, The Royal Ballet School unveiled its online shop. As part of the digital strategy, the shop continues to expand its product offerings to appeal to fans and supporters of the School.

The shop stocks a range of branded clothing, dance equipment, and other merchandise, such as commemorative items. In line with the School’s high standards, the shop sells quality products, and the School works with suppliers that have good sustainability and ethical credentials wherever possible.

Through a collaboration with leading dancewear brand Dansez, the School has now launched a new collection of dance and activewear that is ideal for wearing at the gym or whilst attending yoga, Pilates, and dance classes. The environmentally responsible range includes leotards, tops, shorts, and tights that are available through the online shop.

The Royal Ballet School Introduces Video on Demand

There has been a surge in the popularity of subscription video-on-demand (SVOD) platforms in recent years. During the pandemic, these platforms saw increased demand from users seeking entertaining and educational content that they could access from home.

Even before the pandemic, audiences increasingly sought access to new content and e-learning opportunities in the health, fitness, dance, and well-being sector. Such content allows people to flexibly consume media when it suits them and join online communities where they can share experiences across local and wider networks.

By offering a video-on-demand platform, The Royal Ballet School can underpin its reputation as a world expert in classical ballet training and regularly engage with different audiences. Such a platform can also help new audiences discover the School’s extensive offerings, such as the pioneering Healthy Dancer Programme.

As such, the School has designed a flexible platform that offers on-demand, live streaming, and subscription programmes. Accounts allow users to browse and buy content, gaining lifetime access to the content once purchased. Users also benefit from the platform’s built-in progress and course consumption tracking feature.

With the services of a filmmaker, the School spent a month filming content for the platform. The early content offers classical ballet, contemporary dance, and Pilates classes for different ages led by the School’s artistic staff. Users can purchase these classes individually or as part of age-group-specific packages.

The platform also offers insight talks and question-and-answer sessions with the School’s artistic director and its team of healthcare professionals.

The Royal Ballet School launched the new video-on-demand platform in December 2021. Initially, only a closed group of customers could access the platform. Feedback from these early users has helped inform the next stage of the platform’s development and content creation.

Intensive Courses on Demand

The Royal Ballet School has now brought its popular Intensive Courses to the video-on-demand platform. Intensive Courses on Demand allow users to experience exceptional ballet training with the School’s artistic staff anywhere, at any time.

The Intensive Courses empower and instruct young dancers to progress in their classical ballet training and provide opportunities for personal growth. Taking part in the Intensive Courses also helps students discover whether full-time vocational training with The Royal Ballet School would suit them.

Intensive Courses on Demand offers users the unique opportunity to train with Royal Ballet School artistic staff in the comfort of their homes and whenever they like. For a one-off price, users can purchase age-appropriate collections of inspiring classes that the School has designed to suit smaller spaces and that don’t require special equipment.

Buying classes as a package gives users even better value, as the School offers collections at a discounted price. Each typically includes five video-on-demand dance classes, including:

  • Two ballet classes.
  • Two focus classes.
  • A class in a complementary discipline, such as contemporary, character, or Pilates.

Intensive Courses on Demand currently include class packages for 11 to 13-year-olds, 14 to 15-year-olds, and those aged 16 and above. These class series can help young dancers progress their ballet training, refine their technique, and explore aspects of contemporary dance.

Primary Steps on Demand

Furthering the reach of The Royal Ballet School’s successful Primary Steps Programme, Primary Steps on Demand represents another stage of the School’s digital transformation.

The early concept for an online Primary Steps Programme arose from the global pandemic, when teaching in person was no longer an option. Now, Primary Steps on Demand offers virtual dance classes for primary school children around the world.

The complete programme is suitable for Key Stage 2 children and allows schools to deliver a dance education with confidence, with no dance teaching experience needed.

The fun sessions encourage young dancers to use their creativity and explore concepts from ballet and their school curriculum through the medium of dance. This approach to learning is beneficial for many children but especially those who struggle to focus in a traditional classroom setting. Discovering new ideas through the art form also supports children’s physical, emotional, and intellectual development.

Primary Steps on Demand includes lessons for children of all ages as well as age-specific sessions. A Primary Steps teacher delivers the pre-recorded classes, which a musician accompanies. The lessons also feature demonstrations from Primary Steps students or Upper School students.

As increasing numbers of primary schools sign up for Primary Steps on Demand, The School hopes to engage more children and young people in ballet and dance. Elsewhere, the School’s digital strategy continues to broaden access to high-quality ballet training, ensuring that the art form thrives in an increasingly digital age.

About The Royal Ballet School

Founded in 1926, The Royal Ballet School is a highly respected centre of world-class ballet education. Besides nurturing the exceptional young dancers engaged in the School’s full-time course, the British institution has a wider mission to continuously raise the standard of classical ballet training worldwide.

Apart from its full-time course, the School designs and supplies a range of quality online and in-person programmes for primary school students, dance teachers, and the public. Some children who participate in the School’s Primary Steps and Associate Programmes and the Intensive Courses go on to study and train at the School itself.

The School’s admissions process for its full-time course evaluates only a young dancer’s classical ballet potential, not their circumstances or academic ability. Financial support currently enables an average of 88% of students to attend the School.

The School prepares students for fulfilling careers in dance and choreography with The Royal Ballet, Birmingham Royal Ballet, and other top global companies. Well-known alumni of the School include Margot Fonteyn, Kenneth MacMillan, Darcey Bussell, Vadim Muntagirov, and Edward Watson.

Learn more about The Royal Ballet School.