Making a Buttery Ticketing Experience

Ticketing companies see great return with a smooth experience

  • by Jessica Boudevin
  • Published: January 5, 2015

Tessitura client Arena Stage at the Mead Center for American Theater in Washington has an upselling component for parking, food and drinks built into its ticketing platform. 

Technology is making it easier to bring the box office to the fan, which makes for a more convenient and personal experience.

“It’s taking the box out of the box office,” said Tessitura President Jack Rubin. TRBO (Tessitura Roving Box Office) allows box office professionals to take points-of-sale directly to the customers. For example, when selling tickets for the ballet, sales personnel could go to a balletcentric event at a shopping mall or park. “Previously if you wanted to sell tickets you could bring a laptop, a printer, connect to wireless and do it that way, but now you can take TRBO and have people stimulated by seeing an art form or performance, buy tickets easily and be engaged in a very informal way.”

That is one of several trends in ticketing top executives in the field discussed with Venues Today in advance of INTIX, Jan.12-14 in Denver. Top ticketing trends are reported in our January issue, which hits the streets next week.

Vendini also offers a mobile box office that gives venues the opportunity to scan patrons into an event with a mobile device as well as selling tickets.

“If you have one machine selling tickets, your customers wait in line to come to you; but, if you have a fleet of mobile devices all equipped with software to sell directly from those devices, you can be selling tickets to folks standing in line, meaning more tickets sold in less time,” said Vendini CEO and Founder Mark Tacchi. Some Vendini clients have sold up to 30 percent more tickets during peak hours while using the mobile box office.

TicketFly co-founder and CEO Andrew Dreskin said that the ticket buying experience needs to be buttery-smooth for fans. “The more frictionless and pleasant — or buttery — the experience is for fans, the better it’s going to be for everyone because they’re going to have more fun and buy more tickets.”

The increase in mobile transactions is a benefit as well. While the percentage of mobile transactions continues to increase, the amount people are spending is also on an upward trend, perhaps due to the convenience of buying on mobile.

“The people who buy tickets on mobile spend an average of two times as much as those who buy tickets online,” said Etix VP of Sales Dennis Scanlon. “Think about who the person is that would buy a ticket with a mobile device. Someone tech savvy enough to do it is going to want convenience, not to spend an hour searching for things.”

tessitura_upsell_adrienne_arsht.jpgThe website and ticketing platform at Adrienne Arsht Center in Miami, powered by Tessitura, automatically encourages those who donate to become members. 

In addition to selling the ticket, technology is helping with upsells through innovations like bundling packages.

“We communicate with customers after they have purchased tickets to try to upsell merchandise, parking and restaurants,” said Vince Rieger of Shubert Ticketing. Retargeting technology helps continue the conversation if a conversion doesn’t initially take place. “It’s becoming more sophisticated as upselling moves from the site where the purchase took place to other sites the customer visits.”

As Scanlon said, “bundle, bundle, bundle,” adding that attaching things like dinner and parking to an initial purchase tends to have more value than adding merchandise.

“Upsells and bundling represent up to 7 percent in incremental value,” he said, adding that upselling parking with tickets netted Etix customers an additional $570,000 in revenue in 2014.

Fraze Pavilion in Dayton, Ohio, bundles 10 dinner options that can be purchased with a ticket. Tickets for the amphitheater are currently on sale for shows in June or July, meaning that the venue could start collecting money for concessions now and have better data when it comes to catering. If the caterer has advance orders, he’ll have a better idea of how much food is needed that will reduce spoilage and be able to package items in advance, increasing speed of service.

Initial bundling and upselling can also increase ancillary income for a venue because patrons are still coming to a facility with full wallets. “People go to shows with the mindset of having a certain amount of money in their pockets that they’re going to spend and, if they’ve already paid for parking and dinner in advance, then the venue might get that incremental revenue in other ways,” said Scanlon.

Tessitura automates ‘suggestive selling’ with if-then scenarios for both box office operators and online. As a customer adds items into their cart, an automated message can pop up based on those items. For instance, if a customer has three tickets and is beginning to check out, a message can automatically pop up informing them of a discount if they buy a fourth ticket. The same prompts can show up to box office sellers either on the phone or at a ticketing window.

Once attendees have bought their tickets, loyalty programs help keep them coming back.

“It’s called the loyalty factor,” said Scanlon. “It costs you five times as much to sell a new customer as it does to keep one.”

upsell_granada_theater.jpg

Granada Theatre in Santa Barbara, Calif., uses Tessitura technology and if-then prompts to suggest offers for fans based on the items in their purchase cart.

TicketForce has a couple of options when it comes to patron loyalty. One particularly scalable program that works for both small and large venues is the ability to have customers buy into a membership that gives them special access to promotions like presales. TicketForce’s Lynne Smith said memberships usually run about $50 annually, giving the buyer a recognizable membership code.

The Pace Center in Parker, Colo., “finally did a membership program and made a really quick $20,000 in revenue,” said Smith of the TicketForce client. “One of the first shows they did that offered members early access sold out on the members-only presale.” If a nonmember attempts to purchase during presale, a prompt will let them know that the sale is for members only and offer them the option to join right then and there.

Smith also thinks that points-based loyalty programs will grow in 2015. “In my mind, it’s not going away and the customers are going to be demanding more on the loyalty side.”

Rewarding loyalty is core to the AudienceView system, letting venues know and reward their best customers and donors.

“You worked really hard to get them into your venue — don’t let them go,” said Mark Fowlie, CEO at AudienceView. He recommended giving good customers a random reward to continue the engagement. “Everyone loves surprises,” he said, “it doesn’t even need to be something big.” A group reward, such as a food and beverage discount applicable to everyone in the venue for five minutes or other timed campaign, could also be a very strong call to action.

“It only works this way if it’s a real-time system with a lot of automation and if-then triggers,” added Fowlie.

TicketFly has a loyalty program called FanBase that gives venues and promoters the ability to reward top fans. Beacon technology may increase interaction and rewards in 2015, in part with if-then campaigns. For instance, if someone is within the radius of the bar and hasn’t purchased anything, they could be pushed an offer for a drink on the house; if they’ve waited in the front row for an hour preshow, they could be pushed an offer for a backstage meet-and-greet with the band.

Many of these technologies are available due to third-party integrations. For instance, Etix partners with LoyaltyMatch for its loyalty program that can be branded for any venue, with Crystal Ballroom in Portland, Ore., launching Join the Band just a couple of months ago. AudienceView announced a partnership with StubHub just before the new year that allows clients to make inventory simultaneously available on different channels and at different price points.

TicketForce has several integrations with other programs such as CRM systems like GoodData and point-of-sale companies like Appetize.

“Our approach has always been to have a really solid ticketing system and do what we do best, but APIs allow us to integrate with other companies to offer more to our clients and expand with perpetuity with regards to what’s current,” said Smith.  “We don’t need to be building everything for everybody in one system, because someone else has already done a very good job at some of these other things,” she added. “We have the solid core of ticketing, then do integrations with other programs.”

Tessitura is in the process of completely opening its API to allow even further customization and integrations.

Interviewed for this story: Andrew Dreskin, (952) 240-4012; Mark Fowlie, (416) 489-0092; Mark Tacchi, (415) 693-9463 x714; Vince Rieger, (800) 938-8587; Jack Rubin, (888) 643-5778; Dennis Scanlon, (919) 780-8086; Lynne Smith, (480) 726-3581

  • by Jessica Boudevin
  • Published: January 5, 2015