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XLIVE Interview Series: The State Of Ticket Management

A major area within the industry that is undergoing tremendous change not being discussed at great length in the live event community is the state of ticket management. From processing secure payments to streamlining customer relations support, ticket management software systems offer live event organizers piece of mind in a constantly evolving live entertainment market.

XLIVE recently sat down with Joseph Yoshitomi, VP of Marketing Strategy at TheaterMania, to discuss the key features that event organizers should look for when selecting ticket management software and the unique relationship between box office managers and their customers for the latest interview in our Festival Forum QA series.

When we discuss technology developments in the ticketing industry it's often mobile ticketing and RFID that are top of mind in terms of media coverage and excitement amongst entertainment industry stakeholders. New advancements on the ticketing management side of the industry aren't being discussed with the same vigor but an increase in competitors in that marketplace has led to declining opportunity costs for businesses ranging from museums to music festivals. What would you say are the most critical technical features that a ticketing management software platform should offer entertainment industry clients based on the number of tickets they sell and process?

The first thing a solution like OvationTix must offer is security. This tends to be one of the last features that our partners inquire about but it is one in which OvationTix continues to make large strategic investments. I think most people interested in ticketing management software assume that all the competing software and hardware is secure. The truth is there is a wide variety in levels of security even amongst the more popular solutions in the market.

So I encourage our prospective partners to inquire with us and other ticketing/donation/CRM software companies as to their current security protocols: Is the solution PCI compliant? Are there secure P2PE options available? Have there been prior security breaches and how have they been handled? Can an independent merchant account be used? How much investment has been made in security? How much is planned for the future?

Security also tends to get abundled with stability -- which is usually translated to mean the general up-time for a cloud-based service. So inquiring about up-time over the past several years (and certainly most recent quarters) is crucial: What protocols and support are available if there is a downage? How are service windows scheduled and communicated to users? Stability is also an important factor in terms of the company that is selling the software. How long has it been around and how long have they supported the software? Do they have total control over the software or is it built on another platform? Have they abandoned support for prior software? Does the company frequently charge large up-front payments or do you have other reasons to want to better gauge their financial health? As you mention in your question, yes, the opportunity cost for companies to enter this space has gone down and I think thats a benefit for those interested in the software. At the same time, since the opportunity cost is low, we anticipate many companies will enter the market and exit just as quickly or, even worse, enter and languish for many years with software that is infrequently updated.

After security and stability, comes day-to-day usability for both the ticket buyer and the administrator of the software. This arena is where most software demonstrations focus as software should, at its core, make the lives of its users easier in some meaningful way. Instead of getting into the weeds with specific usability features we launch every two weeks for the diverse OvationTix partner community, Ill offer a more broad overview of the areas in which our various product development teams focus. In the prior (and coming) months we have been rolling out series of design changes to streamline the customers purchase process on a mobile device. This also comes with some enhanced branding opportunities such as the full white-label of our solution so OvationTix partners aown entirely the branding present throughout a transaction. Weve also been working on a series of fundraising adashboard changes for development and box office officers. Were focused on the experience of our patrons at OvationTix and also on how the ticket seller interacts with the software. We also have other teams enhancing core elements of the software: reporting, membership/subscription features, security, and, of course, building new efficiencies in the software to increase potential revenue for OvationTix partners and/or decreasing the amount of administrative time required for a task in the solution.

Lastly, while I wouldnt consider them technical features, there are the abells and whistles about which each solution brags. Many current OvationTix partners have been initially attracted to our solution because of a particular report or function that can help fulfill a critical part of that companys workflow. I recognize that these features work aon top of the core functionality and encourage our prospective partners to see it this way as well. Bells and whistles are great but if you dont have the pipes, you arent playing the organ.

The art of recording interactions between box office staff and prospective attendees has primarily been phased out as most customers opt to purchase their tickets online. However, recording these interactions can still offer valuable data that box offices can use to inform their in-person ticket sales strategies in the future. When evaluating the range of interactions that box office employees can have with prospective customers, are there any particular types of conversations that should be recorded to offer ticket sellers actionable data on the barriers preventing prospective customers from purchasing tickets?

You are absolutely right that many of these prior person-to-person transactional interactions have been phased out. Fortunately what was once anecdotal data now lives in a far more quantitative environment: your web analytics, usually Google Analytics and maybe some pixel or Google Tag Manager tracking.

So now instead of relying solely on reports from box office conversations, box office managers and other stakeholders can see how many prospective buyers are reaching a certain page in the sales process, when folks are dropping off and more sophisticated marketers and ticketing solutions can change pricing, re-target advertisements to those aalmost purchasers, send confirmation emails after a purchase (and prompt users to post/share their plans to attend the event on social media), send a reminder email prior to the event, and follow-up with them afterwards. Web analytics can also indicate which advertising channels are driving ticket buyer traffic and the types of devices (mobile, tablet, desktop devices) users are browsing or buying to provide geographic and demographic data.

OvationTix runs a call center for its partners so we recognize that a rather large portion of the ticket buying population prefers to speak by phone with a real person before buying a ticket. So those phone interactions are very important and typically live with your phone/window sales representatives. I consider these person-to-person interactions to be engagement points where your customers are having individual contact with your brand.

Yes, when the phone queue is lighting up or its a couple minutes before the start of an event and the lines are starting to back-up, these interactions become more like transactions. However, in most cases I recommend that box office representatives take this time to get to know the customer better and treat that contact with the customer like a one-person focus group. What prompted the purchase or interest in the event? With whom do you plan to attend? How long have you been coming to the venue or is this your first time? If the individual is a donor, can you thank them for their support and ask a development contact to personally handle an upgrade? All this information can be stored and reported in most major ticketing software solutions.

Since our developers work on such a structured and rapid release schedule for new enhancements, by the time this publishes OvationTix will also have released a feature allowing OvationTix partners to record interactions of its users. This is a piece of a larger data puzzle, but an important one as our current and prospective OvationTix partners turn to us for more ways to gather information on customers to further leverage sales and donation revenues.

Keep in mind that the folks calling and walking up to purchase are a self-selecting group so they are not necessarily representative of your entire audience and, in fact, are far more likely to be representative of an older core audience. With that being said, it doesnt make their input any less valuable. I want to draw this distinction since it can be easy for a box office and marketing department to talk to a core audience and neglect new audiences. For example, OvationTix is investing heavily in mobile ticket purchase optimizations as more and more audience members are browsing and buying on their mobile devices. A company not watching for this trend and listening solely to its core audience may erroneously believe that its buyers are aonly going to buy over the phone or maybe on a desktop.

I have spoken on a similar topic at a couple of recent conferences and ultimately my argument is rather simple: customers are providing our OvationTix partners with data all the time both in their personal and digital interactions. It is crucial that box office managers, reps and marketers pay attention to both the personal and digital data so as a field we can continue to talk with our audiences through whatever avenues they find most convenient.

The ticketing industry has undergone a monumental technological shift over the last decade into a new era where traditional paper tickets are losing traction to a wide range of innovations being discussed at our upcoming XLIVE conference on December 5-7 in Las Vegas. 

TAGS: Ticketing
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