8 minutes

INTIX celebrated a milestone 40th birthday during its annual conference January 29th–31, 2019.  Softjourners joined the festivities participating as exhibitors and demoing our Venue Mapping Tool at our kiosk, as well as delivering presentations on facial recognition and friendly fraud.

To be honest, with the busy schedule of meetings and demos we were able to listen to just a couple of presentations and wanted to share the key things that we learned from industry thought leaders.

Frictionless steps of the patron journey

A few different experts spoke on how to create a successful frictionless experience during every step of a patron's journey - from buying tickets to entering the venue.There are always success and failure stories on how companies rolled out a new technology and at Intix there were a couple of such stories from venues and sports teams. Everything matters, even convincing your personnel that “yes, we need this data to create a better experience”. More is needed to be gathered on the appropriate audience, such as what they like don`t like and what would make their experience easier or smoother. Optimization is key—have you counted how many clicks are in your current ticket buying process? How about going from six to two clicks? As well, consolidation was mentioned. It's very inefficient to have multiple products now and support them all, instead you should consider consolidating them and focus on one core product that you'll be concentrating on to implement and maintain.

Mobile tickets

Many discussions were on the topic of paperless ticketing and if mobile tickets will completely replace paper tickets.

We can produce a physical ticket - but do we need that anymore? During one presentation, when the speaker asked the audience how many people are still using paper tickets, only about 50 percent of them raised their hands. The speaker asked again - how many people believe in 5 years people will still be using hard copy tickets, and basically the same number of people raised their hands. So, paper tickets are not likely to disappear completely, at least in the next 10 years, but there will be several other alternatives which would make the patron get through the door faster, like mobile tickets, face recognition, etc.

We also need to keep in mind that if the patrons shows up with a digital ticket, they should be able to seamlessly have their ticket scanned. There was even an idea raised that a mobile ticket line should be separated from a paper ticket line so people with paper tickets could see that the other line is moving faster, which could be an encouraging factor to switch to a mobile ticket next time.

Of course, having paper tickets is easier for ushers to seat those people. So there should be an education piece for employers and registration staff, as well as educating the fanbase.

Marketing and new ways to approach your audience

The communication channel is very important, especially in times of GDPR and other regulations being introduced. Do you know how your patrons want to receive the updates? What ways of contacting do they choose? Of course, if they gave their permission to receive emails from you, only personalized messaging will find the way to their hearts. Use the data you gather to follow up with your audience, don’t inform them about all events that are happening, but only those that are relevant to them, which is one more way to increase customer loyalty.

Don’t compete with the secondary market, leverage it

With the current market dynamics, organizations can benefit from taking advantage of all available distribution channels. One example was when Beyonce’s tour was announced, there was a lot of excitement and it was the most live-streamed event, but there was one strange thing—the tickets on the primary market were available at $110 while on the secondary they were already at $150. A lot of people thought that the tickets on the primary market were sold out so they didn't even go to the primary market and ended up purchasing the tickets at the secondary market higher price. Some people thought that the ticket on the secondary market would be cheaper. Sometimes it's just an awareness issue.

The Director of Analytics for the Philadelphia 76ers shared that proper management of inventory channels leads to quality data sets and tools. Improved data leads to better models, dashboards and insights, which in their turn lead to more quantifiable results, further buy-in and actionable takeaways.

He came up with his own retention model which he rolled out that focused on different variables that really matter to his business.

They applied strategic thinking to key inventory management and conducted deep pricing analysis to optimize yield management. In this way, by developing and executing a comprehensive supplemental pricing and distribution strategy, organizations can maintain the strength of their brand throughout the secondary market while still receiving valuable fan data.

Demystifying Blockchain

Blockchain has become a very popular topic to be presented at ticketing conferences these days, and much hype surrounds blockchain and cryptocurrencies. But are we adapting fast enough to this technology? A diverse panel at INTIX made it clear that Blockchain was just another technology, and in a year or two, in their opinion, there will be no need for a separate panel on Blockchain. In the meantime, a panel was needed because there is still a lot of misconceptions about Blockchain being synonymous with Bitcoin, which of course it is not.

The leading expert panel shared how blockchain has the potential to revolutionize live event ticketing as we know it. The panel discussed why the combination of blockchain and open-source software is the perfect match for digital assets such as tickets, and how primary and secondary ticketing companies are thinking about the technology. It was also discussed that open-source technology has a substantial advantage over traditional centralized, closed-source competitors.

Participation from the session audience took place around understanding— Why Blockchain, What value will it bring to ticketing platforms and to box offices and What is the big win for using Blockchain. Ticketmaster’s VP of Blockchain Products mentioned that Blockchain had solved the parking problem and the fan experience. The question was asked, “How did it solve the parking problem and fan experience?”. His answer was that blockchain solved the problem when you are going to an event with a few friends and you purchase the parking pass but then you won’t be driving, so you need to transfer it to someone else in your group. It is possible to do that with Blockchain.

My answer to that is that it is possible to do that without Blockchain, as long as the functionality exists as part of the ticketing service—how integrated are they with the parking service, can they transfer that upsell of parking to another account? They ensured that the value for even event providers was the ability to have more control over rules as to where tickets could be sold in the primary market and how they could be resold.

Another example was given.  The artist Beyonce wants to make an offer to her fans. If you attended three of my concerts in the last year, you can get a ticket to a 4th concert this year for free. The panel participants assured that the knowledge that someone has purchased tickets to three concerts in the past year and therefore is eligible to get a free ticket now, would only be possible with Blockchain. They did not address the issue of the different primary ticketing providers (assuming that the concerts were held at different venues which work with different ticketing platforms) agreeing, as part of the blockchain that information about their patrons is to be shared.

Obviously, if those ticketing platforms were running nodes on the blockchain then yes, the data would be open. But what are the odds that the ticketing platforms would agree to that level of sharing. This was a big topic among the attendees after the session. Details as to how and why Blockchain will help with this may be fuzzy at this time, but the panel ensured that even if all use cases are not currently exactly worked out, Blockchain is here to stay as another technology that the industry will take advantage of.  

Dynamic pricing is not dead!

There were a lot of other discussions on different aspects of dynamic pricing and how you can use dynamic pricing and not alienate patrons at the same time. Some speakers talked on digital habits of arts ticket buyers to understand where your audience has come from and where it is likely going next.The group from Caesars shared with us that tactics such as “slow ticketing”, which is not a new concept, are okay to implement. There are good reasons not to sell out in 30 minutes. The market is changing, and where it may have been a good metric several years ago that a concert sold out in 20 minutes, that does not mean the same thing today with Bots and so on. There is a reason to hold back inventory.

The “Price Me Right” session also reviewed different pricing tools that Caesars uses to assist them with setting prices. They discussed how they use the concept of “seat level pricing management” which has been in place in the airline industry for years, where only 2% of inventory provides most of the value to the event provider. For example, for a basketball game, the highest value tickets are the 1st row along the sides of the court, behind the backstop first row has another price, etc.  Another example is Live Nation, with their aisle premium initiative, which is just like with the airlines where aisle seats are sold at a premium. But here an event provider needs to know its audience. For example, Live Nation has reported that for certain concerts which attract a younger audience, the aisle seats sell last and they are left with a bunch of single seats. But for something like a James Taylor concert aisles are the first to go.

To aid in determining pricing, the Platinum tool from Ticketmaster lets Caesars manage at the seat level, the higher value seats. They also use the Pricemaster tool from Ticketmaster which helps them get the most value out of the tickets that are at the lower price points. The audience got involved in the discussion on how tools such as Platinum and Pricemaster can help Ticketing Managers be able to start the discussions earlier, with the relevant parties such as the artists, promoters and venues, as to when price changes should occur. This is especially important if it may be necessary to discount. It is better to discount 18 days out rather than 7 days before the event.  

At INTIX this year, there was no shortage of other interesting conference topics such as those focused more on venues and ticket seller key needs, such as innovative strategies to engage subscribers or how to attract fundraising dollars and finding your donor base. There were also sessions that provided tips on how to make the best choice for your organization when you need to switch to a new ticketing system and what requirements should be identified in the selection process. And a particularly interesting topic of how event providers should be more like the airlines—not from a standpoint of pricing, which the industry is already following, but from the standpoint of requiring check-in. We wish we could have attended all of the presentations as the insights were really valuable for us as a technology partner in understanding Softjourn’s clients’ end users and what their needs truly are. Still we had a very meaningful experience and will definitely come back next year, maybe as one of the speakers? More to come.