Leadership / 01.17.23
19 Ticketing Industry Trends: What to Expect in 2023
Many things come to mind each time we usher in yet another year. Among them are new innovations, advancements in fan engagement, technological evolution and looking to the future as the COVID-19 shutdown recedes in the rearview mirror. While live events are back in full force, the new normal is not normal just yet. Attendees are buying tickets later than ever, benchmarks have been blown out of the water, and ticketing professionals are responding to challenges as opportunities.
Indeed, change is perhaps the only constant as we march headfirst into an exciting future.
As we approach the 44th Annual INTIX Conference & Exhibition in Seattle, we asked some of our industry’s foremost experts and thought leaders for their insights on ticketing trends that we will see taking off in 2023. Here are the 19 trends they are watching.
1. Ability to Identify Previously Anonymous Attendees
Mobile and digital ticketing is something that every organization leaned into during the pandemic. The pace to adopt it was accelerated out of necessity, and it seems there is no looking back. This massive pivot (or pirouette for those who are tired of that word) spins off a tremendous amount of new and unmined data.
“Everything is mobile ticketing now, which helps all the teams and venues to identify previously anonymized patrons or customers. Typically, if I go to a game or an event, I buy tickets for four people, but the team or venue only knows me … Now, with mobile, we transfer tickets to our friends,” Craig Ricks, Chief Marketing Officer for Paciolan, says. “With the transfer, we are able to then capture the data of each of those recipients, so you now know all four people who are going to enjoy that performance or game.”
Jacque Holowaty, Vice President of Employee and Guest Experience for Climate Pledge Arena and our INTIX 2023 Conference Chair, agrees. “We are going to continue to see mobile technology improve. I think we will see an easier way to transfer tickets amongst guests and an easier way [for] every guest to have their own ticket tied to them as we have more and more cell phones coming in … The evolution of tickets being assigned on a one-on-one basis is going to grow exponentially faster.”
Holowaty continues, “The data allows you to understand your fanbase more, create memorable moments and create much more personalization ... [It allows you to have] a one-on-one conversation with your guest versus a one-on-one conversation with the one person that has six tickets.”
2. New Benchmarks
One of the biggest challenges ticketing professionals are grappling with is the idea of formulating new benchmarks, says Bethany Nothstein, Sector Strategy and Community Manager, North America, for Spektrix. Benchmarks from a year or two ago do not exist anymore, at least not in the way they did pre-pandemic.
“That is going to be really tricky for all of us to deal with for the next five years or so … So much hung on those benchmarks, and it has made folks feel a little bit out to sea. They wonder, ‘Am I doing well?’ ‘Is the demand there,’ or ‘Is this still recovery?’”
Re-establishing those benchmarks and figuring out how we measure ourselves and our success will be a big conversation in 2023, Nothstein says.
3. Staffing Challenges and Evolution of Roles
Many ticket offices and venues are reporting challenges when it comes to staffing. Heightened stress in dealing with the public, compensation and how entry-level ticketing roles are framed within an organization are all contributing factors.
With the vast majority of transactions taking place online, Matt Cooper, Vice President at Ticket Philadelphia, says call center and box office roles are now less about sales or order taking and more about being a trusted steward of relationships that help our organizations thrive.
“For us to have the right team with the right skills, we have to better characterize what our jobs are now and make sure that our organizations understand, too,” Cooper says. “There is an elevated level of service acumen that we have to look for, and part of repositioning our roles inside the organization and inside the industry is also to help us elevate the people, the skills and the things that go around providing service for these performances.”
4. Continued Emphasis on Accessibility
Accessibility runs alongside any trend in ticketing, Dani Rose, Managing Director at Art-Reach, says. Aging audience members and the effects of the pandemic and long-COVID are added factors that are increasing accessibility needs.
“Our customer service departments are addressing accessibility … or working toward greater flexibility in beautiful ways,” Rose says. “The next thing that needs to grow is pre-engagement.”
She continues, “Many venues are starting to do ‘Know Before You Go’ guides, which is a simple priming tool that can help everyone understand how to plan their visit. And because they are often supplemental material, it does not bog down what needs to happen on the website. We are also seeing a lot of [organizations] address their websites with alt-text on images, high-contrast images, fewer moving and animated images and more simplified language. All those things help accessibility [when it comes to patron engagement].”
Rose is also seeing more carousel images with alt-text and captions on social media posts.
“A lot of people are starting to use TikTok now for marketing,” Rose says. “If we set the example of including basic descriptions, captions, even transcripts in the first comment of a social media post, that allows everyone to engage with the post and sets the example for others. Recently on Instagram and TikTok, there was a video encouraging Broadway theaters to include captions in their trailers. That is a really great way to include a lot of people just by providing that simple access.”
Learn more about accessibility equity in ticketing via INTIX’s editorial series.
5. DEIA Advancements
Considerable strides have been made in diversity, equity and inclusion efforts. Accessibility also plays a key role. Without it, you do not have full inclusion or equity, and you are not including people with disabilities, so you do not have true diversity.
“We are seeing across the board that DEIA (diversity, equity, inclusion and accessibility) is not only looking at racial justice, but it is starting to look at disability justice and economic justice,” Rose says. “For us to actually be inclusive, we have to be thinking about all of the intersections of barriers, including not only racial diversity but also the variety of human beings that exist in our communities and making sure that whole variety is represented and advocated for within our organizations. [We have seen] that grow and grow and grow over the last couple of years. We are seeing new leaders really take charge, so we are starting to see authentic representation in leadership and authentic representation in decision-making spaces, which actually creates equity.”
6. Last-Minute Ticket Purchases
“The trend here is taking your time and making extremely educated and thorough decisions about where you are spending your money,” Chris Stasiuk, Box Office Treasurer at New York’s St. James Theatre, says. “We are still in a situation now where you're making a ticket-buying decision closer to the day of the event. You are looking at what disposable income you might have, and then you are saying, ‘OK, what can I go see?’”
“If we put something on sale, you have some traffic right away and see a good percentage of sales for people who are interested … Then we would see another ramp-up about two weeks before the event or the homestand,” Josh Ziegenbusch, Senior Director of Service and Retention for the Oakland Athletics, says. “Now that has shrunk to two to four days.”
7. Think Shorter
Late in the year, the A’s would traditionally sell full and half seasons. They would also try to convince fans who came to one or two games last season to buy a 20- or 40- or 80-game pack. Single-game tickets for all home games would follow, going on sale in January so that fans could plan their attendance for the season. However, people do not think that way or want to buy products in that manner now, Ziegenbusch says.
“In baseball, we are striving … to get people to think shorter,” he says. “We have found that people make split-second decisions based on the offer or the percentage discount that is in front of them.”
Ziegenbusch points to an example when the A’s announced the 50th anniversary celebration of the club’s 1973 World Series title.
“We were thinking about how we could move inventory for a particular game and what the organic timing to do so was,” he says. “So, we came up with an offer and announced it in October, which we never would have done before, just to see how it would go. The World Series was just taking place, and we ended up selling almost 10,000 tickets for a game that was not on people's minds at all.”
Ziegenbusch continues, “So, think shorter, getting your patrons to make these micro-decisions along the way. Present offers that are deeply discounted and value-rich but for a short period of time.”
8. More BIPOC Programming, With Seats for Every Wallet
“A lot of BIPOC shows are coming in to truly try and make theatre more inclusive and to give everybody the opportunity to be seen and heard on stage,” Stasiuk says. This programming is being promoted more so than it was in the past, she says. There is more content, too, including shows like “1776,” which boasts an all-female, transgender and nonbinary cast.
“You also have new screenwriters and new playwrights who are all coming out of the woodwork because producers are looking out for them in such a way that they want to be part of the solution,” Stasiuk says, adding that she is already seeing organizations similar to a Broadway Bridges “come together to promote a good price in the ticketing.”
She continues, “That is going to put a ticket out there for under $100 so that the important content that should be seen and that is finally being produced can reach an audience that should see it and wants to see it but sometimes cannot afford it.”
9. Tangible and Digital Collectibles
Making people happy and meeting their needs keeps customers connected to live events. With the move to digital, what about the diehard fans of hard tickets and tangible collectibles? Some still want to hold something in their hand and display it after attending, whether on a desk, as a bookmark, in a frame with an event poster, or otherwise.
“I took my mom to her first World Series game [in 2022],” Evan Gitomer, Chief Revenue Officer, Weldon, Williams & Lick, says. “She was scrambling to find anything she possibly could to have a physical memento of the experience because she would very likely never do it ever again. Tickets were digital, and that made it a whole lot easier to get tickets in her hand … [and] I know that is providing the team and the league with vital information, but that was what was so important to her … She was grabbing up scarves. That was the big World Series giveaway this year."
Gitomer sees digital collectibles advancing in 2023 and beyond but stresses that “sometimes, as much as we want to push on some things to happen quicker, creating a little more time and space for adoption to take place [is needed].”
He continues, “I relate it a lot to QR codes. A decade ago, if you showed people QR codes, most people would not know what it was, but they could not really interact with them all that much … Now a QR code is used everywhere, and it is just a normal part of life …There are so many use cases, functions and features that can exist in a digital collectible for it not to gain market share and become a valuable resource for us as venues, but also for end users and the people who support us.”
There is also huge potential around nonfungible tokens (NFTs) as digital collectibles. Beyond being a digital ticket on your phone, they can have a future benefit for live experiences and enable continued engagement.
10. Fewer Subscriptions, More Flexible Options and Single Tickets
“I think the biggest trend for 2023 is going to be for every team to start creating packages that enable not just young people, but anyone in general, to have total flexibility around the games that they go to while still committing money in advance,” Danny Seidel, Head of Business Solutions at Airship, says. “If you are looking at the traditional season ticket, a lot of teams have started adding in the ability to exchange a certain number of tickets, get certain money back and apply the money toward credit … More people may commit to a full season, exchange 20% of their tickets back for more tickets to another game, exchange 20% for food credit, exchange tickets for credit and experiences and upgrades, things along those lines.”
We foresee subscription sales continuing to drop, especially amongst people who were subscribers before COVID,” Jamie Alexander, Director of JCA Arts Marketing, says. “A lot of subscribers used … rolled-over subscriptions and funds to subscribe to the 2021-22 season, but several of those people will or already have dropped their subscription in 2022-23 when they had to invest new funds. That, combined with changing lifestyles after the pandemic, will lead to a continued downturn in subscriptions over the next 12 months.”
Alexander continues, “Additionally, because of the downturn in subscriptions, we see organizations placing much more importance on single ticket sales.”
“We saw such movement during the pandemic of adapting away from ‘no refunds, no exchanges.’ It was such a hard line in the sand, and we had to blow that all away because we needed to change things … due to health concerns and restrictions,” Spektrix’s Nothstein says. “I think we are going to continue to see flexibility in that perspective.”
“We had to offer things that we would not have previously considered offering because of COVID and what it meant to the return to the venue,” Ticket Philadelphia’s Cooper says. “I don't know that it's practical or advisable for us to try and revert to what we were in the days before COVID happened … Ultimately, the goal is to retain the customer.”
11. More Acceptance for Omnichannel Strategies
“Starting with the moment a fan purchases a ticket, open distribution channels will be more prevalent to reach fans in different ways,” Hayley Chapman, Senior Director, Ticket Operations and Administration for Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment, says.
The A’s Ziegenbusch agrees. “I think where people shop now [has changed]. They are not just going to Athletics.com/tickets to buy their tickets, so having a really effective omnichannel strategy to have your ticket links or a ticket rep where people buy their tickets [is important] … Major League Baseball [is] working very closely with some of these third-party providers to have more of an integrated marketplace. We are sharing the buyer data while working closely together. That is something that has evolved over time, too.”
“Historically, for attractions that may distribute a fair number of tickets through OTAs (online travel agencies) like Viator, GetYourGuide, Expedia [and similar services], there generally was not a lot of flexibility in introducing and pushing different prices through those channels,” Greg Loewen, CEO of Digonex, says. “That is still a friction point for a lot of operators, no doubt, but we have seen a whole new dialogue open up in the industry between operators and those third-party distribution channels.”
12. More Fraudulent Purchase Attempts and an Increase in Friendly Fraud
As we become more global and e-commerce online transactions continue to increase, there is much more activity related to fraud and chargebacks. We started seeing this at the beginning of COVID, Mandi Grimm, Director, Fraud Prevention at Etix, says.
“We have not seen that [activity] come down as much as I think anybody had hoped, so we will continue to see the trends of potentially bad actors, whether it is bots, synthetic IDs or account takeover, etc., being utilized. We will have to really embrace and work with the technologies that are starting to emerge as well to allow us to better fight and combat [fraudulent purchase attempts].”
On the chargeback landscape, more fraud attempts and more online sales mean more chargebacks. “I think that we will also see an increase in what's called first-party [or friendly] fraud, where if a lot of ticket buyers do not get the refunds that they want, they will file a chargeback. I think that will start to happen as well because people were so used to refunds happening for so long during COVID. I think people still want to be able to get refunds, and especially, unfortunately, with inflation, people might be looking at how they can get their money back, and they might go that route of chargebacks.”
13. Continued Capacity Management for Attractions
During the pandemic, some operators put very tight, sometimes entirely fixed capacity constraints, on the number of people allowed into an attraction at a given time. That is a radically different operational approach than pre-pandemic when anybody who showed up at a zoo, aquarium, museum or theme park could buy a ticket and go inside. If it was overcrowded, the guest experience would simply suffer.
“Guests readily adapted to new procedures, which does not surprise us because it is consistent with what we have seen in our practice for many years,” Digonex’s Loewen says. “[Operators] also realized some of the business benefits. For example, when you limit the number of folks that can get into the attraction at a certain point of time, they saw all their guest satisfaction scores go up, and many of them saw all of their other per-cap revenues grow significantly. When it is less crowded, when people are having a better time, when they are feeling better about their visit, they tend to spend more on food and beverage and at the gift shop and on ride tickets.”
14. Pricing Strategies
Of course, we cannot overlook the way that pricing has evolved. Attractions, says Loewen, are in a very different place than performing arts and other forms of live entertainment. Static pricing in attractions was most common, even right up to the pandemic.
"There's a whole lot of room between a fully automated, software-enabled dynamic pricing … and a basic static pricing strategy where you pick a number at your budget time, and you live with it throughout the year,” Loewen says. “We are seeing a lot of operators, whether they are working with someone like us or not, or doing it on their own, becoming much more aggressive and entrepreneurial in introducing variability to their pricing, creating new types of products that may be targeted to different segments of the market. [This may include] having a separately priced ticket for local residents versus tourists to take advantage of different price elasticity characteristics.”
With capacity management and the benefits that result from managing it more strategically and proactively, there is a “logic leap” to applying different prices to different days or time slots.
“A lot of operators have maintained those practices even as we have moved past the pandemic, if I can assume we are past the pandemic today, because of the operational, strategic and financial advantages that they saw. They are now feeling empowered to be much more innovative in how they are generating their pricing, which is helping open up and expand their accessibility to new audiences by having lower prices in some cases, but also helping fund their reinvestment and their reopening by being able to capture yield opportunities during those peak periods as well,” Loewen says. “The notion of introducing more variable or dynamic pricing to ticketing, while certainly still not standard practice, is much more commonplace in the [attractions] industry.”
Loewen continues, “Some might start fairly conservatively and add a couple of dollars to their weekend price as a very simple foot in the door to variable pricing. In the most extreme examples, you might see ticket prices during peak times that perhaps are double what they are during the low end, so there can be quite significant ranges when you really embrace a dynamic approach. The right solution, the right outcome will, of course, be very different for every operator based on who their guests are or what markets they do business in, what their competitive circumstances are, what their strategies are, because not every operator, especially if you are in the not-for-profit world, is all about pure revenue maximization. There are lots of other objectives in play around supporting certain attendance levels and the mission of the organization, so there is no one formula or right answer, but it can lead to quite significant ranges depending on the circumstances.”
15. Ongoing Work to Reattract Audiences
In addition to pricing strategies, many organizations are equally concerned with capacity utilization. In performing arts, the emphasis is on getting audiences to return and rebuilding the habit so that artists feel great about performing in front of fuller houses.
“It is not all about revenue in that sector,” Loewen says. “It has a lot to do with just how we get our audiences back. That pertains to pricing and pricing technology, but [also] other forms of new marketing technologies, how they are communicating with their patrons [and] employing more traditional CRM capabilities to build relationships, not just sell a ticket once.”
16. Shift in Platinum and VIP Strategies
Climate Pledge’s Holowaty is seeing a shift in Platinum and VIP. Meet and greets have decreased because of COVID, and VIP packages are pushing Platinum seats to different areas. She says higher priced tickets will be unique with different experiences tied to them than we have seen in the past.
“A lot more of food and beverage packages are coming … or even more of the [opportunities] where you come early, see the sound check, which potentially allows the artist not to be in a direct contact space with the guests, but still allows what feels like a premium, exclusive experience ... I think you are going to see a lot more areas of what artists are passionate about coming into these overall experiences [too].”
17. More Frictionless Technology in Ticketing
“I predict venues will look to evolve their entry experience to create a frictionless and faster entry into the venue. Once in the venue, ensuring fans can purchase food, beverages and merchandise with ease and speed will be next,” Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment’s Chapman says.
Holowaty agrees that we will see a lot more frictionless technology in the ticketing space, perhaps not in the next year, but over the long term. We may also, she says, see biometrics as we are seeing with concession stands and leveraging the palm scan with Amazon One to buy your food and beverage.
“I know [Colorado’s] Red Rocks [Amphitheatre] tested out ticketing with the palm scan and Amazon One, but I think that is going to be something that, while still new, is probably going to be on the radar as we move forward … from a security stance and a way to make sure your ticket is tied to you … Also from a frictionless stance, you scan, you go.”
18. Tickets and Memberships for Shared Social Spaces
Not everybody likes to sit and watch a show or a game, but they want to be close to the action. Venues can leverage this desire by selling access to specialized spaces.
“Depending on the price of the ticket, it is not always about being in that specific seat or having access to a specific viewpoint, especially for sporting events. I think we will see that really, really kick up because more and more people just want to be where the action is, be around great moments and great experiences, and be with their friends and chat during the hockey game,” says Holowaty.
“Membership is a critical component to that,” Airship’s Seidel says. “If you can get people to pay for a membership so they have access to that space and they maybe get discounts on beer and things like that, then it is a product where you're competing with a bar, but it's a much better experience obviously being at the venue.”
These spaces may be in the back corner of left field or on the top level of a stadium, and a lot of teams are bringing in young people with this strategy. “That's the kind of stuff that may end up being 25% of a venue [capacity] at some point because people like having that kind of experience as opposed to the upper deck seats way far away from the action,” Seidel says.
19. Empowering Customer Self-Service Online
“The top ticketing trend I see happening in the near-term is empowering customer self-service online as much as possible,” Jenifer LaMorte, Vice President, Business Development for Tessitura and INTIX Board Chair-Elect, says. “With staff turnover, tight budgets and many organizations offering increased flexibility to their audiences, the customer experience is necessarily shifting to allow a ticket purchaser to make changes or flag issues through all channels and especially online. Historically, these requests were routed through calls or emails to the ticket office; now, technology can help to reduce that staff time.”
Editor’s Note: Read about 2023 ticketing trends in the January/February edition of IAVM’s Venue Professional magazine. Many experts quoted in this story are speakers at the INTIX 2023 Conference & Exhibition in Seattle. Visit INTIX.org to register today!
View the French translation of this article: Tendances de l'industrie de la billetterie : à quoi s'attendre en 2023
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Tags: Leadership , Ticketing Trends