Leadership / 06.25.19
Digital Habits of Arts Ticket Buyers: The Newest Insights
Who doesn’t want to know more about their audiences? Knowing when, where and how people engage in the arts is essential for those in the ticketing industry. That’s exactly why Patron Technology conducts an annual survey about the online habits, social media usage and ticket buying preferences of arts patrons. The results of the latest survey were presented at INTIX 2019 in Dallas.
This was the first time since 2015 that INTIX attendees got an update — so that’s four years of new data, insights and lessons to share. A lot has changed according to Michelle Paul, Managing Director of PatronManager, including the continuing rapid decline of print media. Once an essential marketing tool for arts organizations, Paul reports that the shift from analog to digital is basically complete.
When asked to what degree patrons used specific kinds of media to find out about arts events, Paul says, “People used to use brochures they got in the mail as a way of making that decision, but not so much anymore. And certainly, articles or ads in a print newspaper that used to be a pretty significant factor are not really a factor anymore.”
To demonstrate the ongoing shift to digital, 18% of survey respondents now say they depend on Facebook to learn about arts events, a number that has nearly quadrupled in the last decade. Email now stands at 34%, maintaining and continuing to grow its 10-year standing as the most effective means of communications for arts organizations.
“We’re all extremely online at this point,” says Paul. “We ask this question every year about a bunch of media types — do you use this more or less than last year — television, newspapers, etc. Over and over and over again, people say, ‘I use the internet more this year than last year.’ It’s across all ages. This is true for everybody at this point.”
What this means for arts organizations is that people are increasingly buying tickets online. Paul notes, “A few people still send in forms through the mail, some still like to go to the ticket office because they know they’ll pay lower fees that way and a few still order tickets over the phone. But obviously, over and above everything else, people are buying their tickets online and this has increased steadily over the past decade.”
Indeed, the latest survey shows 45% of respondents reported buying tickets online in the last week. “So whenever they happened to get this survey in their inbox, within that last week they bought tickets online,” says Paul. This compares with 28% in 2007.
Not only that, when asked what device they use most often to place their order, respondents increasingly say it’s their mobile phone. Although the number is not huge yet, there has been a significant change in the last year alone. Paul expects to see it increase even more.
When asked about things they had done on their phones in the last week, at the moment of being asked that question, 29% of people said they had bought arts tickets.
“That's almost as much as people said they bought anything on their phone in the last week,” says Paul, who emphasizes that the difference between tickets and products is not that large. “So, you should be assuming again when you are talking to vendors or thinking about your website or anything else, this is normal. People buying online is just the thing they do.”
At the same time, Paul says awareness of Siri and Alexa is growing. Since this presentation, Ticketmaster has teamed up with Alexa to enable fans to discover events and buy tickets to their favorite live events.
Although it’s too early to see a trend in the use of virtual assistants for finding information on arts events, she notes that some organizations are already looking further down the road.
“We've actually got a few folks who use PatronManager playing around with the idea of using Alexa in the ticket office, either to answer questions for staff or maybe even interact with a patron.”
Speaking of interactions with patrons, it seems they like the personal touch. Paul asks rhetorically, “When an arts organization seems to know you personally, instead of treating you like an anonymous patron, what happens? How does your behavior change? Fifty percent of people say I feel good about that, 60% say they are more likely to tell their friends and 67% say they are more likely to attend more often. That's the key here. People attending more equals buying more tickets. Only 17% say it doesn't matter. What I see here is a huge opportunity.”
Unfortunately, while patrons want you to know who they are, Paul says few believe that we do. When asked to what degree they feel like we know them personally, the majority said we don’t.
“On this scale, I interpret [the responses] as being 72% of people saying, ‘No, not really’, or only ‘kind of’ or only ‘sort of’. So, there’s a huge chance here to think about this idea of building a relationship as a way of immediately translating it into additional ticket revenue,” says Paul.
How do we do that? According to freeform answers in the survey, simply using your patron’s name when they call or visit the ticket office is as good a place to start as any. Patrons also said receiving regular emails so they know what’s going on makes them feel them feel known to your organization.
“In summary, I would describe the intentions of what an arts patron wants from the discovering and transacting experience, is they want this to be easy, seamless and friction free. They should be able to do all the same things on their phones as on their computers, maybe in the future even by talking to an AI source like Alexa or Siri. Then on the other side, we want these interactions to be personal and meaningful,” says Paul. “There's an emotional impact to an arts event or to a live entertainment experience that you just don't get anywhere else.”
In closing, Paul left attendees with one last piece of data that didn’t come from the arts patron survey. PatronManager’s research of national trends in U.S. arts organizations compared with in-house data shows that combining CRM and ticketing can help double revenues against the national average. “So,” says Paul, “this actually works!”
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Tags: Paperless , Mobile , Digital Marketing , INTIX 2019 , Leadership