Revenue / 09.07.20
For Physically Distanced Seating, Let Data Help Determine Your Approach
Physically distancing audiences involves much more than making sure there are enough empty seats between patrons. It’s also about figuring out how much revenue, or how many people, you need to bring in to cover costs or meet your revenue goals. And it’s about making a plan for getting everybody in and out of your facility, determining what services you can safely offer, what kind of staffing you need to make this all happen and much more.
But don’t get overwhelmed! We have a chance to do what we do best — throw open the doors, invite everyone in and let our creativity shine.
We’re all looking for that elusive “right” answer that provides a clear path to success. But the answer is going to be different for us all, and may even be different from show to show within our own venues. I encourage you to take these ideas and experiment with a variety of combinations. Share your results and experiences with your peers — there’s no better resource! We’re all opening at different rates with different regulations. Those of us who start early can pass along invaluable knowledge to the venues that open up later. If we all share what worked well, what didn’t work so well and the changes we want to make for next time, we can support each other through one of the most challenging times in our history.
What approach should we take?
You’ll need to strike a balance between maximizing revenue and re-engaging audiences in a way that makes them feel safe. Many organizations are operating with reduced staff, tight budgets and a lot of hope holding everything together. We all want to provide a quality outcome — but we may also have to guarantee a specific amount of revenue, or we may need to limit our efforts based on the available staffing.
Don’t forget that with physically distant seating, the seats that used to be most desirable may not be in demand anymore. For example, those front-row seats may seem risky because they are too close to the stage, or because those patrons load into the venue first and therefore have to be in the theater the longest. Desirable seats may now be those that are closer to the back of the house because they load in last, on an upper level so there’s no one overhead, near an exit for a quick departure after the show, or on a side aisle that gets less foot traffic.
Let’s explore two extreme scenarios: maximizing revenue or providing maximum control to audience members to make them comfortable re-entering the venue. Realistically, the right answer for you probably lies somewhere between those two extremes.
Scenario I: Maximize revenue
Maximizing revenue may mean something different to you, but in this scenario, we will define “maximizing revenue” as both filling as many seats as possible, and getting as much money for each seat as we can. As mentioned above, your traditional “hot seats” may not be so hot anymore. Take those factors into account and re-evaluate your dynamic pricing logic, if necessary. Consider implementing suggested and round-up donations to increase revenue. You may also want to implement editable pricing or Pay-What-You-Can functionality, with a suggested minimum ticket price so folks who are able to pay more can, and folks who are feeling the pinch can still show support.
If you play with your seat maps, you’ll see that seating groups by hand gives you the highest attendance per performance. To do that, you can sell events unseated, or sell into general admission (GA) or wait-list sections. With either option, plan to seat orders 24-48 hours prior to the performance, using holds to maintain safe distances between groups. Once everyone is seated, send out tickets electronically to minimize contact and lines at the venue.
Scenario II: Re-engage your audience
We all know how much customers love to choose their own seats. So, if you don’t want to sell unseated tickets, you can use your data on historical frequency of group sizes to preemptively block or hold seats on your map. Leaving blocks of tickets available in pairs, trios, quads, etc. means folks can still choose where to sit while easily seeing the space between them and other attendees. Keep in mind that even small changes in map layouts can make big differences in total available capacity.
What else can we try?
Consider making some changes to seat maps and tickets to manage expectations and crowd flow through your facility. For example, if you’re planning to load the house in waves, you can add entry times, or the amount of time prior to curtain that folks will be seated, to the section names: for example: “Orchestra Front (Seated at 7:30pm)” or “Mezzanine (Seated 15 mins prior to curtain).” If you’re able, designate specific entry and exit doors and configure your access control to support door-specific scanning. A ticket might include the note: “Please use Door 12. Enter at 7:40pm.”
What did we learn?
After your performance, gather as much data as you can to help determine your level of success and identify what worked well — or not so well. Send out surveys to learn how your audiences felt. Did they feel comfortable with their seats? How did they feel about the safety measures taken in the venue?
Then look at your data. Did you sell all the seats you wanted to? If not, take another look at your seat map configuration. If you let customers choose their own seats, consider hand-seating a show so you can compare results.
And did you meet your revenue goal? If not, did you lose too much revenue to discounting? Do you need to adjust your seat prices or re-evaluate your dynamic pricing strategy?
Use that data to adjust how you tackle the next performance, and the one after that, and the one after that. Don’t be afraid to make changes — the “right” solution for you and your organization will likely include an ever-changing combination of the ideas highlighted above, as well as feedback and advice shared from your peers.
We may only have a ghost light on our stages today, but we have the heart, the drive and the smarts to restore our stages to their full glory. The performing arts will persevere, and we will emerge stronger and brighter than ever.
This article was sponsored by Tessitura Network.
Tags: Sponsored Content , COVID-19 , Coronavirus