Leadership / 06.23.21
Larmore and Her accesso Team Look to Provide More Access to Venues Post-Pandemic
Whenever I think about people being back in seats at ballgames, in movie theaters and at concerts, for some reason, I hear Galadriel’s opening narration from “Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Rings” and the words: “The world is changed. I feel it in the water. I feel it in the earth. I smell it in the air.”
The world has indeed changed with increased vaccinations. You can see it in the stands. You can feel the energy of the returning crowds. You can smell it in the concessions cooking. And one of the companies helping the live events industry make a return to “normalcy” is accesso Technology Group PLC. Based in England, the technology firm has nine offices around the globe; serves over 1,000 venues; and provides everything from ticketing to point of sale to guest experience management solutions.
With so much of the population getting vaccinated, and more and more live events back on, how is accesso stepping up to service a world where people are buying tickets again? Mechele Larmore, Senior Vice President of Sales & Marketing at accesso, stepped up to answer. “In preparation to welcome guests back to live events,” she says, “we’ve been working with our clients to ensure their online presence — including their e-commerce storefront, which now serves as an all-in-one box office — is configured to its fullest potential. The popularity of e-commerce has soared over the last year, with reports showing a 38% global year-over-year growth in online sales. So, ensuring our clients are ready to provide patrons with those fantastic online experiences they’ve come to expect is a top priority.”
One of her firm’s top offerings is the accesso ShoWareSM ticketing solution, which provides interactive seat maps, an easy-to-use interface for both staff and guests, and more. “With our accesso ShoWare box office ticketing solution,” Larmore says, “operators can give guests the ability to select seats from real-time inventory, providing a simpler sales process while allowing guests the freedom to choose their own seats. But what’s exciting is that our system offers automatically spaced seating, so operators can support a safer experience without adding any extra steps or friction to the guest experience.”
Early in the recovery, limited seating capacities have indeed been a challenge. But equally challenging has been Larmore and her colleagues working with operators to leverage accesso’s solutions to facilitate a safe environment for returning patrons all the while still achieving attendance projections and revenue goals.
“For general admission venues,” she says, “much of this has been accomplished by moving all ticket sales online and utilizing time- and date-specific ticketing and arrival reservations. While these offerings are nothing new within the ticketing industry, we’ve seen their popularity skyrocket over the last year and a half, as they help operators steer clear of bottlenecks at entry points and high-traffic areas within the venue.”
How accesso itself survived the pandemic is a story unto itself. In early 2020, when COVID-19 first emerged as a global pandemic, the company worked quickly to adapt and launch its 100% Virtual Queuing model to support physical distancing. This model uses accesso LoQueue® virtual queuing technology, empowering operators to offer the traditionally premium add-on at no cost to guests. “This allowed guests to use their own mobile phones to join a virtual line for their favorite rides and attractions,” Larmore says, “helping operators prevent crowding so guests could more easily maintain physical distance.”
She continues, “Beyond our 100% Virtual Queuing model, we worked hand in hand with our client-partners to ensure the accesso technology they were using was leveraged to its full potential while also planning for a post-COVID-19 future. For example, as general admission venues began to reopen, it was clear that capacity restrictions would play an important role in keeping guests safe. To support those, we helped our e-commerce clients implement strategies such as date- and time-specific tickets, reservations for membership or passholders, and arrival-time reservations. These strategies will also be useful post-COVID-19, as they help venues to staff more appropriately, to reduce guest traffic bottlenecks and to improve the guest experience.”
Although guests shopping via mobile is not a new behavior, the past year-plus has cemented digital’s dominance. An increasing number of today’s ticket buyers expect to be able to navigate every step of their interaction with an event or operator directly through their smartphones. Indeed, industry data shows that mobile purchases are on pace to account for almost 73% of global online sales this year alone.
“We’ve seen accelerated acceptance of contactless technologies over the course of the last year, as many guests turned to alternative payments and mobile food & beverage (or F&B) ordering to avoid crowds and physical touch points,” Larmore says.
Research shows that the use of contactless technologies will continue to grow in popularity even beyond COVID-19, as 74% of consumers say they will continue to utilize contactless payment options even after the pandemic is over and another 85% report that they will expect alternative payment options when completing in-person transactions.
For Larmore personally, 2020 and the first half of 2021 have been some of the most challenging times of her career. And it’s certainly been the most challenging time accesso has endured as a team. “One of the biggest responsibilities of a leader is ensuring your team is taken care of to the best of your ability,” she says. “Finding ways to proactively protect jobs across our business was particularly important, and we have our incredible team and my fellow leaders to thank for their willingness to make sacrifices to help us all get through the year together.”
Consequently, Larmore looks ahead to a second half of the year with great optimism. “There are so many reasons to be optimistic about the future, and for our industry in particular, it’s been really validating to see how much guests and patrons have missed being able to enjoy a concert with friends, take the family on vacation to a theme park, or to be immersed in the experience of a live performance,” she says. “Our industry gives people the opportunity to create wonderful memories, and there’s clearly a deep longing from our guests to reconnect and return to the places and experiences they’ve missed so much.”
Larmore concludes, “I don’t think any of us will be taking those types of experiences for granted anytime soon, and venues have the opportunity to build on those experiences by embracing the idea that the guest journey really starts with that very first touch point of the ticket purchase. If you can make a great first impression right from the beginning, you can help build some truly remarkable relationships with guests.”
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Tags: Consumer Preferences , Leadership , COVID-19 , Coronavirus