Technology / 04.28.21
Paciolan’s Damron on How Ticketing Technology Has Shone a Light in the Darkness
Understandably, many people across many industries focus on the negative impact this past year of COVID-19 has had. Paciolan President and CEO Kim Damron acknowledges the negatives. But she also trumpets the benefits. And there have been benefits. In her view, one of the biggest for the ticketing industry has been the acceleration of technology.
“We’ve seen an unbelievable acceleration in mobile technology,” she says, “like nothing we’ve seen before. We had one client go 100% mobile in 2019. We had about 40 go 100% mobile in 2020! And we currently have over 100 ready to go 100% mobile right now. I think we’ll continue to see that acceleration. Going 100% mobile adds more flexibility. You can add more tickets, more capacity.”
With the world emerging from the pandemic, she also expects the data-driven side of the business will continue to grow. “People want more data to communicate with their fans and patrons,” she says. “As we’ve accelerated mobile technology, we’re getting more patrons new to the database. The more data we can get our clients, the more opportunities there will be from a marketing and upselling perspective. That will continue to evolve.”
Founded in 1980, Paciolan has emerged as a leader in marketing, analytics and technology solutions, powering over 500 live entertainment organizations that sell more than 120 million tickets per year. Like other industries, Damron sees light at the end of the tunnel — i.e., a return to “normalcy” — the more the population becomes vaccinated. Paciolan was lucky in that it hosted more live events with audiences last year than most would think.
“We were fortunate in that we did have colleges playing with fans,” she says. “We also focused on our ancillary revenue streams. We also do marketing services. We function as a marketing agency, which Craig [Ricks] leads with his team. We focused a lot on using those products and helping our clients communicate to their fans or audiences through digital marketing. Of course, we did cost-cutting measures like everyone else in our industry. We had to do that. We pushed anything that wasn’t critical to the infrastructure out to the next fiscal year just to get through the next 52 long weeks.”
And as we chatted in mid-April, Damron was beaming at the first real sign of recovery she and her staff have seen during the COVID-19 era. “This past week has been the best one since this all began,” she says. “There’s really nothing else that compares to live entertainment. There is a lot of college baseball right now. But in addition to that, we’re starting to see some concerts starting to fill. We’ve seen some amphitheaters that are starting to sell for the summer. And we’re seeing indoor venues start to sell seats for events as early as September. The positive news is we’re seeing demand. People are buying tickets.”
One of the immediate challenges, of course, is not being able to sell out venues at full capacity due to social distancing and various restrictions still in place. Damron is hopeful such limits will be short-lived. “How we’ve helped our clients through that is through our virtual seating maps,” she says, “which allows you to see the social distancing and where you are [seated at a venue]. We’ve also developed an ingress tool to help get you into the venue and timing that. I actually think some of these things will continue. Venues will want to show what times you should enter so that they don’t have everyone charging the doors at the same time even when they are allowed 100% capacity.”
Kim Damron has served as Paciolan’s President and CEO since March 2017, having previously served 15 years as its chief operating officer. She oversees strategic direction and vision for the company, as well as leads the day-to-day management of its business operations. Prior to joining Paciolan in late 2005, she was Vice President of Business Development and Marketing for Tickets.com. Before that, she served as Vice President of Vendor Marketing and Entertainment Advertising Sales for Buy.com.
By far, this past years has been the most challenging for her in her career. “Never would I have thought that there would be an impact like this on live entertainment,” she says. “The biggest challenge has been the mental health aspect and keeping the team mentally healthy. It’s something we never really talked about before. A couple of months into it, I saw even on Zoom the strain it was putting on people … especially the people who were home-schooling children and single parents. There is not a person who I know that this hasn’t had an impact on. We actually brought a psychologist into Paciolan. I was a little unsure of how it would be received. We’ve brought him in twice, and we’re going to bring him back again. He fielded a ton of questions, and we also allowed anonymous questions.”
She continues, “I am really proud of how Paciolan has kept employees engaged and communicating with one another. I had never worked from my home in my life! While I’m on top of laundry for the first time in my life, it can easily get isolating. You still have to rally all of the teams together and keep everyone engaged. That’s been a focus of the entire leadership team. Making sure employees have what they need and are OK is important, because you haven’t been able to just walk down the hallway and ask, ‘Hey! How are you today?’”
It’s the resiliency of her staff and all the lessons she and they have learned in these past months of upheaval that has Damron thinking so positively toward the future. And, of course, there are the strides that have been made in the technology arena. She concludes, “There will be more and more mobile adoption. Paper tickets are eventually going to go away. And everything at the venues will be contactless — from contactless entry to contactless concession ordering and so forth. Even as audiences come back, people don’t necessarily want to touch everything. Seriously, after all this, who wants to touch a keypad?”
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