Leadership / 07.30.18
The Next-Generation Ticket Office
Nobody knows what the next-generation ticket office will look like better than the frontline professionals who are helping to create it. At INTIX 2018 in Baltimore, three industry leaders came together to share their perspectives on the changes taking place. They reflected on topics from why the ticket office looks less like an office with each passing day to rapidly developing technology that is creating environments that are 100 percent mobile, totally integrated and highly interactive.
According to Amy Graca, vice president of ticketing for Caesars Entertainment, a lot of the change we are seeing is geared toward maximizing revenue. With many different pricing tools, Graca says organizations can even get ahead of the pre-sale and price seats to capture the most gross potential revenue right out of the gate.
“In previous years, we’d put tickets on sale and then 10 days later we’d look at demand and consider whether to increase the price,” says Graca. “Today, technology allows us to really get ahead of that. We’re increasing the price before the show even goes on sale. So, if you set the ticket price at $100, we’re raising it to $150 for the pre-sale. Then, after 10 days, we’re deciding whether we want to come back to scale value or go up from there ― and it’s all based on demand.”
Graca continued, noting that the days of being tied to a specific workstation are ending.
“I've worked in ticket offices for years. You almost become one with your workstation. You decorate it and it has your name on it,” Graca reminisced. “We're moving away from that and looking at becoming more interactive with the guest. How do you let them pick their seat? It's almost unheard of for a walk-up customer to be able to do that [interactively], yet that's really what we are doing now.”
It’s no longer just about making the sale either, she says. Ticketing professionals must engage customers, get to know them and offer targeted upsell opportunities too. This, says Graca, is part of a next-generation culture that is turning ticket sellers into sales agents.
“For Caesars, we are trying to engage with our customers at all different levels,” Graca says. “We want to sell them a ticket, make a dinner reservation, then add a spa treatment or a round of golf. It’s all about real-time sales.”
Caesars ticketing professionals are also required to know more than just what's happening right in front of them.
“We're asking them to know what's happening at different properties,” says Graca. “We have over 50 shows and attractions that we are selling in Las Vegas. That's a lot to remember, so we have different tools and different online portals that they can use with information.”
Acknowledging that Caesars is very fortunate and has a lot to upsell, Graca believes today’s customer is really looking for an experience.
“If they want to go online or to their mobile device and buy that ticket, they're going to do it ahead of time. If they're waiting until the last minute and walking up, they're really looking for something more. We need to be ready to give that to them,” she says, “whether that's a better seat or something we can sell to enhance their experience. Can you sell a meet and greet? Whatever it is, I encourage all of you to really look and become creative about what can you sell. That's what the customer is looking for now ― it's not just the ticket anymore. By the time they've gotten to the ticket office, it’s about what else they can buy. That's where you can capitalize and really make that additional gross potential.”
Graca also demonstrated how interactivity is changing the game.
“When a customer checks into our hotel, we ask for their cell phone number. If they give it to us, once you check in, you will get a welcome message from Ivy. It’s always from Ivy. Customers can text Ivy back and ask any question ― like where can I get ice or where is the spa? Or, most importantly and why I’m interested in this, they can say they want to see Celine, Britney Spears or another one of our shows. Ivy will text you a link directly to that show or, depending on what you’re asking for, we can actually fulfill the order and send a confirmation number that they can take to the ticket office to pick up their tickets. We’re now working on integration that will allow us to deliver tickets digitally.”
Another presenter, Chris Sheap, vice president of ticket operations for Monumental Sports, delved into the world of data management and how it is helping his organization integrate information across half a dozen teams.
“We have a unified ticketing database and each customer has one single customer record with us. We see all your purchase history across all the teams in one central location. We have an incredibly expansive CRM and data warehouse project that is overhauled every two years to make it better and more efficient,” he says.
The benefits that flow from a unified database afford an opportunity to get to know fans much better, says Sheap.
“We're not satisfied with just knowing that a customer bought a ticket and came to a game,” he says. “We want to know and track all their experiences when they came to the venue. What gates are they going through and at what time do they regularly arrive? Is there a certain concession stand they go to all the time? What are they buying? How are they interacting with us in the arena itself? Then, when they get outside, we want to know how they are engaging with the teams and the company. So, what type of content are they viewing on our websites and what other ancillary channels are they talking to us through? Are they active on social media? Are they responding to certain emails more than others? It's looking at all the different data points so we can engage with them as customers in a more personal way.”
Like a growing number of entertainment organizations, Monumental Sports has eliminated PDF tickets. While they are easy for fans to use, Sheap told conference attendees that they make customers anonymous.
“We didn't know who had them or who was coming into the building,” says Sheap. “On a given night two years ago, over 60 percent of our building was entering via PDF. We didn't know who those people were. We had no way of tracking them, marketing to them or bringing them into our ecosystem.”
Now, with digital ticketing from Ticketmaster, Monumental Sports is pushing ticket transfers. With group sales, they have also moved away from selling 200 tickets to one person and letting them distribute them.
“Ticketmaster rolled out mobile ticketing for us about five years ago. We didn't put a strong push around it and we saw about 5 percent usage initially for people coming to the building with mobile,” says Sheap. “But, if we looked at where sales were happening through Ticketmaster, almost 50 percent to 60 percent were taking place via mobile. People were willing to go buy their tickets via mobile but not willing to come into the building via mobile.”
Getting rid of PDFs really spiked those numbers as did a heavy promotional push. And, fans are responding extremely well to text offers ― where they can simply say yes to get tickets and have them delivered almost instantaneously ― and to Experience for upgrades.
Technology is also driving resale growth in the secondary market, says Sheap.
“Trying to take revenue share and just own the market may look a bit greedy,” he says, “but we've seen that the data we get from secondary ticketing is critical to our overall understanding of market health when we’re trying to evaluate single game pricing and set season ticket prices for the upcoming season.”
Sheap shared some numbers behind the benefits of new data ― Monumental Sports earned $1,000,000 in new revenue after adding 110,000 names to its centralized database in 2017.
The third presenter was Lee Ann Gibbons, director of ticketing for the Messina Touring Group, an exclusive tour promoter for 10 major artists, including George Strait and Shawn Mendes. Bringing a unique perspective to the discussion, Gibbons emphasized that Messina works for the artist, cuts out the agent and works directly with management teams to route tours, develop and produce shows, and do the ticketing and marketing.
Artists, says Gibbons, are becoming more aware of what their fans want and are making efforts to oblige them.
“The fans are the number one thing that management cares about, so the fans rule,” says Gibbons. “Fans are connected to the artist through social media, through networking, fan clubs and message boards. If the fans feel they weren't given a fair offer, it will be heard [by the artist and/or the artist’s management team] and not long after we'll hear about it as well.”
Another development gaining traction are artists who want to cut out brokers and get more tickets into the hands of fans.
“At the beginning of 2017, before Eric Church kicked off his tour, we had the ticket offices pull buyer data lists. Management weeded through them and we ended up cancelling 25,000 tickets and putting them back in the fans’ hands. No promoter wants to cancel 25,000 tickets, but we did it because that was [Eric Church’s] message. And we stand behind our artists 100 percent.”
Ticketmaster Verified Fan is also being used by some of the artists that Messina represents.
“They've helped us reach these fans, give them first access to tickets and make sure that the buying process is up to their level of expectation,” says Gibbons.
Right now, there are more tour initiatives that have pushed fan club sales to the primary platform.
“Artists want to accommodate fans and life's unexpectedness. For example, they want to weed out scalpers and be able to offer refunds to fans who can't make the show. Selling on primary is really the only way that I can communicate that information to the ticket office for them to cancel out those tickets.”
When it comes to resale, Messina works with management, fans and the ticketing company to create a way for fan to engage in buying tickets only from legitimate sources.
“Ed Sheeran is one of our clients that works a lot with Twickets…so fans can resell their tickets instead of canceling them out or [forcing them] to resell on a broker site. They're able to sell their ticket to another fan at face value. It will be interesting to see where that goes and I'm sure other artists are going to be interested in doing that as well.”
A national tour may use six different ticketing systems, says Gibbons, so collaboration is important to eliminate inconsistencies for fans.
“I definitely take recommendations from the ticket offices,” she says. “We're in your building once or twice a year, but your team is there all year. If you tell me certain inventory won't be sold, maybe we decrease [the price of those locations] so we can move tickets.”
Promoters, says Gibbons, don’t necessarily want to sell out during an on-sale.
“We're finally transitioning to a way of managing inventory in a way that can take care of the superfans,” she says. “We still offer the platinum and the VIP packages for those who are interested in that. Then the rest of it we really want to sell at market value.”
Utilizing all the promoter tools available, Messina’s goal is to fill every seat before the artist takes the stage.
“Not every show is going to sell out, but when our artist walks on stage, they're not going to know any different,” says Gibbons. “We work constantly on managing that inventory, making sure that whether it goes to group sales, through the venue, or if it goes to a charity partner, every seat is going to be filled for that show. The continued competition with secondary markets, it’s going to lead to slow and steady sales. We want to price it at market value so that more money is going back to the artist's tour, not to the secondary system.”
Following their presentations, all three presenters were asked how fans are responding to their next-generation initiatives.
“When we use Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest or other apps on your phone, everything is moving to make it easy to purchase a ticket,” says Graca. “So, when we're pushing mobile delivery, a mobile ticket, a mobile purchase or a mobile upgrade, I think fans are actually expecting it. I don't think it's been a hard process for us to implement. I think it's something that is welcomed, especially in our markets as we have a lot of destination markets. People are already traveling, using an airline app or a hotel app, whatever that may be. They also want an easy way to purchase their entertainment.”
“If the artist drives something, the fans are going to follow,” says Gibbons. “We're fortunate enough to have artists that have a big fan base. To be able to influence others to use those tools, being able to do mobile ticketing and being able to implement it on the tour is working out great. Not everybody is quite there, but everybody is accepting it moving forward and knowing that's the way it's going to go in the future.”
“I would definitely echo what Lee Ann said,” says Sheap. “We made the mistake of thinking early on that fans have to have whatever the current trends are in digital ticketing, forcing it across the board. We’ve been a lot smarter over the past few years in identifying that there are still fans who aren't quite ready to make that transition or adapt the technologies out there. So, finding the right mix is critical to your overall business interests. That involves finding the right tools to appeal to the right fans.”
Want news like this delivered to your inbox weekly? Subscribe to the Access Weekly newsletter, your ticket to industry excellence.
Tags: Paperless , Social Media , Ticketmaster , Mobile , Digital Marketing , Secondary Ticketing