Humanitix is a ticketing company like no other.
It donates 100 per cent of the profits from its booking fees to children’s charities such as Yalari, Room To Read, Manaiakalani Education Trust and Code.org, and in 2022 alone gave $1.6 million to organizations that help disadvantaged kids around the world.
For Co-Founder and Co-CEO Adam McCurdie, who’s background was not in live events but in technology, engineering and social enterprise, the thinking was simple: “Everyone hates booking fees, and they add up to billions of dollars every single year. It’s this notorious fee. [We thought] that maybe we could create an awesome social enterprise and redistribute those fees to charity.”
The market has responded accordingly – while Humanitix began in Sydney in 2016 working with small community gatherings, it now powers the ticketing for events globally, including Beyond The Valley and Strawberry Fields in Australia, Love Burn and Element 11 in the US, and Welcome To Nowhere and River Sounds Festival in New Zealand.
Here, McCurdie offers his insights into ticketing best practices, email marketing, improving accessibility to events for people with disabilities, and more...
What practical steps can ticketing companies take to help their clients sell more tickets?
One of them is reducing the friction for customers to actually purchase a ticket.
What we see across the ticketing landscape is some horrendous examples of customers having to create an account with the ticketing platform before purchasing a ticket, they've got banner ads that pop up that distract them away from the checkout, you've got other events being advertised on their ticketing page in order to promote a different event during the checkout. If successful, the customer doesn't check out – that's the point of that advert, and the reason it has value.
And on top of that, asking way too much data prior to the person checking out, complemented with bad payment options where you have to enter all of your card details rather than just using Apple Pay or Google Pay. Those are the types of things we see that cost a fortune of sales, and really, really hurt hosts.
"What we've built at Humanitix is the quickest checkout ever."
So what we've built at Humanitix is the quickest checkout ever. You're just selecting your tickets, putting in the minimum amount of customer data necessary – basically a name and an email. That's it. And then straight through the checkout, with Apple Pay, Google Pay etc., and you're out. No creating an account, no additional data if you don't have to ask that. No pop-up ads, no advertisements of other events – all of these blunders that we see on the internet, we've really avoided that to make sure that you get max conversion.
That's really where we see the biggest rubber hitting the road in events ticketing.
In terms of not asking for too much data at checkout, do you then try and gather that information after the purchase has been made?
Exactly, you can then follow up with a buyer and prompt them for data via email campaigns after the sale has happened. And so in that case, you're now fishing for additional data, but not doing it at the potential cost of sales. Because the more questions the more friction, and the more friction, the higher the loss of sales.
"The more questions the more friction, and the more friction, the higher the loss of sales."
Humanitix is working to improve accessibility to events for people with disabilities. Are there particular innovations that you've seen in this area?
Yes, and we're leading in it. When we started to learn more about why people have given up going to live events if they have certain accessibility needs, the answers were incredibly common. And we realized as the ticketing platform, we hold the keys to solving many of these issues. One being, firstly, on the front end, where somebody that is visually impaired needs a ticketing platform that they can use a screen reader on. And that was quite rare, as we learned.
Two is then educating the event host on how to make their event accessible, and how to communicate appropriately via the ticketing platform to their guests how certain accessibility needs will be catered for, and then building a picture. So where exactly do I get to the front door? How do I enter? After I enter, what do I then do?
And so we built this wizard for event hosts that only takes them about three to five minutes to fill out. And then all that information is sent to guests, synced up with their calendar – all these kinds of things that we learned that would be practically helpful and achievable for a time poor event host. You've got to make this very easy and doable on a low budget in a meaningful way.
"When we started to learn more about why people have given up going to live events if they have certain accessibility needs, the answers were incredibly common."
What's the uptake been?
It's phenomenal. With every event that gets created on Humanitix we prompt hosts to set up that information, of which most do. They then select which categories of accessibility they offer. And then on humanitix.com, our marketplace where people search for events in their area and different cities, they're able to filter by accessibility criteria, so that they only go to events that cater to their needs.
That's created this new incentive for hosts to make their events more accessible, because then they're going to appear more in these filter searches. And your events will appear more in our trending searches if they're more accessible.
Do you see a positive uptick in ticket sales for events that cater for people with accessibility challenges?
Yes, absolutely. It's simple maths – you're exposing yourself to a wider market, you're able to sell into a wider market of people, and capture sales from that group of people when you otherwise would have struggled to do that. If you just fill out that accessibility wizard in that tool, that person [with accessibility issues] will look at your event and say, “Okay, I've got confidence, this host is taking this seriously. And they're doing the basic things that really matter. And I feel confident and comfortable now that my afternoon is not going to turn into an embarrassing disaster as I've experienced in the past.”
"If you're just slamming people with an email with an ask and not much value upfront, then that will be difficult."
One of the services Humanitix offers is an email campaigns tool. What are the best practices for email marketing in 2023?
I think those who do email really well [are] distributing content that actually adds value to their subscribers and their community. Their community is not just constantly being sold the next product, but they're receiving value. And then woven into that is an ask to buy a product or tickets to a show. That kind of long timeline content is what works.
If you're just slamming people with an email with an ask and not much value upfront, then that will be difficult. You'll get some hits, but we don't see as much success with that style of email marketing.
Is any content in particular proving more effective in email campaigns?
From what I've seen, people love to learn things. So, if you can genuinely teach people things, whether that be through a small video or a blog, and you're able to impart knowledge and help people learn something, or a skill that they don't currently have that they're interested in learning, that goes a long way.
How powerful do you think it is to actually own your audience data so you can communicate directly with them?
It's everything. If another platform owns your data, and you don't have access to it, you're forever beholden to that platform to have access to ask them to do things, and you don't have the autonomy and flexibility to reach out to your own audience.
I would argue it's the most important thing, particularly with events and an event brand in their ability to kind of continue to build that community.
"If another platform owns your data, and you don't have access to it, you're forever beholden to that platform."
Are you finding there are more impactful ways of using that data than others? Conducting surveys or sending thank-you notes?
I think that's dependent on the type of event and the brand and the type of community. But having access to data gives you the flexibility and the options to explore all of those channels.
So whether or not that's doing lookalike audiences for your marketing, whether that's communicating directly to them by email or other forms of communication that you know that they'll enjoy. Without ownership of that data, you don't have the flexibility to do that, or experiment with that for what may or may not work for your community.
What are the major pain points for event organizers in terms of selling tickets, and the best ways that they can address them?
I think recently, the trend is that we're seeing guests purchase tickets a lot later. As an event host that makes it very difficult to budget and plan.
And hosts are addressing that in many ways. It's all about further incentivizing people to purchase tickets early. So that's everything from lowering the price through things like early bird specials, giving additional perks for people that purchase tickets – not just a price improvement, but there's some added value that you'll receive if you purchase tickets early on.
You have to add more value. And that goes beyond just reducing the price. Reducing the price used to be enough, but now, further values is needed.
Where do you think ticketing is heading in the next 12 to 24 months? Are there any innovations or trends on the horizon?
I think that from our perspective, Humanitix donating all of our profits from booking fees into children's charities, that's a unique innovation. Now a host can brag about their ticketing platform – we switched to Humanitix, and you're all paying lower fees this year, and all of the profits from those fees have now gone to Yalari, a phenomenal Indigenous charity, for example, and our other partner children's charities.
It's not just a great outcome obviously for providing funding to children's charities, but hosts are now able to build their brand further around that in the way that they're doing social good.
And again, that's an expectation now for many, particularly young punters and guests that are going to events – the more you can do that the better. And so I hope more and more innovations will continue to happen in that direction from a ticketing perspective, and that's why it was logical for us to then make the innovations in event accessibility.
You're now further doing the right thing by your audience at no cost to you. Everybody wins. I think those kinds of no-brainer improvements for the whole community experience and your brand at no extra cost is really something that we're going to see. That goes beyond the typical innovations for increasing a ticketing platform’s revenue, like we've seen with us not choosing not to promote ads on ticketing pages. I think those types of innovations are old and people expect better innovations.