The first concert ticket Maureen Andersen ever bought was to see The Doobie Brothers at Red Rocks Amphitheatre in Denver, Colorado.
“We had to go to the Peaches record store and walk inside to the Ticketmaster outlet,” she smiles. “Actually it might have been Ticketron at that point. But we had to do it in person.
“I used to always go to the record store and they had big boards that would say all the concerts and things that they had on sale, and if they were doing an allotment of tickets – some of the venues were still doing allotments – they would call the person at the other venue and say, ‘Do you have two for whatever… ?’
“You know what, though? It got it done and everybody went.”
Fast forward to 2023 and the ticketing industry has undergone myriad changes, many of which Andersen has observed firsthand through her work with organizations such as Denver Center for the Performing Arts, Paciolan and AudienceView.
Today Andersen is the President and CEO of the International Ticketing Association (INTIX), a nonprofit membership organization that represents more than 1000 ticketing, sales, technology, finance and marketing professionals from over 25 countries.
She is, therefore, the perfect person to discuss the current state of the ticketing industry, where there’s room for improvement, the smart use of data in ticketing, what the future holds for the industry, and more…
What are the successful ticketing companies getting right in 2023?
Partnerships. They are providing an arsenal of tools for their customers. The ticketing companies don't own the products, but they are servicing their clients.
And I think everyone now is so attuned to what the end customer needs, that they're trying to find the partners that work for their different clients, and to drive revenues for everyone. I think that's what they're getting right.
What kind of tools would be in that arsenal?
Anything that has to do with client engagement and data analytics and pricing tools.
All of which provide data that enables event organizers to target their customers more effectively…
Absolutely. That is absolutely key – the data of who your customers are, first of all, and then how and what they are buying. Not every customer is the same. And there's a different behavior point.
So it's kind of digging down into who they are, and ultimately helping them make the decisions that create the best experiences for the customer when they get to the venue.
"Not every customer is the same. And there's a different behavior point."
Checkout friction remains an ongoing issue for the ticketing industry. Are you seeing any initiatives in this space?
I think that there's still a lot of friction for the customer in not only how they come to buy a ticket in discovery, but once they're in and making the decisions.
One of the key things that people look at in analytics is cart abandonment. If [a customer doesn’t] finish that sale, Amazon come back to you and say, ‘Your cart’s still here’. I don't think we do that stuff very well yet.
And if you look at the demographics, somebody who is 21 years old has no patience or time for something that's got a lot of problems with it, or that you have to jump through too many hoops. But I think everyone's working diligently to try and minimize the friction for the customer and getting them to complete the sale.
Are you seeing anyone do it well at the moment?
No. I think buying a ticket is fraught with problems. I don’t think we’re there yet.
I think we took great strides during the pandemic with the digitalization of what we are doing. And I think that driving that customer experience for value and loyalty and engagement drives revenue, and that we're still in a digital transformation phase.
And for us to get there, we have to concentrate less on the technology piece of it and center more on the people and what they want. And we need to find a way to be more agile, and we need to [have] a different way of thinking of getting them from A to Z.
How long will that take to achieve?
I think it's changing every day. We keep making great strides.
What are the best practices for customer service in ticketing?
I think it is really about making it as easy as possible for a customer, that's the first thing. And I think it's flattening out some of these rules and regulations that we have about no exchanges, no refunds, all sales are final. I think the customer doesn't want to hear that.
We spend a great deal of money from the event side and the venue side, the organizational team, all trying to get a customer in, and then when we get them in and they need to do something or can't go, the answer is ‘no’. So why would we spend that much money to make it so difficult?
So, it's a relaxation of those rules and being able to find a way that is personalized and is really customer centric, fan centric. And when you do that, you will build loyalty. And that loyalty ensures that you're going to have increased revenue – they're going to come back to those who make them feel comfortable and valued and important and know how to speak to them.
"I think it's flattening out some of these rules and regulations that we have about no exchanges, no refunds, all sales are final. I think the customer doesn't want to hear that."
And personalization is a key part of that puzzle...
You create the environment where they can buy the ticket in the way they want to be communicated with. Some people want to be communicated with by email, some by text, some by sending them out a promo code or embedded in the ‘thank you for coming to this event, you may be interested in this next one’ message.
So it's knowing that customer and how I buy a ticket. And knowing what my price threshold is. What have I bought before? Did I add on? Am I looking for a VIP experience? And customizing the offerings and/or the product to give me what I want.
"I think live events could take a leaf out of the book from museums and attractions, who are so good at the journey-mapping..."
In what areas do you think live events and ticketing could be more innovative?
I think live events could take a leaf out of the book from museums and attractions, who are so good at the journey-mapping about how a person comes through a museum, what they touch.
Doing a journey-map of how a person goes through the venue, and that starts from what direction they're traveling by car or by public transportation, what are the touch points, and reducing all the friction along the way.
And when we journey-map combined with personalization, then the experience is going to be far better.
But we have to be more nimble and more able to dive into our data and to actually take advantage of the data pieces that we have.
Journey-mapping is also incredibly important for those with accessibility issues…
Oh, absolutely. And there's a wonderful woman at The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, who runs their entire program around accessibility. And she also produces a conference every year, her name is Betty Siegel.
And she has this interesting stat about how many millions of dollars are left on the table by cart abandonment from people who have impairments of site, and they can't finish because the websites and the ticketing solutions don't help them finish a purchase.
That’s a lot of money left on the table. And also accessibility by price – it's audiences who cannot access an event, game, theater show because of the barrier of price. So it's also about looking for the inclusionary points.
What are you seeing the successful promoters and venues doing right when it comes to marketing and selling their tickets?
Again, I think it comes down to the partnerships, and I believe the companies or the organizations, the teams, that have strong apps that talk to their customers in real time while they're in the venue, I really love that.
You're in the building, and I know that you love my team, and we've got a sale happening right this minute in our merchandise shop. Or did you know that you could upgrade your seat in real time and get a better seat 15 rows closer, and it's at the same price. Those kinds of communications that are happening inside the venues. It’s just not that hard.
SoFi Stadium [in Inglewood, California] and various baseball teams and football teams, the Las Vegas Raiders, all of them are using these tools to talk to [you]. They know you're in the building, why wouldn't I want you to go buy this hot dog? Or buy this T-shirt?
"Baseball teams are already partnering with CLEAR for scanning of biometrics to get you into the building in a safe, quick way – you get the VIP experience and go around the lines and the queues."
There’s a lot of talk about biometrics being used for event entry, whether through facial recognition or one palm technology. Can you see this becoming the norm?
Eventually, yes. We’ll get to the point where we use that for entry into an event. Baseball teams are already partnering with CLEAR for scanning of biometrics to get you into the building in a safe, quick way – you get the VIP experience and go around the lines and the queues.
Some people find that confronting. Do you think it's inevitable?
Oh, yeah, I do. That said, I think those organizations, venues and teams [need to] provide the alternative for those who are not comfortable. Again, it's that customer journey that is not necessarily the same for everyone.
These big venues have multiple doors. So, if you want the fast biometric one, go right on around. Somebody who's maybe a little older, doesn't feel comfortable – you're going to take my information, big government, whatever – they have this one where they can still just scan their ticket and go. Sometimes you just have to help them along until they feel comfortable.
What do you think the next 12-24 months holds instore for ticketing?
I think it [will be] very interesting how pricing is going to evolve. I think that’s going to be something really interesting to watch in the next 12 to 24 months, and the concept of up and down and how you price.
US baseball does a really good job at pricing. And they have for a long time, because they have so much data and analytics against it. You know, which team they're playing, what the weather is like, who's pitching today, and they have been doing this now for over 10 years.
So they kind of know a better curve. And I think everybody's learning quickly what pricing looks like, especially in a post pandemic world, which I think is radically different.
"There's one school of thought that we still price by intuition – I know my show, I know my venue, I know what they're going to do. But I think it needs to be much more deliberate."
So they’re using all that data to set the price? How do you do that six months out when an artist first announces a tour?
You find the right partner who's going to help you do your data analytics.
There's one school of thought that we still price by intuition – I know my show, I know my venue, I know what they're going to do. But I think it needs to be much more deliberate. And I think people are getting to that way. And promoters are truly getting to that point as well, whether it be for a small theater, or whether it's for an arena – the gut has its value, however the sheer analytics of something is almost more important.
And pricing goes up and down. You know, there's the perception from the customer side that pricing goes only up – pricing also goes down. And you can go down in pricing and still end up making more revenue than you would have before. And again, that all comes down to the analytics of how you do that. You need help. And that's why technology is such a great thing.
And it all comes back to understanding your audience.
It all comes back. I have a good friend, Martin Gammeltoft from Activity Stream. I'm going to quote him badly, but he says in a few years we're all going to understand how ChatGPT or similar will change our world, and I'm pretty sure we'll look back at how confused we all were.
And I can take ChatGPT out of there, and I can put in things like virtual reality or I could put blockchain or NFTs. I think we're on the cusp of a real revolution in how technology is going to change how and what we do.
And there was an interesting article released today on Engadget, where ChatGPT are now going to support plugins that will deliver real time stats. So if you think about that from a team side, getting real time stats about how a game is being played, to then feed that to your customers to get them to do something is revolutionary.
When you think about how we can harness this power… I think that getting real time data and then feeding that directly to your customers in real time is an amazing thing. And you're not having to sit at your computer to create all of it.
So tickets could drop in price the day before an event because, say, the lead performer is ill and being replaced by a stand-in, and all this information gets automatically updated via ChatGPT or the plugins?
Yes. If you think about it in sports where they're playing multiple games, or breaking news or stock prices, or let's even think about traffic, road closures that affect live entertainment.
That’s outside of ticketing, after a customer has a ticket. But if you use the same thing to drive a ticket in advance, why not?