Let's Drag Arts Ticketing into the Digital Age


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by Libby Penn, Chief Operating Officer at Spektrix

Date Published: 09 May 2017

Technology has transformed how we run our professional and personal lives. Everything is digital, everything is faster, everything is personalised and convenient. Before the first iPhone launched ten years ago, I would never have thought to book a night out at the theatre from my mobile. Now I expect to be able to make any purchase wherever I happen to be.

Today’s audiences are increasingly defined by people who are digital first. Across our client base at Spektrix, we see more than 50% of ticket sales happening online and that trend is increasing, with some venues doing more than 90% of sales via their digital channels.

Yet despite this obvious shift in consumer behaviour, the way we transact with customers in the arts is painfully bogged down in bad technology, bad websites and a dearth of imagination in how we sell. As an industry, we’re simply not embracing digital as our primary sales medium, but the solution to this is to be smart about the customer journey. While it’s unfeasible to staff your box office round the clock, your website is there 24/7 and should be the hardest-working member of your box office team. More than 90% of tickets sold last year were for a single performance, so why aren’t we making a push to drive up the average online basket size with multi-bookings and upsells? The ticketing journey you create online should proactively cross-sell relevant shows, making your customers aware of the other great events at your venue and immersing them in your programme.

Of course, there is still the other 50% to think of: those customers who prefer the experience of calling in, or visiting the venue and buying tickets in person. But how do you reconcile the growing horde of digital users with the shrinking group of traditional buyers? In essence, you need to provide your customers with bilateral customer service: a quick, self-service option and also a full-service option that meets more extensive needs. The self-service option should necessarily be short and sweet; a fast solution for people who know what they want. Digital technologies enable us to make sure the process is incredibly quick and easy to complete and your system should recognise if they’re coming from a mobile or a laptop/desktop, and provide the best-available option (but with the option to select your own seat).

The full-service option is about making everything available that people need to know in order to make a decision, such as critic and customer reviews and production photos to round out the picture for a prospective customer. Getting the purchase journey right for both self-service and full-service customers is going to be essential as the arts industry continues to transition towards more self-reliance. We need to create good experiences worthy of the creative sector, and work hard to maximise every opportunity to encourage more sales.

Finally, arts organisations should use the ticket purchase experience as an opportunity to really sell the programme, the venue and the organisation. Tell your story, explain why you need donations, immerse them in your programme. Give your customer access to all the information they might need, while making sure your box office team are fully equipped with quick visibility of customer profiles.

We all need to get better at storytelling in the arts, using our own stories as cultural organisations and unique providers of the art our customers love. Better ticketing is an essential way to start the conversation.

Come and talk to us at UK Theatre's BOX OFFICE CONFERENCE on 16th May to find out more....

For those working in box office, ticketing and marketing to hear and share the latest industry developments and practices.

This year, sessions will include:

  • The latest in ticketing trends and technology 
  • Data to improve your organisation’s programme and customer experience
  • What next on secondary ticketing and bots?
  • Developing relationships with new and existing audiences

Click here for more information

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