Online ticketing - parameters refined
For this discussion - still in its nascent form - I want to stick to really simple systems, based on the size and scope of several theatre and dance companies I have worked with who generally do not offer tickets online, only by phone-in reservation.
My (expanded) parameters for the ticket systems is then:
- Organizations that have a performance location of a fixed number of seats (of their own, or that they typically rent on a regular basis)
- About 60-100 seats
- General admission tickets
So far, most of the ticketing services I've researched offer a series of standard services:
- Online, secure credit card purchases
- Real-time inventory (but this may not be your total seat count - see discussion below)
- Detailed patron information report: contact info; contact preferences (e.g. the checkbox for "Send me more info about your org"); purchase history; purchasing updates / reports available online and via email
- Booking stop times - a specific time when online booking is no longer available, so as to avoid conflict with day-of sales at the box office
- Events are set up per day - and you copy / paste the settings through the run of your show.
Services differ on what, how and how much they provide of the following:
- Service fee per transaction (usually depends on your volume and ticket price)
- Whether you can include that fee in the ticket costs, charge some to the patron or are required to pass it on to the patron
- Setup fees (varies typically depending on how much you want / can customize your ticket page)
- The amount of customization and "branding" you can add to ticket-buying pages
- Availability and cost of phone-based ticket-purchasing services
- Actual ticket printing and mailing, versus just "will-call" lists
- Additional services beyond the scope of what we are talking about here (venue mapping for reserved seat, multiple-ticket-price venues; direct payment via merchant account, etc).
Finally, a note about how to begin incorporating this kind of system into your current sales practice. Many theatres that do not have a completely integrated online vs. in-the-office ticket system only allot a portion of their available seats to an online ticket system - typically between 20%-50% of their total seats. This reduces the risk of overselling a show on two different systems (online and through the performing space box office).
If nothing else, that's good info to know if you ever want to see a show, and the online ticket site says it's sold out.... Call the box office.
I'll have some more details about a couple other "easy-entry" services within the week.