Monday, February 28, 2005

Online ticketing - parameters refined

So let's revisit the simplest ticketing solution discussion. First, I'm judging by the previous great comments that there are larger pieces to this puzzle I am missing: integrating the ticketing solution with a particular show's... gestalt? ("Promotion" doesn't seem to quite capture everything that happens to make a show successful.) In any case, any type of integration - be it tracking how well online (and even offline) promotion is working, or integrating the patron data with fundraising systems - is another layer I need to defer reviewing at this stage.

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
Let me repeat - there are a ton of ASPs out there that offer these services. I'm looking at ones that will enable an organization to jump in quickly (and cheaply). In that vein, for this phase of the discussion - I am not looking at services that require you set up a separate merchant account. I want a service that will send you a check once you're done.....

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.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

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5:48 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This service/solution is great - they did it right.

- User

2:03 PM  

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