Event Ticketing: Why ticket sales is a risky business

Choosing an event ticketing partner is as important the headline act at your event; that is, life or death. There’s a host of variables to consider, and major differentiators between ticketing companies, especially since ticket sales for big events is usually considerably more complicated than you think. Here’s why…

Imagine a circus juggler. He starts with three balls in the air. Then, it’s four, five, six. Then, he hops onto stilts. Then, he adds his hat. And then, he sets his hat alight. This should give you some idea of what it’s like to sell tickets online for large events. Multiple balls in the air. An often unsteady surface. Unforeseen elements. And fires to put out left, right and centre.

Event Ticketing

In this article, we’ll look at how and why online ticket sales for big events is more complicated than making a page look good by clicking a few buttons and adding a logo.

Let’s start with the event ticketing system, which has about 20 other integrations: external servers, payment gateways, different banks, and diverse payment options. If any of these collapses, chaos ensues. You need a system that can piece everything together, and handle the traffic.

Take it from someone who’s been in the trenches, made the mistakes, crashed the systems, fought the fraud, dealt with thousands of angry fans, and pacified unhappy customers.

Here’s some insight into Event Ticketing

The strategy: First off, an event ticketing strategy is required, to work out how many tickets are needed to cover the costs of the show. The rule of thumb is that ticketing revenue should cover all expenses, and sponsorship and bar revenue should make up your profit. So, here’s a warning: Make sure that you have sufficient financial backing, and don’t attempt to put on a show if you’re not comfortable with the fact that ticket sales won’t actually cover the costs.

The phases: Tickets for big festivals are generally sold in phases, because phases help to create hype throughout the year. Reward those that buy early, and remember to evenly distribute the number of tickets available across the different phases. This is just fair practice.

Registration: Registration is there partly to create hype and partly to be able to communicate all of the exciting things about your event. But also – critically – registration enables you to collect data and make the buying process simpler when tickets actually do go on sale. Pre-registeration gives you a good indication of what traffic to expect on Day One, so you can be prepared.

Communication: Make sure that you clearly and regularly communicate with your fans about the buying process – including what payment methods you accept and how they work. There’s nothing worse then being presented with something completely new, because this can be confusing for fans and may result in their buying the wrong item or missing out on their desired tickets.

Asking for ID: Most festivals have a strict ‘No under 18s’ policy, so requesting ID upfront scares off the youngsters trying their luck and gives the people who scan the tickets something to validate against. On that note, always ensure that if an ID is being collected, it is being validated – otherwise you’re just wasting people’s time. The other major reason to ask for ID is to create another layer of online security and to help protect against ticket fraud.

Ticket limits: Imposing ticket limits is a science. If a festival is in high demand, my advice is to have strict limits in place, like a maximum of 2 tix per person. This mitigates the risk of 500 people grabbing all the tickets in one go, which creates unhappy fans and an instant black market.

You must also decide whether each person attending the event must individually register his/her ticket. For high-profile events, we’ve found that this minimises online fraud and the second-hand market – but it must be properly enforced or it’s a complete waste of time.

The booking process: The booking process can make or break an event launch. This sounds obvious, but (clearly, if we look at the ticketing industry lately) it isn’t. Make sure that your process has been clearly thought out and rigorously tested. If you’re releasing new features to the mass market, you never know how they’ll behave across 10 different devices and browsers. At the same time, don’t be tempted to ‘fix’ elements that aren’t broken.

The queuing system: Once you’ve designed your strategy, planned your phases, decided on registration, kept up the communication, imposed limits, generated hype, and got your fans ready to go… make sure that your system can deal with expected load. This is the beauty of registration data:  you know what to expect. Beyond your own system, though, ensure that your website and payment gateways/banks are able to deal with the load, by using a queuing system.

The queuing system can kick in before fans hit the website or between the ticketing site and the payment gateway, because banks in SA simply cannot deal with an instant rush of payments. Think of the queue as the traffic manager; without it, there’s a good chance the site will crash. Or, worse, engaged fans could be kicked out of the site, experience failed payments, or even have money disappear off their cards with no tickets in return.

Here a some tips from a veteran…

Crisis management – Anything can go wrong; what makes the difference is how you manage the crisis; how you turn negative experiences into positive ones. Start by having enough people to deal with complaints and queries, across social media, PR, and customer support. Get your entire team aligned so you’re all communicating the same messages.

Honesty first – Never embellish your numbers. Your fans will see through it, and so will your sponsors and traders. Without these three audiences you have nothing.

Jumping the gun – Never ever say it’s sold out until you’re 300% sure that it is. Give it at least 60-90 minutes before announcing, because it’s possible that not all the sales have gone through and you may want to open up again. There’s nothing worse having to put tickets back on sale, and re-adjust phases and pricing, once you’ve popped the champagne.

Emotional intelligence – The relationship between the ticketing company and client is like a complex love affair. It can run hot and cold, but the most important things are respect and loyalty as together you learn about the event, what works, and what doesn’t. Don’t jump ship every now and then, for a ‘change’; the grass is seldom greener on the other side.

This information is offered by Howler™, a powerful event-technology platform that consolidates event planning, promotion, management and financial control, used by event organisers to optimise the full event experience.

Since its inception, 3,5 years ago, Howler™ has powered over 5 000 events, processed over 1,5 million cashless transactions, sold over 1,7 million tickets and administrated a gross revenue of over R620 million through the platform, half of which was done in the last 12 months alone.

The Howler™ platform is challenging the eventing landscape by combining the best-of-breed technology; it provides full control over ticketing, merchandise, travel and accommodation, easy access management and access control, cashless transactions on the day, a seamless post-event payment platform and peace of mind with event cancellation insurance.

Howler™ Loaded powered by Glownet RFID solutions is the cashless way to pay – this allows guests to create and load money online, collect a wristband at the event and cash-out later.

Howler™ Access powered by Nutickets offers a complete box office solution for all types of ticket sales across all distribution points and eliminates queues, theft and fraud.

This one-of-a-kind event ticketing platform enables event organisers to sell more, manage multiple vendors, have full financial and data control, provides consumer insights and an enriching consumer experience. Howler™ also runs Africa’s top experiences with the platform available in over 15 African countries.

Click here to get more information about Howler.

Watch this space for updates in the Technology category on Running Wolf’s Rant.


Staff Writer

Running Wolf's Rant's correspondent who chooses to remain anonymous...

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