Who Are the Early Adopters of Technology in the Ticketing Industry?

November 12, 2019

By: Teddy Durgin

Originally Posted On: Access

In recent years, the ticketing industry has been increasingly aggressive in being early adopters of the latest cutting-edge technology. Everything from a younger, savvier demographic buying tickets to the increased need for fraud prevention to the recognized benefits of data analytics has played a part in such companies as TicketmasterAudienceView and PatronManager angling for the latest tech advantage.

Rob Williams

Rob Williams, Vice President of Technology for AudienceView, can’t help but chuckle at the idea of ticketing companies doubling as tech innovators. “Cutting edge in ticketing is an interesting concept,” he says, “as the ticketing industry in general has always lagged behind many other tech industries. However, I think it’s clear that AudienceView has always had innovation and disruption as a part of its DNA. We were founded as one of the first ticketing platforms to embrace the idea of a ticketing system being built around CRM [customer relationship management] concepts.”

He continues, “We track every interaction with the customer, which allows our clients to create a meaningful relationship with every customer and form communities of passionate, engaged followers. AudienceView was also one of the first fully web-based ticketing platforms. We understood the importance to our clients of being able to access your system from anywhere, on any device, without lengthy software installs from the very beginning.”

Justin Burleigh

Among the most celebrated early adopters of new and emerging technology has been Ticketmaster. Justin Burleigh, Chief Product Offer at the company, insists that revolutionizing the ticketing industry with technology has been “woven into Ticketmaster’s DNA.” In his view, the benefits of digitizing the ticketing experience are endless. But the key is taking the time to develop, test and implement any new technology.

“We had engineers begin work on SafeTix [digital ticketing technology] more than a year before its official launch at scale with the NFL this season,” he says. “Ticketmaster dedicated more than 300 employees across 35 teams to develop and test the technology, which we continue to do to this very day in order to provide the best tech possible to fans and clients.”

The hard work has paid off. Since the launch of SafeTix, more than 3.5 million fans have entered NFL games using the technology, and NFL teams have added more than 884,000 net new names to file — a 22% increase from 2018. In addition, this NFL season has seen 66% of fans using mobile tickets across the entire league, with seven teams seeing mobile ticket adoptions rate higher than 95%. The Minnesota Vikings have seen a mobile adoption rate of 98%.

“We’re also seeing excellent results with other leagues as well with teams in the NBA, NHL and MLS now leveraging this technology and seeing great results,” Burleigh says. “In fact, the MLS club LAFC [Los Angeles Football Club] has seen 100% mobile entry and its fan identity database grow by 214% over 2018, providing the club the ability to connect with more fans than ever.” Perhaps most impressive, though, is that each team has seen zero instances of fraud when using SafeTix.

Michelle Paul

Technology has made a major difference in arts and entertainment ticketing. One of the leaders has been PatronManager, the only full-service ticketing application built entirely on Salesforce. Michelle Paul, Managing Director of PatronManager, commented, “Our partnership with Salesforce has been critically important to our success and, by extension, our clients’ success. In the arts, there’s nothing more important than knowing your patrons on a personal level; there’s no better tool for enabling that than a great CRM system; and there’s no better CRM system than Salesforce. Even our smallest arts clients get the benefits of a state-of-the-art platform used by Fortune 500 companies. By building our product directly on Salesforce rather than simply creating an integration, we’ve become true experts on the platform, and we’re able to take advantage of the continuous improvements, upgrades and new features that Salesforce has built over the years.”

She adds, “Nonprofit arts organizations have to develop a multifaceted relationship with their patrons. They need to sell tickets, like any other venue or event producer, but they also need to convince some portion of those ticket buyers to invest even more deeply in the organization’s work over time by making donations. The challenge that PatronManager helps solve is providing a system that integrates ticket-buying and fundraising in a way that creates a meaningful journey for the patron that feels unforced and engaging. And we know from our customer metrics that this method works, growing their ticket buyers into donors and evangelists for the organization.”

Not to be outdone, AudienceView promises not only to replace a client’s ticketing system, but also help engage with their customers before, during and after events. One of the founding principles of AudienceView was to take best practices from the world of CRM and apply them to the ticketing world. From the ground up, the system was built with the customer at the core.

“On AudienceView,” Williams says, “under the hood, we create a customer as the core unit of the system and attach sales, events, calls, emails, benefits, promo codes, etc. to that customer. It’s the most customer-centric system I’ve worked with or on in my career. We also have this ethos across our business. It’s why we own TheaterMania, WhatsOnStage and several other consumer-facing websites. These communities of engaged live entertainment fans are an invaluable resource for audience growth and engaging consumers of live events. We believe that unlocking the value of the consumer is the key to our industry’s success.

Few, though, can compare to the aggressive steps Ticketmaster has taken to bring technology into every facet of the ticketing experience. For instance, the company put in months of development and testing for Smart Queue, which keeps bots out, so every fan gets a fair chance at tickets. Smart Queue was utilized for singer Billie Eilish’s tour this past year, in conjunction with several other bot-blocking technologies, and blocked an astounding 9 million bots during the on sale.

Burleigh adds, “In 2019, we’re on track to block 20 billion bots, almost double what we blocked in 2018. Ticketmaster will continue to invest in bot-blocking technology in order to gives fans a fairer chance at tickets at face value.”

Another feather in Ticketmaster’s cap? Earlier this spring, Ticketmaster and the NHL announced a decade-long extension to their partnership, which includes bringing the latest venue and ticketing technology to NHL events. The NHL has long been an early adopter of Ticketmaster’s ticketing and venue technology, producing widespread benefits across the league. For example, the 2018 and 2019 NHL All-Star Games saw 85% and 88% of fans entering the arenas using mobile tickets, respectively, resulting in much more streamlined venue entry.

Meanwhile, Ticketmaster Presence — the company’s next-generation digital ticketing and venue access control platform — has been implemented across the NHL with select teams rolling out Presence’s latest enhancement, SafeTix, this year. “With Ticketmaster’s digital ticketing technology, teams have the full chain of custody of a ticket, so they know not only who bought the ticket, but who attended the game,” Burleigh says.

For its part, AudienceView recently added UniversityTickets to its portfolio of solutions. “UniversityTickets offers a strong product, and it fits squarely into our strategy,” Williams says. “We feel that engaging students and building communities on campus around performing arts, athletics and student activities is the key to building the next wave of core market audience for those sectors. Imagine cultivating and engaging a performing arts customer, from the day they start at university, through to their later years as a patron of the arts, all on one portfolio of products. It’s an incredibly exciting vision.”

So, what’s the next “big thing” in technology as it pertains to ticketing and venue access? Many would say facial recognition technology. But it’s a sensitive subject for some, with objections being raised about profiling, personal privacy, the creation of large facial recognition databases and so forth. Still, the potential benefits are undeniable if a bit off in the future.

“I can see the appeal for organizations that are dealing with fraud and fan verification and things like that,” Paul says. “But I think we’ve got a way to go before anything like this becomes the norm, particularly in the arts.”

Williams was more optimistic, concluding, “I absolutely think that biometrics — be it facial recognition, retinal or fingerprint — is the future of secure authentication, and therefore will play an incredibly important role in ticketing. We are moving past tickets at an ever-increasing pace. As an industry, we need to recognize that the ticket is just a representation of a promise. As such, it is the promise that’s important and will remain, not the media upon which the promise is made. I genuinely feel that in the future the phrase ‘tickets’ will gradually fade away. It will take years, but the ticket will become another casualty of an increasingly connected world, just like records, CDs, VHS tapes, paper magazines, even cash itself.”