It’s officially the first week of spring (how did that happen!) and as I sit sipping my morning tea from my freebie Spektrix mug (thanks, guys) I ponder over the key points and learnings from my top sessions at last week’s Ticketing Professionals Conference held in Birmingham’s ICC.

Following an early start on Thursday morning - Starbucks in hand - I travelled down to Birmingham to join over 200 ticketing professionals, exhibitors and specialists for a two-day conference revolving around some hotly anticipated trending topics and emerging on/offline ticketing sales strategies. With many clients in the arts and heritage space, ticketing is an area in which we’re always looking to innovate in and explore new ways to create a user-first, streamlined experience. So, I was excited to join colleagues, clients and peers to discover what others are up to and what challenges they face.

Opening Keynote - We Were Promised Jetpacks

Our keynote was delivered by the hilarious and highly inspiring Craig Sullivan who comically compared versions of the ‘modern world’ we were promised in past decades to current day life.

Craig focused on the internet of things and how technology was more likely to hinder us nowadays than to create the euphoric, laid-back environment so commonly depicted in futuristic movies way-back-when.

The areas that let-down technology? Well, the main points demonstrated in the session were - server downages, hacking bots, poor site design responsiveness and flawed user experiences.

Using case study examples from the likes of Viagogo, British Airways and Amazon, Craig highlighted the top areas of frustration on everyday e-commerce and ticketing sites to communicate best practice tips and tricks to enhance conversions.

"Move fast and break things - unless you break things you're not moving fast enough"

- Craig Sullivan

Moving away from web discussions the talk then transitioned to digital product ownership in organisations such as Facebook, Uber and the Financial Times. Within this, key areas were the need to build strong product team dynamics, testing strategies and implement the industry famous MVP approach.

"Digital product teams need a ‘F**k off’ person to interrupt meetings (for the sake of having meetings) and end them if they happen!”

- Craig Sullivan

Rolling together the key themes of his talk Craig finished-up by contemplating the future of web/digital product metrics and how the industry will measure success.

Will we need to start measuring the level of emotion in our users voices as the likes of Siri, Alexa etc. dominate the digital world?

Will online forms and their design and UI become a thing of the past as our users verbally populate their details and make orders online?

Exciting prospects for an industry that’s already experienced some revolutionary technology, products and API’s! Craig’s talk reinforced the all too common aspects of keeping your website relevant at a time where algorithms change on a day-to-day basis, users expectations are increasing and mobile consumption is growing exponentially.

Micro Moments, using these to engage with customers

Session two welcomed The Ticket Factory’s Director of Technology, Rob Williams, who joined forces with Audienceview’s Vice President of Global Sales and Marketing Jonathan Tice.

The duo took on Google’s ‘micro moments’ (you can read more on our thoughts on that over here) and discussed how these can be developed and managed by event providers to enhance the end-to-end experience and cultivate relationships.

Rob described how micro moments had come into being with the birth of smartphones and how users’ appetites for data has now evolved and become so highly sophisticated that they’re now not content with just the basic content.

“Consumers want rich consumable content and expect this - they need to be gratified almost instantly on any device.”

- Rob Williams

He focused on how mobile apps are tied to micro moments, bringing content to the forefront of the user's attention - ‘surfacing’ the content that’s of the highest relevance in a format that they can easily consume and then share with their peers in a bid to prolong that micro moment’s cycle.

The duo then went on to explain how data-fueled results are then used to make data-driven decisions by users and that it was at these points (micro moments) that it was important to provide content that would drive brand awareness and loyalty.

“Micro moments turn browsers into buyers and interested users into loyal, passionate and devoted fans and followers.”

- Rob Williams

Jonathan touched on the subject of ‘Nudge Theory’ - the integration of lots of little nudges into your website or application to shape big changes in user behaviour. It’s common sense really, but just like in the physical world, if people don’t receive little cues, they are less likely to know what to do or do it.

Rob then explained a bit about how he’d utilised the concept in his ticketing app and then went on to discuss how Virgin Red’s loyalty app was (in his opinion) an example of a brand really succeeding in implementing the theory through their ‘This or That’ feature - subliminally engaging users in a topic area and then promoting the sale of events or experiences attuned to those areas. Cross-selling at its best!

If you frequent our blogs or have attended any of our recent talks, you’ll likely have heard us discuss micro moments and how they vary but remain prevalent across industries. What the speakers reinforced at this conference is that this theory is bearing fruit for organisations adapting their strategies to fit. In essence, by joining up everything from web development requirements to sales strategies to content marketing, with a focus on micro moments, you consider how to best serve a user within their context, thus increasing the likelihood of conversion and loyalty.

Selling the last 2%

What do you do when you’re left with the seats that no one wants?

Angela Gahan of Antix Management, a Sydney based consultancy, set out to answer this age-old problem at the highest populated session of the day.

With experience advising clients on sales strategy, inventory management, internal budgets and revenue forecasting, Angela lent her expertise to the crowd using case study projects she’d been involved in across the Australian market.

Having high-profile shows such as The Lion King, Mary Poppins and Les Miserables under her belt, the session focused on incentivising and training sales staff on how to promote the final and single seats available across performances.

"The most valuable thing was making sellers aware that there were still seats to be sold!"

- Angela Gahan

One of the key features emphasised by Angela was the use of ‘master search’ functionality on sites to assist in directing users to the events and tickets which best suit their interests, budgets and date-ranges. Although termed ‘master search’ during the session, we’ve been working with arts and theatre clients for years to design and develop cutting-edge advanced filtering functionality and smart searches which optimise, not only the event search process for customers, but that also support the organisation and taxonomy of production content for site administrators within the CMS. This is a feature, which should never be underestimated in its power.

The ‘Art’ of Value Fencing

How do we drive value without reducing the overall price?

Whether bundling merchandise and tickets, offering membership incentives or promoting season ticket sales, venues often ask their teams this question in a bid to optimise budget for highest revenue returns.

This session was lead by David Reece of Baker Richards who presented the topic of protecting the base value of tickets and their supporting products.

Key points from David’s discussion featured price differentiation, the five points of value fencing and the rationale for value fencing across venues large and small to optimise profit.

"The key to unlocking value is price differentiation."

- Angela Gahan

Kevin Giglinto, Tessitura’s VP of Client Development & Marketing - and formerly VP of Strategy and Special Initiatives at the Chicago Symphony Orchestra (CSO), focused his section of the talk on customer churn rate and strategies around decreasing churn and promoting return visits. He applied some of David’s principles to his real life experience at CSO and explained what had worked well for him and his team.

"The more a customer comes to your venue to see a show the more likely they are to come back again in the future."

- Kevin Giglinto

Kevin explained his previous role working with the CSO and their struggle to sell enough tickets and build relationships with their customers. His key point for the afternoon was that there was a direct correlation between the number of events you managed to get a patron to attend (at a given venue), and a substantial decline in consumer churn rate.

To get that return visit you have to encourage a relationship with the patron so that they feel engaged and willing to spend more on another one of your experiences.

At the CSO it had been found that by providing no fee exchanges, free parking, complimentary drinks, seat upgrades or even surprise meet and greets with artists and offering similar ‘Surprise and Delight’ treats there was a remarkable 73.6% retention rate for new subscribers. It wasn’t just the treats that resulted in their success - in addition to this the CSO strategised an email campaign specifically welcoming their new patrons and additionally prepped staff on new patron visits, so that they could personally welcome them and answer any questions they might have about the show/venue.

"In year two renewing purchasers spend more - so you make back your initial investment"

- Kevin Giglinto

At the end of the session the majority of delegates in the room where a-buzz with ideas to ‘Surprise and Delight’ their new consumer groups armed with some compelling stats and high profile case study examples to mirror such as our clients Wigmore Hall in London and Pitlochry Festival Theatre in Scotland, as well as the true Cinderella story star, Chicago Symphony Orchestra.

In my next blog, I’ll look at the highlights from day two and some of our top tips.