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Digital Ticketing Is the Future — as Long as… (Guest Column)

--FILE--A passenger puts her smartphone above
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As we all know, change is scary; change is different; change is a departure from what is comfortable and known.

In ticketing, digital is change. Many venues worry that patrons who have been using physical or print-at-home tickets for decades will resist or outright reject digital ticketing.

In our experience, moving to digital ticketing is a non-issue — in fact, it often quickly overtakes all other forms of tickets.

When Roundabout Theatre Company introduced digital ticketing for its fall 2021 Broadway season, 47% of single-ticket buyers booking in advance opted for digital delivery — more than any other option, and it replaced print-at-home as the top delivery method. Ticket holders who chose digital delivery then attended their performance at a higher rate than patrons who chose to have their tickets mailed or delivered as printable PDFs.

But digital ticketing is not automatically successful. To ensure both your venue and patrons an exceptional experience, there are a few things to consider:

  1. The technology works and work well  

If the digital ticketing experience isn’t at least as intuitive and seamless as using a paper ticket, patrons won’t adopt it. Delays and errors when the ticket is scanned can quickly sour the enthusiasm that typically greets digital ticketing (yes, most patrons are excited by the change to digital ticketing as well).

There are a number of technological challenges to address, from user interfaces to fraud prevention to edge case planning. The process of buying, receiving, and scanning a digital ticket has to be intuitive — the only thing you want to hear patrons say about your ticketing is “it just works.”

  1. You communicate, educate, and market to your audience 

Digital ticketing won’t gain traction if you don’t encourage patrons to adopt this delivery method. Communicate that it’s available, how it will work, and answer frequently asked questions. Digital ticketing will be brand-new to some patrons. Some patrons will be less tech savvy.

Remember that emails explaining how to use digital tickets will often go unread. After an initial roll out, having a staff on hand to help patrons at the entrance to the venue can ensure a smooth process.

The Adrienne Arsht Center rolled out digital ticketing with a page of its website dedicated to educating patrons. It lays out in simple instructions how easy the process is, including a one-minute explainer video, FAQ, and tips.

On-site preparations are also incredibly helpful. From sandwich boards with QR codes that direct patrons to their tickets to line walkers assisting patrons, anything you can do to ensure accessing both the ticket and the event is as seamless as possible will aid your transition efforts.

  1. You meet your patrons where they are 

Especially when you first introduce digital ticketing, you have to maintain some flexibility. Ultimatums (e.g., an overnight move to 100% digital delivery) will likely be met with resistance. Drive the transition at a pace and scale that works best for your organization. Consider keeping other ticketing methods around for a period of time as patrons adapt to the new system and process.

While venues like the Roundabout Theatre company have seen quick adoption among a large portion of its patrons, there are still a number of patrons who haven’t made the shift. Education and experience go a long way. Just seeing other patrons quickly and easily scan their digital tickets at the entrance can be enough to convince others to give it a try.

In any audience there will be early and late adopters. Demonstrating the value and coaching patrons ensures everyone can comfortably take advantage of digital ticketing at their own speed. Maintaining a flexible and fluid approach to the digital transition will help ease issues associated with the shift.

Digital ticketing is the future 

Audiences have shown they’re eager and can quickly adapt to new processes. But success is dependent on taking the necessary steps before rolling out digital ticketing to ensure it’s as intuitive and straightforward as possible for patrons. When “it just works,” digital ticketing is a non-issue and patrons are quick to adopt it.

Matt Zarracina is co-founder and CEO of True Tickets, and was previously a senior manager at Deloitte Consulting and director of innovation at the Thales Group.