At the Ticketing Professionals Conference last week, I learned that buying event tickets is supposed to form part of the event experience. It was an exciting discovery because, as someone who regularly watches shows on Broadway, I thought the experience only started once I was seated and the curtain was drawn.
The other thing I learned was that ticket venues are innovative and constantly seeking ways to improve their customers' buying experience. For example, when the pandemic hit, they innovated by heavily adopting digital ticketing.
During the conference, keynote speeches were delivered from experts in the industry exploring current trends around pricing and their impact. Here’s a recap of what you missed.
Dynamic Pricing On Trial
This talk was delivered by Robin Cantrill-Fenwick, the CEO of Baker Richards, who put dynamic pricing strategies on trial by representing both sides of the argument. Picture one lawyer arguing before a jury for both prosecutor and defendant.
In the entertaining display, Robin first argued that the ticketing industry’s use of dynamic pricing was actually a threat to the accessibility and enjoyment of culture. He went as far as accusing the industry of price gouging since the prices of tickets only move upwards. He furthered his argument by referencing airlines, explaining that their use of dynamic pricing was necessary because people got some reward out of it, which was usually more than the expenses incurred. Think of a businessman who would board a last-minute flight for an important meeting, and thus would be willing to pay the premium for a seat at business class. If he closed the deal, there would be a great monetary reward. To Robin, there was no such reward present in the events industry, so that strategy cannot be used in the same way.
For the other side of the argument, Robin dramatically peeled off his jacket to present himself as a different person arguing the case for dynamic pricing. This Robin tried to persuade us that dynamic pricing is simply a tool for communicating quality, and when prices are higher, it only means that a show is all the more worth it. I thought back to when I bought a ticket to see Andrea Bocelli live, and had purchased a seat far back from the stage. On the day, as his music serenaded me, part of me regretted not being close enough to see Andrea Bocelli's face. Because of this, I know I would pay even more next time to be at the front and get an experience that will be of even greater value. Needless to say, I agreed with this jacket-less Robin's argument. At the end of this talk, audience members voted on which side we were on. Most people supported the use of dynamic pricing – as Robin put it, “everything is worth what someone is willing to pay for it.”
Moving to Automated Pricing in the Ticketing Industry
Greg Loewen, CEO of Digonex, talked about how automating dynamic pricing can make the strategy more effective and scalable. A human will naturally consider some factors when manually setting a ticket price, but including technology will correct human oversight to produce far more accurate recommendations. He proposed that just because a house isn't full, doesn't mean cutting prices is the right strategy. This was an insightful comment, considering how many businesses rely on discounting to inspire purchases in low sales periods. Think about when the lockdown first eased, and people were still wary of human contact. At that time, you could not encourage people to be in a hall with others even if you gave them a free ticket!
Alternatively, just because there's a spike in demand for something doesn't mean sellers should increase ticket prices. This ties into the first argument Robin made about price gouging, where he referenced the cost of hand sanitiser rising due to higher demand. Because human behaviour is constantly changing in complex ways and there's so much data available, Greg believes that automating dynamic pricing is the best way for venues to maximise their revenue while achieving their goal.
Future aspirations for the ticketing industry in 2022
As interesting as it was to discover trends in the ticketing industry, it was even better to learn about its aspirations. In the penultimate keynote speech I attended, a panel discussed the addition of chatbots to the ticketing industry. Nibble CEO Rosie Bailey delivered a talk detailing how a negotiation chatbot could improve the experience of buying tickets and increase sales.
Remember how I mentioned that venues heavily adopted digital ticketing during the pandemic? Neil Jones, representing the Royal Opera House, spoke about people keeping physical tickets as souvenirs because they were pretty. Could people still enjoy their tickets in this way if the experience was digitalised? For customers of the Royal Opera House, these physical tickets themselves formed part of the experience for them, one that they could relive by displaying the tickets in a pinboard or scrapbook and talking about it. In this same way, an innovative negotiation chatbot like Nibble can form part of the experience for customers.
Picture this: a show you want to see is showing in the West End from July until September, you’re excited to go. But when you click to buy a ticket, you hesitate at the price quoted to see the show on a specific date. What if a little blue button gave you the chance to negotiate on this purchase?
When you click that button, Nibble pops up. Within a minute, it tells you that you could see the show on a different date within your budget price - and perhaps the chatbot even throws in some free drinks at the event to sweeten the deal. I imagine that a story of how a chatbot got you a free drink and a ticket around your budget is one that can be retold and leave a lasting impression. Here’s a demo of how that could work.
Why the ticketing industry needs negotiation
Negotiation can inspire customers to compromise more, resulting in ticket venues reducing their reliance on voucher codes.
Everything is indeed worth what someone is willing to pay for it. But at the same time, people love a good deal. If I knew that something I really wanted was going on sale soon, I would wait for it until it does. This is why Black Friday exists. It’s why people sign up to be notified of early bird tickets because they’re notoriously cheaper.
As a negotiation chatbot, Nibble makes sense in e-commerce as a means of improving customer engagement, reducing cart abandonment, and improving conversion. However, with a little change to the algorithm, Nibble can also make sense for events. It delivers a new online experience that is equally capable of evoking an emotional response from customers. I don’t know about you, but I feel like I found a deal with voucher codes, but with negotiation, I feel like I earned it, and the latter always makes me feel better about a purchase.
Interested in Nibble?