What are we counting?

Roger is not going quietly, and here is his latest, originally published by Arts Professional here: https://www.artsprofessional.co.uk/magazine/article/what-are-we-counting

This version is updated.  Roger has more questions than answers about the quality metrics system that Arts Council England’s larger NPOs will soon be required to use.  He was surprised to find the Arts Council of England’s only response to the original version of the article was to query his comments about the ACE contractors Culture Counts.  Researchers at Flinders University in Adelaide have now published an article in Cultural Trends ‘Counting culture to death’ severely criticising the Quality Metrics concept.  Liz Hill reports in Arts Professional on that here: https://www.artsprofessional.co.uk/news/only-fool-or-knave-trusts-quality-metrics-say-academics

Counting what counts?

People keep asking me what I think about quality metrics, the audience research system that Arts Council England (ACE) will shortly require its largest National Portfolio Organisations (NPOs) to use.

When I try to answer this complex question, many immediately tell me they were asking confidentially and don’t want their own views known. I hear a lot of reservations and many worries, but everyone seems reluctant to say anything during the current NPO application process.

Whilst understandable, this is not helpful. It is surely essential to embark on a proper discussion of whether this will deliver reliable results for NPOs and ACE, and to address people’s concerns.

Uneasy questions

I have been a champion of audience data for a long time. I conducted my first year-long audience survey at the Vic in Stoke on Trent in 1969, supervised by Keele University. I have been commissioning research surveys for over 40 years and the Arts Council published my book ‘Boxing Clever’ on turning data into audiences in 1993. And I have collaborated with them on many audience initiatives, including the drive to place socio-economic profiling tools at their NPOs’ fingertips.

So, I ought to be welcoming the concept of quality metrics and what Culture Counts proposes to deliver for Arts Council England. I can see why Marcus Romer (read his blog from 27 September) would welcome the voice of the audience, as end-recipient of the art, into ACE thinking. But I am left with a lot of uneasy questions, mostly methodological.

Unreliable research

Most people with any knowledge of research methodology are asking the same questions, because this type of research is inherently unreliable, yet a lot of reliance is being placed on the findings.  The recent experience of surveying potential voters in the polls prior to the UK election on 8 June have rather confirmed the unreliability.

The Arts Council’s own former Senior Marketing Officer, Peter Verwey, constantly reminded arts marketers of the inherent unreliability of audience surveys, unless there were controls to manage the sample. Even then, reliability depends on respondents understanding the questions. If you ask a question and the respondent can’t ask for clarification on what the question means, then the answers can’t be relied upon. But if explanations are given, then bias creeps in, depending on what is said to them.

Sadly for Welsh National Opera, the majority who said when and where they had seen an opera, turned out to not actually have attended an opera at all.

At the Arts Council of Wales, we used Beaufort Research to check respondents’ understanding of some simple questions about the arts, including: “When did you last attend an opera?” Sadly for Welsh National Opera, the majority who said when and where they had seen an opera, turned out to not actually have attended an opera at all. The public have a very different understanding of the words we use to discuss the arts, and this can have a significant impact on whether survey questions are completed.

This is an inevitable drawback of quantitative research. Researchers have to decide in advance what precise questions to ask and have to constrain answers to a fixed choice. Qualitative write-in answers can’t produce reliable, comparable results, even though narrative answers can provide the richest source of our understanding of what a specific audience member thought.

Biased responses

Audience surveys have other equally large flaws. Peter Verwey’s joke was that the survey samples usually comprised “anyone who had a working pen/pencil when the survey was handed out”, though that has presumably changed to whether people have an email address and bother to open survey emails.

Surveys conducted in foyers after performances are inherently biased in that they capture only those with time to answer. And even “there is an app for that” only suits the tech savvy.

Analysis over the years shows that completion is biased in favour of the most supportive members of the audience and those keen to make their views known, sometimes complainants. You can overcome some of this by ruthless random sampling – only looking at the feet of the people to be selected to answer the questionnaire, for example – and similar techniques can be applied online. But the bias, of who actually responds when invited to, remains.

These days, when we are capable of creating a socio-economic profile of attenders who book tickets, we ought to, as a minimum, be expecting the quality metrics methodology to include a check for the representativeness of the sample.

Incomparable performances

Perhaps the biggest challenge is that audience surveys are inherently situational. They can only reflect what happened in a particular venue on a specific date and time, and gather the opinions of the people who both attended and chose to respond. If you have ever been a house manager and experienced the difference that a large group booking can make in an audience, you will understand the potential variability.

This makes comparability from one performance – let alone event – to another very difficult. Researchers have known about these issues for decades and therefore attempts to measure or assess impact based on audience surveys are always approached with huge caution, even if conducted for a single venue or a single performance.

Unexplored impact

Arts Council England’s own 2014 literature review by WolfBrown was clear about this: “the literature raises questions as to the plausibility of aggregating survey data across organisations and artforms, due to the highly personal and situational nature of impact, and because of differences across the forms themselves.”

It can be argued that valuing art based primarily on the experiences it produces, in fact devalues the work itself. Can you really tick a box to encompass your opinion? Indeed, post-event surveys primarily measure the ‘experienced impacts’, perhaps within a day or so, and ignore the ‘extended impacts’, probably weeks or even years later (typically assessed through retrospective interviewing and longitudinal tracking studies).

And while we try to understand these impacts on each individual, what role did pre-attendance marketing, the venue, pre-show talks, the people who attended with them, and the rest of the audience, have on the experience? Some researchers have expressed serious concerns about comparing self-reported audience experiences across different artforms and contexts because of the huge range of impossible-to-control variables being measured in these, in effect, crowd-sourced reviews.

Flawed evaluation

I had expected recent reports, commissioned by ACE, to provide the answers. I was surprised to find the final report on the quality metrics national test was assessed and written by two staff from the company that ran the pilot scheme, John Knell and Alison Whitaker. So the researchers were being asked to mark their own homework. Highly unusual, regardless of their integrity.

The Arts Council did commission an independent evaluation, from Nordicity (though the researcher is not named) though this only examined the experience of the organisations participating in the National Test, and not the methodology used in the pilot or the internal processing of the resultant data.

serious concerns raised by participant organisations about the methodology

Nonetheless, that evaluation reported some serious concerns raised by participant organisations about the methodology, saying “the majority of consultees questioned the reliability of the resulting data because of the sample frame, in terms of its representation and size” and commenting that “this aspect evidently impacted the organisations’ use of the data, with organisations unconfident to draw any firm conclusions, unable to ‘convince’ programmers of its value, and unsure of what ‘robust’ would look like in practice.” It went on to say “consultees suggested a number of areas where unintended bias or skewed data had the potential to be introduced. It is evident that these elements contributed to consultees’ overall opinion that the resulting data did not accurately reflect the quality of their work.”

Knell and Whitaker’s report makes no reference to statistical significance or reliability, or the representativeness of audiences; and despite references to “highly sensitive aggregation” there is no explanation of the basis for that data aggregation, except for some crude geo-location, artform, gender-based data-merging. It’s impossible to discern how they have overcome the huge problems of situational audience surveys and event comparability.

There is also no explanation of how audience responses are related to the other elements of the triangulated quality metrics research process, namely peer responses and internal assessments. Neither is there an indication of how respondents were selected. Indeed, the report is more about the findings of the surveys than testing the reliability of the methodology or its underlying fitness-for-purpose and statistical reliability.

Sampling problems

Obviously it is easiest to select survey respondents from ticket bookers with email addresses, and some of the organisations that participated in the pilot research chose people with particular characteristics, or a certain frequency of attendance. Some indicated that they wanted to input the data findings into their CRM systems. Did they select target samples accordingly?

Some added extra questions of their own to the survey, which in themselves might have affected understanding, response rates and completion. There is no explanation of how these additional questions were tested for respondent understanding. Also, only ‘30 responses’ is cited as an acceptable minimum for an event to be evaluated. How does this relate to the total attendance? There is no rationale given for this low number and no indication how an event with 30 survey respondents will be compared with an event with 300.

What’s more, there is no indication of how any of this will be possible under the new General Data Protection Regulation and its specific granular consent regime, which could further reduce the number of attenders available for survey and the use and processing of their responses.

The better news is that over 19,000 surveys were completed in the national test. This is clearly a large sample in UK terms, but size is not enough, especially when the integrity of the sample is unclear. We can’t rely on the national sample size if we need local reliability. We need to understand the reliability of the findings for each individual organisation in their unique catchment area. And we need to know the profile of the survey respondents in the context of both the universe of NPO attenders, and the actual attenders at each individual organisation.

Finally, there are of course other providers of post-attendance survey tools, and arts organisations already carrying out frequent surveys of attenders are worried about wear-out from over-surveying core attenders. All their other surveys are intended to understand audiences better and guide marketing, operational and audience development issues, not inform critical ACE grant award decisions.

ACE has a lot of questions to answer

I write this because I find ACE has a lot of questions to answer if it is to reassure arts organisations about the methodology and the quality of its proposed metrics. Just what is it counting, and exactly how?  The researchers at Flinders University in Adelaide have confirmed the academic concerns about using such research methods.  They write that metrics-based approaches to assessing cultural value “invite political manipulation and demand time, money and attention from cultural organisations without proven benefit”.

Their paper, ‘Counting culture to death’, refutes the “widely held belief” that “a set of numbers can provide vindication, or at least insurance, in the constant struggle to justify public funding”. They conclude that attempts to quantify cultural value are not delivering on their promises, and bring “destructive” unintended consequences.

The paper states that using indicators and benchmarks to assess cultural activities, “which exhibit no obvious capacity for scalar measurement” is a “political act”. The “ostensible neutrality” of this approach is, they say, “a trick of the light trying to launder responsibility for judgment in the competition for scarce resources”.  It is certainly clear to me that relying on an unreliable methodology could have dangerous consequences for the Arts Council.

This article is Rogers personal opinion and does not reflect the views of his colleagues or any other organisations.

“Make Do and Mend” – the right technology strategy?

Wow, where to start. This is a post that has been on my mind for some months. It’s taken a change of tech that I am using to crystallise some thoughts about how to lay this problem out.

I have always used a PC, from back pre windows to 3.11, 95 and on through the numbers. It’s been part of my life for thirty years. There have been some bumps along the way, but I can’t ever say I have been ‘unhappy’ – just not fulfilled.

I can’t ever say I have been ‘unhappy’ – just not fulfilled

Less faithful behaviour is true amongst mobile phones or more recently smartphones, I have had big periods between the three or four main players – well they were at the time. Nokia’s Symbian system was the first really good platform, along came and went BlackBerry, iPhone, Android, iPhone, Windows, Android – you get the picture.

…..spending extra minutes or hours on tasks that should take twenty seconds.

For the last few months, I have been using a Chromebook. Amazing value at under £200 – a 13 hour (real) battery life, super portable and with Internet access almost everywhere – a great piece of kit. The trouble with it is that it fell short in some areas, no REAL word support meant converting docs or when using the online version missing out on some of key, yet more obscure features that are only found in the full versions. I was always spending extra minutes or hours on tasks that should take twenty seconds.

Macs were “too expensive” and I’ve never used them, I am writing this on one now, it’s not THAT bad, but gives me some much loved and missed functionality not present on the Chromebook.

This is not them versus us or mine is better than your tech post, but setting the scene.

To be blunt, I don’t like it. It makes or seems to make my life more difficult,

I am currently in possession of an iPhone for the first time in three years, I say currently as it’s about to go swim with the fishes in a canal sometime soon. To be blunt, I don’t like it. It makes or seems to make my life more difficult, less of a digital assistant and more of a ball and chain.

It’s fun using iMessage and Facetime, it’s pretty good whilst travelling or messaging Internationally . . . . if THEY have an iPhone / Apple product and it has some really good features, for me and perhaps more for other people.

To be clear, Android – has its issues, not so much as an OS but due to the different iterations that exist. So this feature is not on this device but is on that one. That manufacturer has released Version 7, this one has not.

I am ignoring Blackberry and windows as mobile OS ecosystems, as both appear to be an end of life or the equivalent of a distant relative in a care home, out there, but not really visited by many, harsh, but true.

So what do I do? Do I try and continue to find peace and being at one with my little black friend, to make it work, to ignore the things I hate, to carry on missing notifications, to being bounced chrome to safari to goodness knows what.

It took me five minutes to set up my iPhone and an hour for apps to be sync from Android and to go back it will take the same.

We cannot say the same of our ticketing infrastructures, can we? Back in the day some vendors offered monthly contracts, with their sales patter saying “if you don’t like us you can move away” – I always shot this down and perhaps even annual contracts the same – “You don’t change systems that easily – this is not a mobile phone”

So what should make people change or think about changing? End of a fixed term contract? Opening a new facility or as is common this time of year, a boost in revenue from the Panto and the pain that running a show report for 78 performances did to you and your system.

I don’t think these should be at the forefront of decision making. It should be about pain. Pain in the current. The pain of the procurement and implementation and the pain relief of the new system…………but let’s also remember there will be the pain with the new too. I have never seen a project where someone, somewhere in the org did not miss something from the previous system (or the one that pre-dated that.

You need to look at these pain items and work out, how much pain will I be solving? How bad and frequent is the pain, to whom and what is the effect?

Auto-submission of Gift Aid to HMRC is a classic example of this. Once a month, a download in Excel, a small format here or there and then log on and upload the file. How long does it take? How much time will be saved? What value of recouped revenue will you get in excess than with the manual process?

A project last year heard a finance director say of that specific feature “It would be nice, but not a trigger to choose one particular system” – perfect, she got it. However, find 10, 15 or 30 such examples of efficiency and reduction in costs, through multiple suppliers, hosting and automation and you may have something.

We have to make hard choices. This platform may be “Cheap” – we may “make do” but are things EVER going to get better, are they ever going to fix {Insert Bug Here} or integrate with {Really good tool here}.

Spending this week in Benelux countries, I have met some great companies doing cutting edge solution building around ticketing platforms, marketing automation, dynamic differential customer flows or …… just really well written, reliable software at a great price.

If you do one thing this January, sit back and reflect on the pain, look to the future and ask yourself, is this the year I am going to help my business step up and be smart, efficient and forward thinking.

 

 

 

We will be talking about many of these issues around technology strategy at the Ticketing Professionals Conference on the 16th and 17th March in Birmingham. TTI Subscribers can get a 10% discount by using the promo code ‘TTI’ at checkout.

tpc_date_191_x_71

 

 

 

 

 

Make it Social Continues Growth – Tim Chambers new CCO

Social booking startup enters next phase of growth

  • Make it Social strikes deals with Paylogic, Ticketmaster Sport and Kia Oval
  • “Socialising checkouts” delivering high levels of new customers for Sports, Travel and live entertainment clients
  • TicketWeb (UK) founder Tim Chambers appointed CCO

Edinburgh, 14 September 2016Make it Social, which provides social booking technology, has announced a number of deals and key hires as it enters its next phase of growth.  In Q3 of 2016, partnership deals have been signed with Paylogic, Ticketmaster Sport UK, student tour operator Bus2Alps, travel booking platform TrekkSoft and the Surrey County Cricket Club at the Kia Oval as the team builds its client base across live entertainment ticketing in travel, sports and large scale festivals.

Make it Social has developed a P2P social booking solution that clients can integrate within their existing systems via an API. With an innovative secure payment gateway – ‘Group Pay’ – Make it Social brings friends and family together and enables individuals to pay for their own share, taking away the risk and organisational uncertainty from group leaders.

Tim Chambers has joined as Chief Commercial Officer (CCO), bringing industry expertise following senior positions at TicketWeb (UK), which he founded, Ticketmaster and Live Nation.  Following its latest funding round, Make It Social will be growing the team with developer and marketing hires planned.

Make it Social CEO and founder, Eddie Robb, said: “”Socialising checkouts is what we’re all about. The first ever online purchase was made in the 90’s and since then we’ve had the birth of social media with Facebook, Twitter and Instagram allowing us to be highly connected. While our friends are only a few clicks away, the checkout flow is exactly as it was back in the day. One person still has to select how many spots to buy and then put it all on their card.”

Tim Chambers, Make it Social COO, said: “Working with Ticketmaster Sport is the first big step for the business as it means we’re now partnered with one of the best organisations in the country to deliver incremental ticketing revenues.  We are delivering high levels of new customer data points across our client base and expect to announce a raft of new wins before the year is out.”

Supercharging Web Sales

This is a small piece I have been mulling over for a while. I settled for supercharging rather than “pimping out your websales”, as on testing searches it threw up a few issues with Internet filters!

We all love adding new little things don’t we? That ringtone to your mobile, that news app on your tablet or desktop. It’s funny how small pieces of content or function can make a good experience into a great one, or just make a task that much easier.

We often look at this with regards to websites too, don’t we? We always want to make it easy to sign up for a newsletter, so we add a widget to home page, or the show pages, and we have Google analytics on the site so we can understand the number of visitors. But how often do we add widgets or functions to the web-sales elements themselves, as opposed to just the “front end” of the website?

If, of course, you build your web sales tools against an API and from the ground up, then you can specify some of these elements during the design and build, but each one will be another area to test and debug with each system upgrade.

The use of “out of the box” (OOTB) web sales skins, sites or web elements, such as we see in many systems, takes a great deal of the costs and hassles out of upgrades, as the supplier takes care of this. Unfortunately, once this happens, you lose control in some ways of these add ons, that you could choose to enhance the web-sales process for end-users or for your own analytics.

hello I am Alex, how can I help you?

In the process of updating areas of this site as well as Ticketing Professionals one, I have come across a number of really fun “plug-ins” – great for the purpose I was looking for, but perhaps also for some ticketing websites too.

Below are some of the key ones that we should thinking about. To be hyper annoying, I decided to try and turn these on  for this page, perhaps as a warning about how we can ‘over-engage’

Agent Chat

I am not a big fan of these on SO MANY sites: you are browsing for 20 seconds and BANG, up comes a full screen box “hello I am Alex, how can I help you?”, you know the ones. However, when you are actually wanting some help, can’t find it in FAQs, online chat can make a huge difference to your opinion of the visit, but also the conversion rate.

Whereas it is not ingrained in the booking system itself, I love how the New Wolsey in Ipswich, UK, has enabled the tool throughout their whole online experience. I even gave it a go when researching this post.

New Wolsey Website

The New Wolsey theatre uses OLARK to allow customers to chat with box office staff

 

Quick Feedback

The example below is quite neat: the tab just sits quietly at the side of the page. Feedback, as we all know from monitoring web site comments can range massively, from the useful, insightful to the downright weird. Of course, feedback is a very wide ranging blanket and could be used to pick up spilling (SIC) and grammatical mistakes, technical issues, usability or accessibility.

Feedback on a website

There are hundred of website plug ins for feedback. Why none for Ticketing?

“we think there may be an issue with Safari on Android tablets for people paying by Amex”

What could we use it for? Anything. Especially when it is linked to the specific page so able to capture details of OS, Browser and many other characteristics. How many times as a vendor or venue have we had THOSE conversations “we think there may be an issue with Safari on Android tablets for people paying by Amex” – the use of a feedback button to screen shot and send diagnostics could really be a tool, even just on a new website launch.

Surveys, Forms and the Like

I am impressed with a few, and only a few, systems that can deliver real dynamic surveys or questions, based on basket contents, using per order or per “ticket” logic, I’ve seen this recently with Audienceview. Away from the “how many tickets, who are you and how are you paying?” there are hundreds of questions or themes we could possibly explore with our customers. We need to be careful that in order to buy a movie ticket we are not making the process long and convoluted, but if we think about gradual data collection and enrichment, where we only ask relevant and unanswered questions gradually, over time, we could learn so much more about our customers.

So, it’s a bit silly, but could we use this to capture better and richer information to make our guests’ visits smoother?

Proper Google Analytics

Proper you ask? Yes I say. All too often some venues just use GA to tell themselves or others how ‘good’ their website is. 30,000 page impressions last week, 16,000 unique visitors, 25% on mobile devices.  Who do these stats actually mean anything to? 76% of Pantomime BOOKINGS come from our dedicated micro-site, 32% of total revenues are from mobile devices, 10% of new bookers come from the “Buy Tickets” button on the home pages, not our pages of content on each show. These are what I call real stats, to help make informed business decisions.

Who do these stats actually mean anything to?

Too many vendors “support” Google Analytics by simply allowing a code to be inserted on each transaction page. That’s it. Many website plugins are available and some ticketing suppliers support passing more to Analytics.

I particularly enjoy how well Toptix’s SRO4 is integrated pretty much out of the box to to allow great insights such as this

Analytics_Screenshot

Let’s look at where the money is coming from online………like normal retailers do.

 

Straight to Automation Central

Before we start, there are numerous ticketing platforms and email providers out there, but I absolutely LOVE how Ticketsolve have joined up the buying experience with the use of some of the advanced features in Mailchimp.

By integrating an advanced set of data passing to Mailchimp, such as the show date, genre, basket total and many other fields, a whole series of automation can be configured ONCE and left to continually market to customers based on demonstrated behaviour, patterns and available products.

it could be a real game changer to get a whole load of these marketing tasks automated.

Whereas many of you may have large or sizeable marketing departments, many don’t. So automatically building this weeks’ “What’s on” email and sending to everyone on the database is not that advanced, but sending a comedy slanted version to those who purchase comedy more than music and vice versa is. Now eliminate any shows they have already purchased for, change the headline pricing because they are a member already gives at least 8 possible variations tailored to those groups of customers.

This is no doubt possible through use of your ticketing systems’ segmentation tools and sending the lists, or flags, to your email provider, like we see with Spektrix and dotmailer but it could be a real game changer to get a whole load of these marketing tasks automated.

It’s not hard: we use it on the Ticketing Professionals website, a small add on to Event Espresso, simply marks an attendance flag in a Mailchimp record.

Mailchimp Integration

Mailchimp accepts many API calls to update lists

A/B Testing Tools

Ron Evans once told me a story about how an organisation he was working with changed their “Book Now” to “Buy Tickets” button on their website. The result?

That’s obvious! Well is it? Perhaps.

Decreased bounce rate from the home page, increase in overall conversion rates (visits that resulted in a purchase) and decrease in pages to conversions (as people could more easily find what they wanted to do)

Buy Tickets Button

Will all customers understand where this will take them? Probably

Now on telling that story, as I have many times, people often respond, “well that’s obvious!” Well is it? Perhaps, but what about the colour of the button. Would a blue one work better? Maybe that would be more “on brand”. Craig Sullivan sums this up best in this video. If you have not watched any of his online presentations I would recommend them.

There are a large number of tools out there to let you optimise your site. We are not talking about mobile optimisation here, but conversion optimisation. Making smaller, informed decisions, measuring the effect on customer visits to find the best layout, colours or words. Tools like Optimizely can have you up and running in minutes with two different ‘buy now’ buttons serving them up on a 50:50 basis and the value of sales that each one delivers. In fairness, unless you are a sizeable retailer, the results are not going to be statistically significant, but could still give a clear indication of which one works better or is more understood by customers.

In order to use tools such as Optimizely you need the ability to add custom Javascript to pages, something that some OOTB ticketing system sites, such as PatronBase’s skins easily allow customers to do.

Are these Super-charging?

No, OK not super-charging, but we are refocusing away from what just ‘looks nice’ and at least getting our websales actually doing what they are supposed to……..engaging with customers and as one great slide from Ticketing Professionals in February said…….

Speaker_at_Conference

Sell some more f***ing tickets!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cart before horse? Always!

Working with organisations rebuilding their brand, digital presence or ticketing often sees us witness “interesting” decisions. Often lost in the battle for budget is the importance of the cart.

So some people don’t like the word, they prefer basket, apologies, I had to use cart to use the title.

it is a FACT that the money comes from the contents of the cart

I’m not taking sides, talking down web developers, digital marketers or bigging up the box office, but it is a FACT that the money comes from the contents of the cart…….if it doesn’t get abandoned.

We shouldn’t just look as the cart as a reciprocal, it is in the supermarket version, but online it’s where the “good stuff” should happen.

Back in 2008, whilst with ts.com (now part of Advanced Ticketing) we had one of the first systems to dynamically reprice carts, both in the box office and online. In fairness others had it too, but needed significant technical resource to drive it.

Now we see some of the leading systems deliver drag and drop rules for price manipulation. The latest version, 12.5, I believe, of Tessitura bring these new pricing rules right to the finger tips of users.

We must also acknowledge that these tools are common now in most systems right across the price ranges with Toptix’s SRO4 going way beyond just price in dynamic manipulation as basket level. Spektrix, AudienceView, Monad and Ticketsolve also offer clever tools too.

achieving what we all want, more bums on seats

Let’s not lose sight of the fact that by getting customers to form a cart, online, in person or even through a third party agency, WE (ticketing, marketing, programming) are just one step away from achieving what we all want, more bums on seats (Sorry Roger, hearts and minds) – people engaged and revenue earned.

It is amazing therefore that how dreary the /cart.htm or /basket.aspx pages can be. Lack of brand compliance issues, spelling mistakes, overlapping text, the list goes on and on.

Today I came across a horrendous implementation of the basket. Times New Roman, mixed with Aerial, obscured graphics and nonsensical tick boxes labeled ‘Phone’ and ‘Theatre Partners’ – no explanation, just tick boxes.

I can understand that people may choose to overly test their home page, multi browser, platform and device all play a part in greatly affecting what your lovely website will actually look like to real customers.

The trouble with deteriorating quality or standards as the journey progresses for a customer, coupled with natural drop off is just going to drive your conversion through the floor. Don’t get me wrong I am not suggesting a reversal of what we find now, a hashed together home page and superbly srtyled, multi device and OS optimized basket, I am saying that perhaps we should work the journey backwards.

Starting with a basket, ask the question, “How can I get the most amount of people to complete this page?” or “add more to the cart??”

You can then work backwards to the seating plan and do the same.

Remember the real hard work has been done, the customer knows about the show, the venue, they have come to the site, indicated what they want to see, when and perhaps with whom.

If you haven’t for a while I suggest you take some time to build a cart and then ask yourself what you could change or even trial to try and improve conversions.

Many systems support custom javascript on pages, I was recently having great fun manipulating how a basket appeared in a demo PatronBase account by using Optimizely to change button colours, text and measure the results, does “Buy Now” or “Secure your Tickets” work best? Try it for yourself.

We’re in ecommerce. I know a few of you will disagree, but we are and it’s all about conversions. Getting people to pay for what’s in the cart. So it seems a good place to focus our attention, don’t you think?

 

 

 

 

 

 

You are NOT using the “best”, there is no such thing!

It’s one of the questions I get asked the most, what’s the best system. Don’t worry this piece is not about that, although during the Olympics, possibly, it should be.

There are a lot of rivalries, claim and counter claim, we see just in the world of mobile telephony.  Are you an Apple or Android user? Do you still perhaps have a BlackBerry or even one of the few people who read this site on a Windows Phone ( Here in case anyone is wondering what that is ).  I’m going to use Windows and ex CEO Steve Ballmer to demonstrate the odd behaviour demonstrated by people so blinded by their own product or choice of product.

Now we hear several different levels of these rivalries.  We hear the CEO or Senior Executives laugh off competition, price or feature sets ( The best ever one ), the law suits that seem to go back and forth, and then the users.

It’s odd, with phones, I have gone around the houses, currently use an Android device, love it, used an iPhone, loved it, ditto BlackBerry and even old Windows Mobile, Symbian and just the good old Nokia 3310, but never feel the need to whoop, holler and cheer about it every five minutes, or conference time. I cover conferences and I see innovation, like I did at ProVenue Exchange, by the bucket-load, in Phoenix this year, but I also see “meh” functionality, like I saw at {Blank}.  Because I see the range, I appreciate true quality.

Each phone, or OS, did or does a job, the same but different. Each has a killer feature edge or Achilles’ heel.

……and we’re still in the ******* box office!

It is human nature that we love to think or believe we have chosen, use or own the ‘best’ – phone, car, breed of dog – so we go to great lengths to find more and more ways to convince our colleagues that we have done just that.

This is particularly true in the world of ticketing systems, but can be found in choice of web CMS (WordPress, Drupal, custom build), Payment Gateway, Ticket Printer, Stock provider . . . . . and we’re still in the ******* box office!

During conference season this is particularly true. Take these fictitious, but commonly themed tweets about technology vendors.

  • Got to love {BLANK}, only they provide such great swag.
  • So amazing to be part of {BLANK}, the only innovators in the Arts

In NO particular order . . . . Toptix has superb hip flasks , Spektrix water bottles, Tessitura power blocks and AudienceView sunglasses. All of these make my fishing trips much more comfortable, but they ALL do it, they all have swag, just as they all have conferences.

Innovation and features become more difficult: there are some clear differences between systems and this is where there start to become subtle variations.

This leads in turn to drinking the Kool-aid.

Of course, not all vendors understand that, as a collective or as individuals. This can often lead to wild (but they think truthful) comments. If these are not checked or challenged people actually believe them. This leads in turn to drinking the Kool-aid. I regularly have to challenge vendors who claimed everything from their system was the “only one with a single database for customers and donors” to another one who claimed their system prevented ALL fraud in the box office.

The trouble with these misconceptions is that over time they build up and give you the impression that you have the best solution, that nothing else compares, that there can be no cost-saving, better online or other efficiency, by looking or going else-where.

Soon enough you become Steve Ballmer and actually believe you have the best, but unless you look around and continually compare, how do you know?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Discover Centre Live with RecreateX

On Saturday the 30th of July Discover Children’s Story Centre went live with ReCreateX.

Discover Children’s Story Centre is the UK’s first hands-on creative literacy centre for children aged 0-11 years and their families, carers and teachers.

The site has 2 main entry POS systems, here customers buy a ticket (Day Pass) and select the other events they would like to attend on the day using our exhibitions module. The 3rd Point of Sale is located in the Café where the customers are able to buy food and beverage as well as their day tickets if they so wish.

This popular London venue offers visitors to book their tickets online, this can be done through the website: https://booking.discover.org.uk/

Discover has a loyal customer base for which they use our Membership module, they also use Stock control, Direct Debits, Tablets for queue busting and sell retail items through the Shop.

Data Driven Disasters? – Re-targeting

Heh, I love data. I love playing with it, looking for trends, talking about its inherent value, what organisations could or should be doing with it. Without a doubt it has given marketing folk the ability to ‘target’ people with offers, news and a whole plethora of information.

follow me around the web like a unwelcome drunk at a bus station

I am not just talking about “name@domain.com” and that they came to “Show A” on the “Day / Month / Year” and Paid for an “Student” in “Price A” in “Stalls”, using promo code “Nofee”  and booked at “event day minus three weeks, two days, four hours and five seconds”, on the “web”, “through web interface 2” on a “tablet”, paying by Amex…………..now just in there there is load of data to allow people to target that consumer.

The last four years has seen the hidden data revolution. Pixels…..cookies……tags…….it just doesn’t stop.

Now this is progress no doubt and allows people to be re-targeted. It’s just I find it so damn annoying.

Take below, my local paper’s homepage. Over 1/3 of real estate taken up by a company whose homepage I looked at briefly to find a phone number and one who I was browsing their products…… over 4 months ago. They follow me around the web like a unwelcome drunk at a bus station……….of course I am not referring to the companies or their products but their ads.

 

TakenOver

These ads follow me everywhere

 

Being due to spend quite a lot of time in Scotland in the next few months, I have been searching routes, by plane, by multiple airlines, from and to multiple airports, connect trains and of course hotels. I have now booked my chose routes and dates, but does that stop me from endless ads to say “still want to book this hotel in Aberdeen?” / “complete your booking for flight to Inverness”. The very knowledgeable Ed Auden from VE Interactive gave an interesting presentation recently at a Toptix user day when he talked of the issues with this re-targeting (even though his company offers it as a core product) – simply because site A does not know that you were looking at routes, or more importantly that itinerary A and B were mutually exclusive or were actually booked on site C!

still want to book this hotel in Aberdeen?

Ok, Ok……I get it, the Internet is not that clever, and a cookie does not tell the whole story and track multi-site search and conversion, but why, why oh why does INTUIT – makers of quick books target me for a “free trial” of quick books, a product I subscribe to and access their system on my computer on on a daily basis. Surely my logging in must alert their re-targeting that I have already ‘converted’? Or is the thinking that are the costs per page impression so low what does it matter if some of our existing customers get served the advert?

I already pay you money, I don't need a trial!

I already pay you money, I don’t need a trial!

In ‘old fashioned’ marketing we would never dream of adding “exclude people who have already bought this production” to a query to offer discounted tickets would we? Would we also target someone consistently that registered for a newsletter years ago, had never bought a ticket, opened an email we’d sent or logged into the site?

These new tools are just different ways of managing our data and our relationship with customers, it seems that so many have rushed to embrace them, they have forgotten some of the basics that we all did (a long time ago) in marketing 101.

 

 

 

 

London Irish Partners With Ticket ABC

Dublin, 29th January 2016

London Irish is pleased to announce that supporters can now purchase tickets both on their mobile and through London Irish’s Facebook page following an agreement with Ticket ABC, the leading ticketing software company.
Christine Bailey London Irish’s Head of Marketing and Communications commented, “We’re delighted to partner with Ticket ABC, to establish new sales channels that improve the online customer experience by offering a fully mobile optimised and user friendly platform to ensure supporters can get their match tickets whilst on the go.”
Ticket ABC’s CEO Mark Mc Laughlin added, “Mobile and social are increasingly the two most important channels for selling tickets and we’re excited to be partnering with London Irish so their customers can buy tickets on their mobile device at any time and also pay using PayPal”.
Match tickets for 2016 home games including the St Patrick’s Day Game against Gloucester are on sale now at https://london-irish.ticketabc.com
About Ticket ABC Ticket ABC is a low cost, feature rich and future focused white label ticketing and venue management solution used over 140 venues, promoters and artists. Brand your account to have the same look and feel as your website, better understand your sales and customers with our graphical reporting tool and integrate with social media to sell tickets within any Facebook page.

5 Quick Questions on Digital Signage

The subject of suitable digital signage solutions is something we regularly hear of from clients, with a lot of people wanting them or at least investigating how it could work for their venue.

There are some solutions in the ticketing space that offer some inbuilt functionality in this respect, such as PatronBase.

Read more