Roger and I keep coming back to the conversation of WHAT IS a ticketing system?

The word that’s important here is SYSTEM, as we are trying to distinguish between a system you purchase or access through a SaaS model and a ‘Ticket-Selling’ website you may place your ticketing inventory on. Of course, there are then the systems that are more than just ticketing and offer additional tools around fundraising, eCommerce and/or extended analytic or CRM functions.

It is then a little unfair to potentially say something is “not a system” when it may serve a very useful purpose to certain sizes or types of organisation.  Now how about we come up with some names and definitions, so that way we can start to look at where the offerings of different vendors sit?

So I am using STEPs – Systems, Tools, Enhancements and Platforms,

Enhancements

Enhancements do not directly sell tickets, they may promote, they may analyse, they may have great fantastic marketing outputs or management information tools.  Some may simply make the ticket-buying process better, faster, more efficient or generally nicer.

Examples of enhancements would be

Queue or Capacity Management software or services, such as Queue-it and Crowd Handler

Analytic and Profiling tools such as Purple Seven or Baker Richard’s Revenue Management Application

Tools 

I struggled to find the word to describe what I meant here. Tools is what I settled on.

Some may push the boundaries….but basically they just sell tickets

Tools are just that – “things that you can use to do a job”.  Tools are often websites or SaaS based modules that allow you to create a webpage to promote or sell your tickets and capture some basic or extended information on your customers, typically without a basket or sign in process.  They are purely to sell a ticket. Some may push the boundaries of this and have some promotion codes, or other extras, but basically they just sell tickets and produce a print at home style ticket and some very basic reporting.

Tools examples would be Ticketscript and Believe.In (closing shortly)

Of course, many companies may start out as Tool but through years of development and refinement progress to a complete SYSTEM, a good example of this is Advanced Ticketing’s Web product.

So we come onto the difficult words Systems and Platforms and their definition. We had a great debate at the Ticketing Institute Session in Bristol in July on this subject, with some vendors unable to agree to what a platform WAS, let alone whether they were one or not.

John Caldwell, Chief Evangelist for PatronBase went on to blog about the subject , which you can read here

From My point of view, with Roger no doubt to contest, a platform is an extension of a system, so let’s start with system first.

Systems

Systems are collections of functions into one software package that allow box offices, along with their attached marketing and other customer-facing departments, to effectively create, administer, sell, report and market event tickets. It is vital that they must be able to complete these tasks.  The level, speed, automation  and efficiency at which they can do this is what is used to set them apart, along with price of course.

Some systems do do things differently. Spektrix, for example, offers some amazing service levels to its customers by creating and editing seating plans when needed; others give the tools directly to the users.  Both of these approaches have benefits, but show the requirement is met.

With regards to selling, some offer browser based solutions, others locally installed programmes, somewhere in between we see hosted / hybrid solutions.

There are a great number of sales terminals that still offer  a text based sales screen, like we see below,

SensibleCinemaSoftware

whilst at the other end, SaaS cloud solutions such as Spektrix  and Ticket Solve offer elegant pleasing user experiences. Again, what it looks like is not relevant in saying “can I sell ticket myself, in the office?” If the answer is yes, you are one step closer to being a system instead of a tool.

TicketSolve

TicketSolve, like many systems offer far more than just buying a ticket

Some would argue marketing is not part of ticketing. That might be true, no more than finance is. It IS however essential to getting the message of the event out to the ticket buying public, and doing this with data that comes from ticketing. They form a symbiotic relationship, they are both reliant on each other. The box office is a prime source of data, so the ability to extract and segment this, then execute a campaigns is key. In this area, again, there are clear ways in which some systems perform in a different, perhaps better, way, but all systems must offer the chance to do this, even if as basic as people who came to A but not to B.

So systems must be able to create, sell, report and market the inventory

I always referred to Reporting as ‘the boring bit’ when demonstrating systems, it is, unless you love financials and analysis. It is, however, another essential item, that must be on offer in systems. Some trying to prove their system credentials may talk of being able to put sales into Excel or similar – this is not reporting. Through pre built, user configurable or completely custom reports, systems MUST be able to give sales totals by user, time period, event and possibly more criteria, but this does set the minimum level for what we should expect. Since every producer seems to want a “sales movement report”, it is surprising the number of systems that don’t have one as standard.

So systems must be able to create, sell, report and market the inventory. So what makes it a platform?

Platforms

Platforms are more than systems, at a higher level?  They have all the features of systems, or do they?  Platforms are still at their heart a ticketing system, but with the ability to launch other applications, interact with them, perform different and more varied tasks in an organisation or can be modified, adapted or added to as the venue sees fit.  As Roger would have it: they provide the ‘database of truth’ for interactions with customers, and the data can be deployed in whichever software needs it.

AudienceView has recently adopted the platform word as part of its core marketing message and brand, as it offers much more than just ticketing – EPOS, eCommerce, fundraising and CMS tools to name but a few. We also see Tessitura wholly in this categorisation; after all how many systems has the add-ons that it does, with multiple third-party providers, whether commercially available, or developed in house? Despite John Caldwell’s view, I would also consider PatronBase to be moving towards the platform end of systems, as from its modular design, it allows other applications to replace its offerings and gives its users the choice of which e-marketing solution or payment authorization systems it wants to deploy and integrates with Artifax and other software.

Toptix’s SRO4 must also be seen to be in the platform collection as it has, similar to AudienceView, a whole range of extra features that allow it to be deployed throughout an organisation as well as beyond its boundaries, thanks to a thorough and well thought out API.  It has an ability to create ‘data views’ which can be fed to other software to enable customer data to integrate live into other applications.

Summary

Whether you agree that systems and platforms are two different things or in fact largely the same, they are different to the separate enhancements and tools that are often seen at trade shows or promoted online. It is interesting the rate at which suppliers are seeming to move from the Tool to System stages or how Systems are adding features (Queuing engines, rules engines, pricing tools, venue management sections) or embracing the Cloud to help differentiate themselves or establish what they believe is a USP.

Regardless of their features, or how they or others define themselves, there will always be the need to maintain sensible pricing, tangible value, required functionality and continued investment. These should be the marker when evaluating any technology, not just a ‘ticketing system’