Concert crowd facing a band on stage

CX best practices for the live events industry

It's the summer of live entertainment's big return, as stadium roofs open and festival grounds grow packed with fans excited for the energy of in-person events. According to Allianz Partners USA's 14th Annual Vacation Confidence Index, 60% of those surveyed say they plan to attend at least one ticketed event this year, and 20% plan to attend three or more events before the end of 2022.

This desire to attend live events shines through in the financial reporting of major industry companies. Live Nation Entertainment reported a record first quarter of 2022 with 70 million tickets sold – double-digit growth from the pre-pandemic levels of 2019. Meanwhile, ticket resale platform SeatGeek also reported record growth earlier this year.

Though it is encouraging to see the rebound of live entertainment, the bounce back hasn't brought the industry to the same place it was before. Customer expectations have evolved. Today, a growing number of consumers expect a connection between digital and in-person experiences, increased safety measures to counter new threats and greater support in the face of uncertainty (like postponements and cancellations). To state it simply: Ticket platforms are being called upon to rethink their approach to customer experience (CX).

Customer experience best practices

A defining characteristic of the event ticketing industry is its high level of interaction between customers and online platforms. Beyond the initial purchase, platforms often facilitate the selling of add-ons like relevant merchandise, and ticket reselling, transferring, cancelling and refunds. This leaves a lot of room to build out a unique customer experience that fosters loyalty and drives further sales.

Here's a look at four industry best practices to help build a deeper connection with customers and leave a lasting impression beyond the event.

1. Journey mapping

Tickets are an investment. Customers pay in the present for an experience in the future. One way to maximize the return on that investment is to take a step back and look at the entire journey – pre-event to post-event. Every touchpoint is an opportunity to reduce friction and add value, from the way the customer finds out about the event in the first place to how they receive their tickets, from the event experience to what's next.

At SoFI stadium, home of the National Football League's Los Angeles Rams and Los Angeles Chargers, engineers partnered with Google Cloud to build a concierge app that tailors game day experiences that includes everything from locating available parking, to real-time transportation data. A similar approach is put into play by SeatGeek's Rally platform, which bridges the gap between day-of details like ordering food at the venue and purchasing must-have merchandise. SeatGeek's offering even helps coordinate ridesharing through a partnership with Lyft. This approach to CX considers the entire journey, including user actions, emotions and any pain points that could arise.

2. Personalization

For many customers, buying tickets to a sporting event, concert or festival is rooted in passion. People aren't just buying a ticket; they're buying the experience and supporting something they love. Ticket platforms find success when they offer up more of what their customers love, and the key to that lies in customer data.

A recent survey by TELUS International found that 43% of customers believe CX interactions should become more personalized. In exchange for personal data supplied by customers, ticket platforms can bring together the powerful duo of fandom and personalization.

The appetite is already there. According to Atvenu, a point-of-sale and inventory management platform for live events, fans responded to the pandemic's slowdown by ramping up their purchase of merchandise and other add-ons in 2021. One-in-five people purchased merch in 2021 versus one-in-ten in 2019.

So how can brands personalize for event-goers? Here's a few tactics used by leaders in the industry:

  • In the lead up to an event, a fan is more likely to be on the hunt for merchandise to wear on the big day. Why not offer a discount to ticket holders, or access to exclusive items?
  • Encourage customers to drum up excitement. Make it easy for them to share that they're going, and consider incentivizing them to get others to join them.
  • After the event, let customers know about further opportunities to see their favorite team or artist next time they're in town, or other similar events that are likely to be of interest.

3. Omnichannel

With live events, timing is critical, everything from purchasing in-demand tickets before they sell out to showing tickets at a venue has to be streamlined. Customer support needs to be easy to access and efficient, across platforms – whether the customer is trying to get a quick answer while buying tickets on their computer at home or standing at the gate of an event with a mobile ticket waiting for entry. This underlines the importance of omnichannel CX.

One of the most notable live entertainment industry trends over the past few years has been the rise in virtual events. While the rise in these types of events may have been borne out of necessity, they're sticking around and have led to the emergence of hybrid events. For those unable, or not yet willing, to attend an in-person event, there are now platforms like Live Nation-owned Veeps that address the fear of missing out.

From a ticket platform perspective, this necessitates critical thought. Customers should have a consistent support experience whether they're in the front row or on the couch, but at the same time, brands should still tailor the experience to the different mediums and their likely pain points. While the sources of frustration may differ — say, long lines for entry versus log-in difficulties — the need for empathetic and timely support is the same.

4. Trust and Safety

Unfortunately, there are those who wish to put a damper on live entertainment's big return. Amid all the excitement, industry players are tasked with addressing threats to customer trust and safety. Fake tickets, scams and data breaches are not to be taken lightly.

That message has been received by ticket platforms. Many have seen the the growing comfort levels with digital technology and introduced innovations related to digital tickets and cashless interactions.

Live Nation, for example, includes a barcode on mobile tickets with technology that makes screenshots and printouts unscannable, making it so a ticket can only be used by its rightful owner. Resellers like SeatGeek have created a safe space for fans to resell their tickets, guaranteeing their legitimacy and ensuring they don't have to meet up with a stranger. For hybrid or online-only events, platforms like Eventbrite offer functionality to control who can gain access and what they can do once they're in.

Back to the future of live events

Whether customers are buying tickets for events to attend in-person or virtually, there's no question that the live entertainment industry looks very different than it did a few years ago. Regardless of medium, there is a stable market willing to pay for experience and connection. That's an opportunity for ticket platforms just as much as it is for the athletes on the field or the artist on the stage.

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