Countries around the world are reopening, and with regulations in place, allowing ticketing businesses, venues and attractions to do the same. But what is the future of live events? Do customers want to come back? What does reopening look like and what should ticketing organizations do to prepare?
Will visitors want to come back?
Over the last few months, the future of ticketing and admission management has been on every industry professional’s mind. Many question whether businesses will see a resurgence in visitors and live event attendees.
Happily, the answer appears to be an unequivocal yes.
Patrons around the world are ready and willing to participate in live experiences as soon as countries allow them to.
- According to a recent survey by music festival marketplace Festicket, over 80% of the 110,000 festival attenders surveyed in the UK, France, Germany and the Netherlands said they would be willing to attend an event within six months of lockdown restrictions being lifted. Given the opportunity, a third of respondents would return immediately. Another third would return in 2-3 months.
- Another survey by Vivendi Brand Marketing found two-thirds of concertgoers would make it a priority to return to out-of-home entertainment activities when allowed to.
- Demand for U.S. based National Football League (NFL) tickets is up 243% compared with last year’s first day of sales.
- Full festival tickets for Denmark’s 2021 Roskilde Festival sold out in a few hours. 85% of ticketholders for this year’s canceled festival also chose to hold on to their tickets for next year.
- With restrictions lifted in New Zealand, sports fans were expected and turned out en-masse for Super Rugby Aotearoa, its domestic rugby tournament.
It appears that after months of lockdown, there is a great demand for the emotional connection of seeing live events in person. According to Valarie Benning-Thompson, veteran producer of live events:
People will be coming back to enjoy it because there's nothing like being able to be in the arena when everybody's laughing and enjoying, or watch a concert and feeling the actual vibration of the floor.
What does reopening look like?
Safety must be the top priority
Although live events and entertainment are being given the green light to open again, it’s not business as usual. For most venues, reopening means operating at reduced capacity or instating new rules, such as event attendees wearing masks and keeping a certain distance from others. Some of the earliest venues to reopen, like theaters and concert halls in China have re-opened at 30% capacity while also live-streaming events for a blended audience.
Safety needs to be a priority not only because of local laws, but because that is what fans expect to feel comfortable returning to. For instance, while almost 60% of movie-goers say they would return to the cinema within a month of screens reopening, 42% also reported that spaced seating was the most important measure venues could take to encourage their return. In addition, 88% of movie-goers said they would prefer to purchase digital tickets to avoid contact with workers.
That means that attractions need to find an alternative way to sell tickets and reservations for events, which brings up to our next point.
More ticket sales are moving online
To ensure customer safety for admission, more venues are moving the physical line online, even attractions and venues where ticket sales or reservations have historically been done in person.
Two notable examples of this trend: amusement parks and zoos. The days of last-minute decisions to visit parks and buy tickets in-person will be a thing of the past (at least for now). Rather, many venues will focus on timed ticket programs to space out arrivals to the park. Disneyworld in Florida has already unveiled plans for its new advanced reservation process for its reopening this summer in July. Advanced purchases will be required to enter the parks.
Zoos around the world are also opening up, with some choosing to keep certain exhibits closed to maintain distance between visitors. Others are planning phased reopenings of animal houses to prevent sudden increases in visitors from disturbing the animals.
In some cases venues are looking to the past for inspiration, with drive-in movies seeing a resurgence around the world. In collaboration with Ticketmaster, country perfomer Garth Brooks even held a drive-in concert that played at 300 locations in the U.S. and Canada.
Even beaches are now considering advanced online reservations to maintain local guidelines for social distancing!
In the initial months, capacity for most attractions may be limited to half, but demand may double. After months of closure, there's an appetite for live events. More businesses than ever will need an online ticketing or reservation system. And many will not be prepared for the demand with untested systems.
What should organizations do to prepare for reopening?
Ticketing companies, venues, and other attractions need to recognize the new limitations in reopening and have a plan in place for live event sales. Over the last several months, most organizations in the industry have taken a hit and are keen to get back on track. But they need options to accept customers, comply with safety regulations, and ensure their infrastructure (both physical and online) can handle the demand.
Load test prior to ticket sales & reservation openings
Load testing is one of the best preparations you can make ahead of sales events, especially if you’re using newly built and previously untested ticketing infrastructure. This type of performance testing that involves sending simulated traffic to put demands on your website or app. It provides data on the traffic levels your website can realistically handle. Critically, load testing lets you see your website in terms of website throughput (visitors per unit of time) rather than a static snapshot of concurrent users.
It’s important to start load testing early to have time to fix problems that come up. But if you make any code changes, the tests will need to be run again.
Related: Load Testing – Getting Started with Gatling and RedLine13
Related: How to avoid the website capacity mistake everyone makes
Know your bottlenecks
It’s crucial to know how many visitors your ticketing website can support. However, when thinking of website capacity, many businesses forget how important the distribution of shoppers is. If you think you can handle 1,000 concurrent visitors, but all of them are in a bottleneck on one page, your site can slow down or crash during sales events.
The fact is, certain pages are more prone to bottlenecks, especially those where key technical activities happen. As soon as tickets or reservations are made available to an excited public, you’ll have added strain on your inventory databases and checkout payment pages. Online ticketing businesses need to know where their weak points are and plan accordingly.
Related: What the biggest days of the year mean for your technology stack
Space out demand
Excited to reopen, many organizations plan to let customers and fans know through email blasts. But is your website prepared to handle the sudden influx of interested traffic?
Imagine most customers open your email, click-through-rate is high, and interested visitors overwhelm your site. If your site crashes, not only are you disappointing your buyers who want the live experience you provide, but you’re effectively losing sales and badly needed revenue. You want your email newsletter to drive traffic to your website. But to successfully generate sales, your site needs to manage the traffic your email will generate.
Related: How to send an email blast that drives results
Implement a virtual waiting room
A virtual waiting room can support your website during website surges, whether sudden or for a planned event, allowing visitors in at a rate your infrastructure can handle. Manage pre-sale build-up with a countdown pre-queue page to ensure your site isn’t overwhelmed before sales even begin.
Keep customers engaged and your events fair and transparent by showing individualized wait information, sending out real-time messages on the status of sales (i.e. how many tickets/reservation spots are left). With a virtual waiting room you can protect your website, your customer experience, and your revenue when it matters most.
What ticketing industry initiatives should I know about?
These last few months have been a difficult time for the ticketing industry and there are few who haven’t been adversely affected, including vendors, venues, attractions, artists, and other organizations.
However, in these unprecedented times, the industry has been rallying together to support its community, keeping updated with the latest trends and reopening plans. Organizations like WeWillRecover, INTIX’s COVID-19 Relief Fund, TPC’s COVID-19 Webinar Series, the Ticketing Business Forum, and IQ Magazine aim to support businesses with grants, information & assistance to get up and running again.
The future of live events feels unclear for many businesses. But working together as a community, we’ll get through these tough times.