Overall, how would you rate your online ticket purchasing experiences?

Personally, I believe the vast majority of current ticket selling services of concerts, sports, theater, among other, is still ineffective when it comes to reducing consumer risk.

Ticket selling online can be much more efficient. And what is the main problem?

Problem Description

Consumers often purchase tickets basing their decision on an extremely limited amount and type of information. Selling and re-selling ticket sites commonly display titles of categories (e.g. Premium, Gold, Silver, Basic) with a brief service description, provide a 2D map of the venue displayed seat numbers.

Consumers have literally no idea of what will face until actually entering the venue and finding his or her seat. This experience can be positively surprising or extremely frustrating.

And this is exactly where the problem lies. The lack of information can have very negative consequences:

  1. Reduced conversion: When faced with uncertainty or high perceived risk, consumers will retrieve from purchase. Thus, the event or site might have a low conversion of “lookers” into “bookers” for the simple fact of not working to reduce uncertainty on their site.
  2. Reduced Upgrading: In many cases if consumers had the opportunity to preview accurately the benefits of a more expensive seating area, there is a great likelihood they would upgrade their purchase. 
  3. Dissatisfaction: Consumers often have a negative disconfirmation while contrasting expectation and reality, when finding their seats at a venue. This is because many online ticket selling sites also only allow consumers to choose a section of the venue and not even the seat number, which is given once the ticket is issued.

Example 1: The 2017 Rolling Stones European Tour

The Rolling Stones are soon going on tour around Europe and the tickets are being officially sold by Eventim.de for concerts in Germany. The VIP tickets range from €275 up to €1.275. The categories are labelled such as “Start Me Up”, “Brown Sugar” and “Paint It Black”, with reference to songs from the group.

So you might ask: How does the consumer differentiates each category to make a decision?

Through written bullet points with service descriptions.

Please consider, paying €1.275 for a ticket represents a great financial risk for a great deal of consumers and reducing risks during their decision-making process represents a pivotal support to convert “lookers” into “bookers”.

Example 2: Fc Barcelona

Fc Barcelona is one of the most extraordinary football clubs in the world. To have the privilege of watching Messi, Neymar and other fantastic players live on a true temple of football can be an unforgettable experience.

But how can consumers purchase a ticket they will surely appreciate?

The most common practices used by the sports and entertainment industries lies on 2D map displays. Most likely, you have already had the experience of purchasing a ticket for a game and having to decide on seat location based on maps such as the one below:

The example above is from the renowned company Ticket Bureau. They are well established and have done a fantastic job in selling tickets online. Nonetheless, consider how difficult it must be for consumers to purchase a ticket for such enormous venue.

At Camp Nou, the stadium of Fc Barcelona there are 548 possible seating locations (considering all categories) and 99.354 seats available!

Purchasing a ticket for such game can be a quick experience of information overload or simply the consumer will simply accept the fact of purchasing a ticket on any location and waiting for the live moment to make a final satisfaction evaluation at the stadium.

I guess we have all experienced this, right?

So the question is: How should this problem be solved?

Solution 1: Unofficial Consumer Solutions

An interesting form of “ticket selling support” has appeared from unofficial consumer-to-consumer experience sharing through YouTube. In almost every possible event category and venue types, one can find great amount of videos with titles of seating categories uploaded by fans to allow fellow fans to undergo a more precise purchase.

Such consumer solutions only highlight the problem, still not addressed by the industry.

Example: Formula 1

When purchasing a Formula 1 ticket, consumer often purchase full weekend packages. In other words, the fan will sit on the exact same seat for an entire Friday (Free Practice), Saturday (Free Practice and Qualifying) and Sunday (Race).  Thus, decision making is crucial for a positive future experience at the track.

Furthermore, the spectator must be sure the seating location has not only a good view of the track but also of the large TV screens and other sections of the track. During the weekend, weather variations may also occur and fans must consider it. For this reason, one can find countless amateur videos with seating category descriptions.

In the example below, the user explicitly labelled the seat category and number:

And certainly there are technologies available to allow a better customer support. And the most appropriate can only be…. Virtual Reality (VR).

Solution 2: StubHub Creates Seat Previewing with VR

StubHub is an incredible online ticket selling company, owned by eBay. It was founded in 2000 and since then have established themselves as a key market player.

In 2016, the company made a considerable contribution to the discussion of lack of information during ticket purchase by being a pioneer in developing seat previewing through virtual reality.

The general idea behind it is extremely simple and effective: To create VR content for each seat available, or seating area of the venue, for consumers to preview the location of seats on ticket selling sites.  

Here is an example for an ice hockey venue:

In the example above one can clearly see the benefits of using the technology to allow a better experience during online ticket purchase.

And, in my view, it certainly represents the best solution possible for this problem.

However, implementing it can also bring a few challenges.

Challenges During Implementation

Despite the obvious benefits of implementing VR to allow a preview of seating location, there are also some challenges:

  1. Implementation: Consider an arena with 14,000 seats. It means the implementation will require taking an incredible amount of 360 degree photos of VR content.
  2. Venue Display: Most arenas and venues have a variety of possible seating arrangements, depending on the event. This would mean having to generate content for each seat in each seating arrangement.
  3. User Engagement: The effort and investment in such implementation is only viable if the user actually adopts it. Thus, initially it might also require an effort of consumer education.

Final Thoughts

Despite implementation challenges, companies must adopt VR for seat view during ticket selling and the industry must work to implement it and make it accessible. Considering the VR technology, there are simply no excuses for eventual poor consumer experience due to lack of information during purchase.