The signs are looking good. The live entertainment, sport and cultural sectors are set for a rebound in 2021 with pilot events proving that the safe reopening of venues is possible. But the road to full recovery will be gradual, warns Frederic Longatte, CEO of ticketing engagement platform SecuTix. Here he shares his thoughts on what the ticketing industry will be focusing on in 2021.
Whilst many are desperate to return to stadiums, gig venues and museums, there will undoubtedly be those who are in less of a hurry, concerned about being in a crowd and close to others. It’s the responsibility of all us working in live events to focus our efforts on rebuilding trust with the public.
Audiences need to know that they will be safe in the venue and that all necessary precautions have been taken. They also want reassurance that they won’t be out of pocket if events are cancelled and that any changes are clearly communicated to them. In 2021, making the customer experience, both online and in-person, as seamless and easy as possible has to be our priority. Refunds should be quick and hassle-free. The flow of communication to attendees needs to be fast and concise. The chaos of 2020 has caused enough worries and anxieties; the last thing people want when they are seeking entertainment and fun is any additional stress.
Reopening with venue checks
In the first half of next year, there will be more pilot events testing out different ways to conduct health screening. Venue checks will become the norm, with possible COVID testing at venues and eventually the verification of vaccination status. To roll this out effectively, venues will be looking at ways to identify all ticket holders, so they know who is coming in and their health status. I expect to see tickets linked to a certificate or other formal proofs of health.
Need To Be Agile
Until the summer, the return to live is going to be a very fluid situation. We’ve already seen the reopening and subsequent closing of venues, and this pattern is likely to continue until the middle of next year.
Managing this unpredictability will require venues and event organisers to adopt a highly flexible approach that can adapt to meet the restrictions and limitations set by governments in terms of audience flow, capacity and social distancing.
We will continue to see disruption at the eleventh hour. Significant changes or cancellations may need to be rolled out with little notice: change of date, timings, capacity or even venue. Those that can respond quickly and, importantly, communicate the changes swiftly and clearly to all attendees, are more likely to survive the impact of the pandemic. The ability to be agile will be the difference between success and failure.
Better Audience Knowledge
Knowing every single individual in your database has never been more important, and it’s not just from a COVID perspective. To keep audiences engaged when they can’t attend events, you need to understand their preferences and create hyper-targeted, personalised marketing initiatives. This will lead to revenue diversification through cross-selling and upselling directly to individuals.
A consequence of this is that next year we will see ticketing platforms further integrate with third-party apps in areas such as CRM and business intelligence, that can better support customer insights.
Diverse Revenue Streams
Pre-COVID, we already saw a trend to diversify revenue streams. In 2021, this is only going to accelerate. Audiences have embraced virtual events and streamed content throughout the pandemic, and this is one ‘lockdown habit’ that is here to stay.
Museums and exhibitions are proving particularly well-positioned to leverage the digitalisation of content. COVID has forced the cultural sector to adopt new business models with the loss of the traditional entrance fee or visitor donation revenue. Virtual visits and workshops will now go hand in hand with the upsell and cross-sales functional possibilities.
As for theatres and live music events, they are now distributing paid content via newly created channels. From performance video footage to backstage exclusives, the sector has been creative in monetising their content. The knock-on effect is that we may see an overhaul of artist contracts to include obligations covering content in addition to the on-stage performance.
The pandemic has reinforced the need to adopt a digital approach, and it has accelerated the digital transformation across the industry.
In a world where we want to minimise physical contact, venues will increasingly employ ‘non-touch’ digital solutions. The days of the paper ticket are numbered. We will see greater use of mobile tickets in 2021, with these eventually becoming the norm.
We will also see the widespread use of mobile payments for merchandise and food and drink at venues. Expect to see the launch of more venue-related or rights holder apps in 2021.
Velocity of Innovation
The velocity of innovation will accelerate rapidly in 2021. New ideas that take your core business in the right direction need to get to market faster in this changing climate. At SecuTix we are fortunate to work with clients, such as Ajax FC, who know the value of supporting and exploring innovation within their organisation and outside. Ajax has become a development partner SecuTix and will collaborate with us on new features specific to the sports sector. This approach will result in product differentiators that align with business objectives and goals, not innovation merely for innovation sake.
Longatte concludes: “2020 has been tough, but it has reminded us how important human contact is. It’s our nature to congregate and share experiences. With the vaccination programme on the horizon, the signs are that we can do this again. Our industry has weathered a lot, but the storm will pass, and I, for one can’t wait to soak up the atmosphere that only a live crowd can create.”