Written by Alexander McLauchlan, marketing director at TicketSource.

With customers spoilt for choice when it comes to events, getting them to buy tickets to yours can be a challenge.

But in the digital world of the 21st century event organisers have a powerful tool that can give them the edge when it comes to their customers’ habits and preferences – data.

Collecting, analysing and disseminating customer data has never been easier, allowing you to continually monitor the successes (and any shortcomings) of your events. Identifying key areas for improvement gives you the opportunity to be able to increase advance ticket sales for future events. Data collection will also deliver invaluable long term insights to not only to help you provide a great customer experience at your events but also to keep them coming back.

As an event organiser, your choice of ticketing system can make all the difference, contributing to how easily and effectively you can collect and then use the data available to you. Using an online ticketing system can help facilitate data capture for both your event logistics and your future database marketing. Asking your customers questions is a great place to start the data capture process, and the perfect opportunity to do this is when they are buying your tickets, especially if your event relies on such information anyway.

You should think about whether you want to collect information from just the purchaser or all of the attendees. But don’t bombard your customers with questions; you don’t want to add unnecessary barriers to the purchase process.

However, if customers have committed to buying your tickets, a couple of carefully considered questions will help the event run more smoothly on the day and give you valuable data to plan future events.

When it comes to functional data like dietary, physical assistance and access requirements, this sort of data capture can be made a mandatory part of the online booking process, as customers will expect it. For example, if you are offering food at your event you will need to ask important questions about allergies and food preferences.

Additionally, having a ticketing system that incorporates an optional questionnaire function also lets you capture and collate information about customer preferences to inform later event planning and database marketing activities.

You could also gain post-event feedback by asking customers if they would like to join your marketing list. If they agree to be contacted, you could choose to email a feedback survey that could collect valuable information about what your customers really thought of the event. It’s also a great opportunity to ask them how you could improve the event while it is still fresh in their minds.

Here it would be important to choose a ticketing system that is integrated with an easy-to use email marketing platform such as Mailchimp. You could even offer customers an incentive for completing the survey, such as a discount off their next booking.

Certain ticketing systems will allow you to offer a range of discount types, such as emailing “early booking” discount codes to customers that you know will like a particular type of event or to those who usually leave things to the last minute to get them to commit to booking in advance.

Building excitement on your social media networks is not only a great way to turn early interest into advance ticket purchases, but also an ideal opportunity to collect data.
Setting up a Facebook event page would be an ideal place to start building interest in your event, as well as gathering data.

Posting regular updates with photos and video clips can help get potential customers excited and hopefully they will also share it to their own profile pages to help spread the word.
Remember to keep an eye out for what people are saying; are the comments positive or negative? These unprompted responses can give you an insight into the success (or otherwise) of your event.

Make sure you respond to all queries, positive or negative, as it goes a long way to building confidence with customers to show that if they need to contact you, they will be able to get an answer.

To make the most of any interest generated through a social media platform you need to give the potential customer the opportunity to book there and then, while you have their attention.

Some ticketing platforms enable online bookings to be made directly from your Facebook page or via a “buy tickets” link embedded in your tweets or any other social media posts.
This level of data capture might sound costly, but you don’t need the budget for an expensive, subscription-based box office system to achieve any of this.

In fact the best of the free (booking-fee funded) ticketing systems – TicketSource included – offer these functions as standard.

Of course it is essential to consider data protection and cyber security whenever you are collecting and processing personal data. This is set to become even more important with the introduction of the General Data Protection Regulation next May. The introduction of the GDPR will herald the biggest shakeup of data protection laws for more than two decades, with a strengthened data protection regime and significant penalties for non-compliance.

Consent is a major part of the GDPR and it will no longer be enough for event organisers to use blanket clauses to gain consent when collecting personal data. Instead they will have to explain clearly why the data is being collected and how it will be used. Under the GDPR an individual’s consent must be fully informed and actively and freely given. Implied or presumed consent is no longer enough; the GDPR calls for “clear, affirmative action”. Additional consent will be required if the data is to be passed to a third party.

The GDPR also contains a new definition of profiling, which includes automated data processing. So if as an event organiser you collect individual customer data in an automated form to analyse behaviour, you have to notify the customer and give them the opportunity to object. All activity must cease upon an objection.

These are all requirements that the customer data management facilities of your chosen ticketing system should have accommodated prior to May 2018.

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