Setting the stage: using connectivity and mobile technology to improve the concert experience

With increased demand for a truly immersive and fully connected concert experience, venues are having to polish their own performance to support event-goers. Adam Croxen, Managing Director of Future Platforms shares his insight on how, with the right connectivity and mobile technology, venues can supercharge the concert experience for fans while opening up channels for additional commercial opportunities. 

From Adele to ZZ Top, there’s no denying that live gigs can shake the nerves of even the world’s most distinguished acts who are out to give the performance of a lifetime in front of thousands of devoted fans. But the pressure behind the scenes can be equally intense as venues and operators brace themselves for a ‘make it or break it’ performance of their own, made even more challenging by the crowds that are increasingly savvy, demanding and unforgiving. To win them over – while also making the most out of the commercial opportunities for themselves – venues need to offer an outstanding mobile connectivity solution. 

Many venues are already responding with the installation of WiFi and high speed 4G+ connectivity, as well as beacons technology.  Establishing this infrastructure can expand the opportunities for the venues to extend and develop service for visitors as well as sponsors and advertisers to interact with fans and send targeted offers and rewards to smartphones. But if you don’t have the right connectivity, you immediately limit yourself in what you can do. 

Getting the fan-damentals right   

Connectivity is the key to what’s possible; we know from our own experiences with Wembley that getting the infrastructure right to support connectivity can be hard work. Indeed, many venues have a tough environment to navigate in order to achieve this, but it is possible.   

With Wembley, not only was it a densely populated area, but the stadium’s structure itself also caused difficulties. Wembley called on EE to help them overcome these issues, developing a long-term partnership built on providing attendees with a fully connected experience. The partnership saw EE provide the infrastructure upgrades, allowing them to introduce their industry-leading 4G coverage.   

Once challenges like this are overcome, an array of opportunities can open up in terms of what can be done for fans – but to ensure they are the right opportunities, concert venues need to consider the physical experience alongside the digital needs of their specific users.   

When working with Wembley, for example, we understood that the key to delivering the perfect spectator experience was to provide vital utilities, rich, engaging content, and deep social connectivity, putting every visitor to Wembley at the heart of the event. 

This is where some venues fail; they don’t consider the full holistic journey of the fan, which in reality begins at home from the very moment they start their search for upcoming events or concerts.   

To fully support their search and planning journey, venues should also make the effort to understand, for example, the travel implications for each type of fan as well as their wants and needs running up to the event itself. For instance, the question of access will be particularly pertinent for those with accessibility concerns who will quickly dismiss a venue if it doesn’t provide features such as ramps or allow Guide Dogs to make their experience stress-free. 

Talking of stress… 

One of the biggest pre-event pain points for fans can be the purchasing process itself. And while online procurement has taken away some of the ‘pinch’ – such as the lengthy waiting times for the delivery of paper tickets – it’s also given rise to the ticket touts who can pack a fierce punch by purchasing tickets so they can resell them for profit, which has left many concert-goers in a difficult quandary: buy a massively marked-up ticket or miss out. 

Ticket touting itself is not a new concept, but it has transformed thanks to the emergence of bots which can pick up tickets en masse and in one hit. This has further escalated the ‘pay up or lose out’ dilemma, with more fans than ever before being forced to make a crushing decision.   

To combat this, the Competition and Markets Authority recently launched investigations into how the best seats are being harvested and sold on at inflated prices before fans can purchase them at face value. If suspected breaches of consumer protection law in the online secondary tickets market are found, then enforcement action could be taken, 

Likewise, the Department for Culture, Media and Sport is also expected to announce a crackdown on secondary resale websites, which could result in unlimited fines for tech-savvy touts. 

Ethical innovation 

Many leading popular artists such as Ed Sheeran and Adele have made a stand against the touts too, choosing instead to opt for partnerships with official resale sites, such as Twickets – an ethical multi-event ticketing platform which has enabled users to trade spare tickets at face value or less, since 2011.

Twickets was not only designed to connect fans with spare tickets using retweets, hashtags and the Twitter API, but also set out to differentiate itself from secondary market ticketing sites by protecting consumers’ rights and ensuring tickets would change hands at face value or below. 

As the Twickets concept gained more traction, we were called upon to create their app. To ensure we built the right foundations for a successful service, it was crucial to first understand the user needs and keep this at the heart of development. This ‘user first’ approach hit the right notes, with 30,000 downloads recorded in just the first week of launching. 

Subsequently, the responsive website was rolled out, making Twickets fully transactional to better protect users while positioning it as a pioneer in terms of the ticket purchasing process. Indeed, Twickets’ half a million users today are testament to its success in this marketplace. 

And with mobile usage on an upward trajectory, the success of ticket innovators like Twickets can only continue to climb. According to research by Visa Europe, smart devices are on track to replace cash and cards as UK mobile payments are projected to hit over £1.2 billion a week by 2020, with one in four Brits predicted to use their mobile phone to make payments on a daily basis by this time. 

This change in behaviour is already being felt within the live concert scene, with more concert-goers adopting mobile as a preferred method of payment for tickets and admission. What this means for fans is a shift from antiquated paper-driven purchasing processes to an experience that is not only seamless but also reduces the risk of ticket theft and combats touting. With this in mind, a commitment to the ongoing development of m-commerce channels has never been more vital nor timelier. 

The data imperative 

Aside from understanding and supporting pre-event needs – including purchasing, accessibility, travel and accommodation – venues should also be mindful of what happens within the venue itself, as this is where they can capitalise on the data and insight they have garnered, using it to: 

  • deliver heightened services that provide better experiences for fans
  • open up more ways to offer frictionless purchasing opportunities for fans – which can lead to additional in-event revenues
  • drive operational efficiency

In fact, there’s much opportunity for venues to drive revenue forward by turning fans into customers – especially in relation to merchandising. In this case, implementing order-ahead technology could just hit the right note:  imagine, as a fan, the ability to pick up a personalised T-shirt upon arrival having already purchased ahead.  

Further bolstering the at-event user experience is the ‘shareability’ factor: as fans demonstrate an insatiable appetite for sharing in-the-moment content across social media sites, it’s important to design services that will allow them to do just that – but as quickly and seamlessly as possible so that they benefit from a truly immersive experience that sees them with their ‘heads up’ rather than ‘heads down’ throughout the event.    

For maximum impact, the sharing functionality should provide exclusivity to the user as well as a broad reach to the brand. This can be done through customised images such as an ‘Ed Sheeran’ frame that visitors to the stadium can then apply to their selfies. This would be available through, for instance, the Wembley app and only for visitors on site. The bragging rights and prestige for the user increase, as do the benefits of social sharing for the brand.    

It’s important then to consider how ‘shareability’ can be converted into a positive commercial experience for the venue too. Messages to screen, allowing fans to tweet or send messages to loved ones, could become a popular and chargeable service.  

This kind of offering makes it easier to engage with fans and, from the venue’s perspective, can deliver highly valuable insight about the users which could even lead to steering behavioural change that may positively impact efficiencies or in-venue experiences. 

Similarly, offering rewards to fans can drive engagement and boost the in-venue experience. It is possible, in the case of venue-specific apps, for users who are on site to be eligible for low-priced seat upgrades if the premium seats have not already been filled. 

The mobile devices that fans carry open up the choices to fast-track orders, arrange in-seat delivery, share content, and offer upgrades, but initiatives like this – which yield better services, reduce queues and allow fans to immerse themselves in the real-time action – are only possible if you can ensure free and fast mobile connectivity.
 

Top tips for concert venues looking to embrace the possibilities that mobile connectivity can open up for themselves and their fans

- Use mobile technology to collect data gain actionable customer insight 

-Once you understand fans’ behaviour patterns and needs, offer tailored services that correlate and ultimately support them

-Consider the limitations of the venue’s infrastructure and draw on stakeholder knowledge in order to work to maximum effect    

Once you offer free access to mobile connectivity, whenever the user connects to the network, posts on social media sites or uses bespoke mobile apps, a venue can learn more about them. In turn, this enables the potential to offer value-added services and tailored products to them in the future. 

This is where the future lies for venues as we’ve seen from a number of US stadiums which are leading the way in connected experiences. Concert-goers will welcome the ease of experience and venues will benefit from the additional revenues that a frictionless experience will deliver.  

However, businesses should take a ‘trial and learn’ approach which will present a great option to uncover additional service improvement that can lead to commercial avenues, through pilots and testing. Once you have a working scenario, then what is possible will not only revolutionise (for example) at-event ordering, but will also give you capability to alleviate some of the logistical challenges that comes from servicing an entire stadium at once.  

Ultimately, when improved connectivity is combined with a knowledge-driven and responsive approach to customer needs, service levels will rise. In turn, this can engender greater fan engagement and satisfaction levels that satisfy both their physical and digital needs – and will ensure you’ve given a ‘make it’ not ‘break it’ performance of your own.   

Adam Croxen, Managing Director, Future Platforms 

Image Credit: Stux / Pixabay