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Picking the Best Online Ticket Sales Software

Posted in Spotlights on November 9, 2016

When it comes to the business of event planning and running, one of the most crucial components will be the online ticket sales software. You can always sell tickets at the door, but having people purchase tickets before the show gives you a better idea of the number of attendees. You can also offer promotions, multiple ticket packages, and revenue management.

Since so many events rely on pre-event ticket sales, it makes a lot of sense to pick the best online ticket sales software for you. For this particular post, I’m going to go over a lot of the basic features you should expect as well as things you should look for in particular.

As a caveat almost all the major ticketing platforms offer the same basic features, so I won’t spend too much time on them. The lynchpin and more subtle issues, I will discuss in more detail. For example, pricing can be one big issue, especially if you’re a non-profit. Another concern might be customer service if you run into issues with setting up your event and need help. This discussion on event software will help you review your current choices and bring you better value - and hopefully more revenue in the process!

Taken from The Business of Event Planning by Judy Allen, here is a checklist of items you should be looking for in your software:

-What are the costs? The vendor must spell it out out from the beginning to end. There can be no surprises.
Most event ticketing software companies are upfront about their costs. Generally, most service charges get broken down into two components: The amount the ticket company takes, and then the amount that the credit card processor takes. Generally, most charges are percentage based. If you have expensive tickets, it will make sense for you to choose a company that has an upper limit on their service charge. Some companies say $10 is the most they’ll take, others say $15. Of course, credit card processing rates will never have an upper limit.

If you are running a non-profit event, there are several service providers that offer a discounted non-profit rate. 

Many software companies allow you to pass the charge onto the attendee. This means the attendees pay for the total service charge rather than yourself. Discuss with your team (or by yourself) if you’d rather take the charge yourself or pass it on. It all comes down to the type of event you are running.

-Do they offer custom event web page design?
We live in an age where branding has become more important to fight against the white noise and to retain customers. Because of this need, custom web page design is a must. There are several ways in which event ticket sales software can achieve this for you, each with their own pros and cons.
-Themes. Themes are a good option for a non-technical user, and can provide some flair to the event. However, as they are themes, the options are going to be few and it may be that none of them fit your event’s brand.
 -Self Design. Some websites may allow you to alter the page any way you want using CSS. This is great for events that need particular branding, as you can customize the colors, format, layout, and more. The downside is you will need someone who is knowledgeable of HTML and CSS to do the design for you.
-White Label. A White Label option is going to be the best (and potentially, only) option for large corporations or events that require complete brand management. Websites that offer self design can likely offer white label features. Again, the downside will be the upfront cost required. In any case, when it comes to complete brand control, price is a small factor.

-Can their features be integrated with an existing web site?
As an alternative to custom event web page design, you can instead see if the website allows you to post your ticket page onto your own event’s website. Often, the “ticket widget” will be a piece of code that you paste into your site. Again, as branding becomes more of an issue, this might be an avenue that you want to take, especially if you want to be able to track everything happening before and after the purchase.

-Are the sites secure and private, password protected member account sites and reports?
You don’t even need to turn on the news these day to hear all about what is happening with Wikileaks spreading emails, DDOS attacks taking down sites, and identity theft. Because people value their privacy and are already concerned about what might happen if someone steals their credit card info, it is paramount that you choose a site that is secure.

You should take extra care to choose a ticket sales software that has demonstrated an ability to withstand a large volume of visitors, and offers PCI Compliance at a minimum. PCI Compliance in particular means that the site never gets access to credit card info nor does it store it, meaning that purchases are completely safe in the case of a hacking or other unfortunate happenstance.

Two other items to look are is if credit card information is encrypted and the hosting environment of the site. These will protect against hackers and DDOS attacks.

-How Are Funds Collected and Deposited?
One of the main reasons you might be running an event is to raise money or to simply make money. If this is the case, then you need to care about how your service collects funds for you and then deposits them. Many sites will store your ticket revenue until after the event, and then deposit it into your bank account or Paypal account. You can choose the processor for a lot of sites and they will collect the revenue for you. Depending on how your event’s expenses are, you may want to look into a software solution that sends you revenue from your sales before your event ends.

-Can their system handle complicated events that stretch over several sessions and days?
Many conferences take place over several days. Yoga classes don’t just happen one day a year, they happen every week. Multi-track conferences require different purchase arrangements. What it all comes down to is having a software that

-Has their system ever sold more tickets than seating available?
This one is self-explanatory. You need a reliable system and one that cannot prove to be a reliable system is something you should not use, especially if you’re a high volume event that is going to sell out quickly.

-Can reminder e-mail messages be sent to participants?
People might like going to your events and they can be excited, but life gets busy and things can come up. Even if they’ve paid, people can forget, especially if they purchased far in advance. Email reminders are the best way to help keep people in the loop of your event. No matter what event you’re running, you need reminder services to help make sure that the most attendees show up.

-Do they offer technical and customer support?
Although most ticketing providers strive to create a system that is easy to use, there will always be bugs and breaks. It could depend on the browser or operating system you’re using, or it just happens to be the site. While you should first and foremost choose a site that runs smoothly, having technical support standing by is a burden off your back, especially when it comes to selling tickets.

Customer support is another option they need to have so that they can direct attendees to how to correctly purchase tickets or answer any questions you or they may have otherwise.

-Do they have a working demo of the software?
Planners and organizers may be wary of asking for a demo for each and every platform that they are considering, but it’s seriously the best option. In fact, having demos can do the legwork for you: ask the inside salesperson or demo-giver to show you why they are better than the other platforms you’re considering. What may appear to be extra time spent might end up saving you time.

-Will the custom web page domain named for this event be registered?
If you’re selling tickets online, you want to be found online! A custom web page name is needed for search engine optimization (SEO), which will enable attendees to find your site online.

-What are their value added features?
When doing your research, think of the things they talk about that I haven’t mentioned here. Those are “value added features” because it goes beyond the status quo. Some companies will offer expert 24/7 customer support, some of them will have features like reserved seating and RFID wristbands and on-site support.

Whew, that’s a lot of stuff to go through! To reiterate, we talked about why knowing costs are important. Security is required nowadays, as is customizable sites and integrations. Support is another crucial element.

At the end of the day, remember that any online ticket sales software that you are using should streamline what you are doing, not complicate it. “Back in the day”, people would take registrations over the phone, receive payment by check, and use notepads. Everything was done by hand. The funny part is that this “back in the day” wasn’t 50 years ago, it was closer to 10 years ago. While testing out different software and using the guidelines I’ve presented, you must continually ask yourself if the solution you’re using is actually going to be a solution and not a headache. Technology has presented us with some fantastic opportunities, and I firmly believe that every event planner and organizer should be using an event ticketing option to sell tickets online free. It’s smarter, and faster. You just need to figure out which one is right for you. Have a great day and see you next Wednesday!

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