Back in the summer of 2017 as a new digital transformation manager, I was tasked with implementing a new ticketing and box office platform for 3 arts venues at Hampshire Cultural Trust to coincide with the launch of 6 new websites.
Considerable research indicated two leading ticketing suppliers in the arts sector: Ticketsolve and Spektrix. Both platforms were promoted as arts ticketing solutions, evident from their own marketing material and respective customers.
Subsequent customer testimonials and a thorough investigation into features suggested both would be suitable candidates for replacing our incumbent platform PatronBase.
This article details our decision making process and evaluation criteria in early 2018. All information in this article was correct at the time of procurement and is deliberately concise.
Customer experience was at the forefront of our decision making, with particular attention to the ticket purchase journey on mobile devices. Box office management and administration was also a big factor for our in-house team members.
A side-by-side comparison of Ticketsolve and Spektrix revealed an almost identical set of features, from both a customer journey and box office management perspective.
Both platforms demonstrated multi-venue capabilities, supported by case studies and references. Choosing a preferred supplier was largely based upon operational and marketing benefits.
Spektrix demonstrated a cleaner user interface design for box office administration. This would likely reduce the need for regular training and simplifies the booking process at the box office.
Spektrix would likely be better experience for box office staff and volunteers, but we would need to make compromises to our administration, marketing platforms, and our business case. A good overview of the interface can be found here.
Whilst Ticketsolve demonstrated a less intuitive interface, it is perfectly navigable and the testimonials were extremely positive.
A new interface design is currently in beta with a select few Ticketsolve clients. The beta interface is an improvement and simplifies the administration process for box office staff and volunteers.
Spektrix offers integrated email marketing with DotMailer which I had personally considered to be a dated email marketing tool. It is not the easiest to design and build email templates. Additional charges apply @ 0.003p per email sent (example: £600 per 20k emails). There is no alternative integrated email platform with Spektrix.
Ticketsolve offers integrated email marketing with Mailchimp which is currently the market leader in email marketing and automation. Mailchimp is intuitive and widely regarded as the best platform for small digital marketing teams. Additional charges apply at $150 per month for unlimited sending up to 25k contacts.
Spektrix has a solid set of APIs which enables a web developer to totally customise the look and feel of the online customer journey. Spektrix also provide an iframe integration option, but does not provide a hosted option eg. yourbusiness.spektrix.com.
Ticketsolve has 3 integration options, all of which are suitable. There is a highly customisable XML feed, an iframe, and a self-hosted option. This gives us more options with the website project, and enables us to create event content via our website CMS or via the Ticketsolve dashboard.
Both platforms boast advanced reporting and data export features for integration with accounting packages, a central CRM system, and promotional tools.
Spektrix charge a fee based on the volume of tickets sold, and has estimated an annual cost of £13,200 based on an example £500k sales revenue. After £250k, a flat rate of 1.4% is charged on sales.
Ticketsolve also charge a fee based on the volume of tickets sold, and has estimated an annual cost of £9,500 based on an example £500k sale revenue. After £250k, a flat rate of 1.75% is charged on sales.
Spektrix testimonials were largely centered around a theme of diminishing support over time, particularly for smaller customers < £1M turnover. Spektrix has a large customer service team based in 3 countries.
Conversely, Ticketsolve testimonials are centered around top-notch customer support, relating to the friendly and available support team who frequently provide operational and marketing consultancy. Ticketsolve boasted a thorough knowledge base and support Zendesk.
Spektrix has a large proportion of customer-service oriented staff, and admittedly has slow product development which tends to favour larger clients (typically theatres). An estimated 18+ months was muted for an inherent problem with the Spektrix system – it is currently unable to provide a decent solution for ongoing events eg. weekly workshops and class bookings.
Ticketsolve has a faster development cycle due to a smaller team, and currently has a new interface in beta. There are currently no limitations within the Ticketsolve system that has been identified by our team.
Neither ticketing platform have a published roadmap or Trello board.
Spektrix is positioned as the market leader and employs approx. 100 staff. The Spektrix head office is in London, with offices in New York and Manchester. Spektrix has a corporate structure and is comprised of predominantly customer service job functions.
Ticketsolve is a growing player in the ticketing sector, and is fast becoming one of the preferred suppliers for smaller arts venues. Ticketsolve employ 22 staff with a head office in Dublin, and another office in London.
We spoke with a variety of existing customers in the arts and culture sector. Both ticketing providers boasted glowing testimonials from delighted customers.
After much deliberation, Ticketsolve was chosen as the overall best solution for our arts centre teams, marketing teams, and a dedicated box office administrator.
We were confident Ticketsolve met all our criteria, and demonstrated a wider selection of clients in the arts sector, and is more suited to smaller arts venues.
Ticketsolve also supplied sufficient documentation, working examples and demonstrations of their capabilities after our initial product demo:
Launching simultaneously with 6 new websites, a careful implementation plan was needed. The project was managed by a combination of myself, Ticketsolve and our website development agency using Basecamp – although we had hilarious combination of Basecamp classic, Basecamp 2 and Basecamp 3!
Ticketsolve provided onsite support on launch day at all 3 of our arts venues, with head office support throughout. Feedback was excellent, although a few technical issues were encountered from our own IT hardware setup.
9 months into our relationship with Ticketsolve and I am hugely impressed with the platform, the customer journey and the ongoing support from Ticketsolve. A big thank you to everyone involved!
The platform has enabled us to collect donations and Gift Aid during the checkout process for the first time, and our customer ticket booking journey is faultless.
We are now realising the true potential of the Mailchimp integration, and have recently configured a number of automated campaigns based upon customer purchase activity.
Watch this space – I will produce a separate article on Mailchimp soon!
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