BLOG 2nd April 2019

Online Ticketing Sales Rates in Northern Ireland

Each year, we run a box office benchmarking project with venues across Northern Ireland. In 2018, 18 organisations participated, 7 in Belfast, and 11 across the rest of the country – including theatres, mixed-use arts centres, and festivals.

In addition to getting crucial insight into their own individual audience behaviours, the project provides an opportunity to pull out the wider trends that are appearing in the data.

This year produced some interesting insights. Here’s the headlines of what we found about audience online booking habits.

Online Sales Grew Slightly but still aren’t ahead of offline sales

Across NI, 42% of tickets are being sold online, with the remaining 58% of sales happening offline at the box office, on the door, or by phone.

The level of online sales overall increased by 6% from 2016 to 2017.

Online Sales Vary Between Belfast and Elsewhere

In Belfast, the majority of tickets were sold online:

  • 54% of tickets in Belfast venues were sold online.
  • 46% of tickets in Belfast venues were via an offline method.
  • 64% of tickets in venues outside of Belfast were sold via an offline method.

But outside Belfast, offline sales dominated:

  • Only 36% of tickets in venues outside of Belfast were sold online.

Who are your potential online customers?

Generally, most venues want to maximise their numbers of online sales as it helps to collect valuable audience data, increases convenience for many customers, and can cut running costs.

But there are many people who may not have the skills or desire to ever buy online.

Digital exclusion is the inability to access online products or services or to use simple forms of digital technology. This disproportionately affects vulnerable people, low-income groups, older people, and the more marginalised communities in our society.

Around 10% to 20% of your customers won’t ever be interested in, or able to, buy online, so digital is not going to solve all our audience access problems.

So it’s important to keep providing great in-person service to people who want, and need, to buy offline.

Of course, there are people who might like to purchase tickets online, but don’t do so at present. They may just be in the habit of buying in-person, they not have quality internet access to make buying online a good experience, or it could be quicker and easier to pick up the phone and book.

Improving Your Rates of Online Sales

The main advantage of online booking, from a customer-perspective, is ease and convenience. They can (theoretically) book on their smartphone on the bus home from work, or buy tickets at 12pm at night, after your venue has closed.

Take a Mobile-First Approach

A majority of internet users (58%) in Northern Ireland say a smartphone is their most important device for going online – and this is even more important in working class households (61%).

Always test any changes to your website on mobile, and think about designing email newsletters with mobile in mind.

Optimise Download Speeds

For those outside Belfast, and increasingly as we move further west, broadband speed and access to 4G mobile internet becomes an issue for many people. So making sure your website download speeds are as low as possible is really important.

Check out the Site Speed section of Google Analytics to see which part of your site are taking a long time to load. You may be able to re-size photos and videos to quickly improve page speed. Ideally, pages should download in 3 seconds or less.

Simplify Your Purchase Path:

The fewer steps it takes someone to book online, the better. Check out your Exit Pages and Behaviour Flow in Google Analytics to see where people are leaving your site during the booking process.

Many ticketing systems offer free help and support. Don’t be afraid to contact your provider and see what they can do for you to improve the sales path. Improving your overall sales figures is in their interest too.

Incentivise Online Booking:

If you want people to book online, investing in your email and digital marketing is a good place to start.

You could offer online-only discounts, and online should always be the same price, if not cheaper, than in-person sales.

Find out More:

If you’d like to get a personalised report and recommendations on your own customer ticketing trends, check out how to join our 2019 Foundations project. And if you’d just like to talk through some ideas and get advice, you can always book in for a free Audience Appointment.

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