Extending the Box Office: How Bots Can Help Sell Tickets

May 17, 2016 AudienceView Staff

If you want to study the growing pains that come with living in the future, look no further than the science and tech community’s conversations about Artificial Intelligence (AI). The discussions are primarily focused on the AI of pre-programmed chatbots, which are present in dozens of formats including Apple’s Siri, Google’s Now feature, and Facebook’s continued attempts at their Messenger app. But while some companies struggle to create a working and non-malicious AI, others are reaping the rewards that come from adapting to this new technology early.  

ReplyYes, which sells a text-to-buy platform for vinyl records and graphic novels, has sold over $1 million worth of records in eight months using nothing but text messages and a chatbot. Most of the work is done with an algorithm, though there is a human component. People sign up to receive text messages and receive a record recommendation every day, to which they can reply “yes," "like" or "dislike." If they select “yes,” then that customer is on their way to buying the album in a few interactions. If the subscriber asks a "human question," a customer service representative steps in and provides a contextual response to further engage the patron. If the consumer seems ready to buy something but hasn't pulled the trigger online, the chatbot sends that person a message to call a rep to complete the order. "Sixty-eight percent of our [subscribers] have purchased," said David Cotter, CEO of ReplyYes. "Twenty-eight percent have purchased six or more albums in their first 180 days [on the mobile platform]."

One theater company that managed to take advantage of chatbots was the Tobin Center for the Performing Arts, which created a program called the Tobin Text List. When Duran Duran came to Texas, the tickets sold out in under an hour. This would typically be a victory for Tobin, but since they have over 200 Right of First Refusals, the victory came with a caveat. Tobin had just implemented a texting campaign for another program, but they decided to test it out with patrons who wanted to see Duran Duran. They included an option for concert-goers who landed on the “Sold Out” page to enter their name and phone number to be added onto a Text Message list. As seats became available, patrons received a text message prompting them to purchase. This allowed Tobin to not only fulfill patron’s wishes, but to also move inventory quickly.

AI is just another form of technology that is going to have a large impact on theater companies, and using it to sell inventory to subscribers is one impactful way of using it.

So how would your organization benefit from sending regular updates to your subscribers alerting them to deals and developments?

1. By creating a channel through which interested people can receive up-to-the-minute updates, you can create impromptu interactions that wouldn’t have existed before. Since it’s an opt-in program you don’t risk alienating anyone, and the human interaction keeps your patrons from ever receiving a cold touch from your organization.

2. By eliminating most of the barriers that come to spontaneously planning a night out to the theatre or by regularly suggesting an open pair of seats to an upcoming event, you can engage patrons in an non-intrusive way.

Many forward-thinking arts organizations are excited about how patrons can now text the theater to ask about concession prices, or to find out where to find a program. There are plenty of opportunities present with AI and chatbots, and the first step is to welcome that they’re a big part of the future of customer service.


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