Selling Tickets Online.
There are numerous ticketing software systems available which give your website the ability to sell tickets online to your event. Let’s identify some important issues that need your utmost consideration.
What about Crowds?
If your event is popular and you want to sell your tickets online, then you can expect crowd surges once your tickets go live. These surges can cripple the best event ticketing software package that hasn’t paid attention to controlling the flow of purchasers. Ticketing software with good flow control is able to manage a surge and spread out purchasers over a larger span of time. All systems have a limit to the number of purchasers that that the system can process. Many bottle necks can occur, however, the most serious being the system bottle neck.
What is a system bottle neck?
The system bottle neck is the main cause of the ticket selling process to slow down and eventually stop. The system bottle neck defines the maximum number of tickets that the ticketing software can handle. Bottle necks can be created by the website software or the hardware the website employs. Other contributors to a bottle neck include the database, and whether or not it can keep up, and/ or the credit card processor and whether the processor can process your transactions quickly enough.
We experienced first hand what happens if flow control for online ticket sales has not been built into the system, and learned this lesson the hard way. One of our clients, an Auto Show, and in the first year of our contract with them, routinely experience a huge surge of purchasers at noon on Saturdays. Later we measured the maximum number of ticket sales that our system could handle to be about 190 tickets per minute. However, the first time the surge happened, and without any flow control, everything came to a grinding halt at noon! No one could buy a ticket, and there were many very angry potential buyers. We were effectively shut down at the busiest possible time. It was an unbelievable experience for a ticketing system, one which I’ll never forget.
1. I gathered our technical team together immediately and launched them into crisis mode. How can we manage these surges going forward? After some stressful emergency meetings with the Auto Show executives and our technical team, we came up with the following plan.
2. We created virtual purchasers using JAVA robots. (i.e. we wrote a small Java program which we called a JAVA robot; these robots simulated the same steps that a real purchaser goes through when they buy a ticket.)The JAVA robots, quickly identified our system bottle neck.Our programmers began to re-code this awkward time-consuming patch of code. Next, the Java Robots found a new system bottle neck. So as soon as we had fixed the latest bottle neck up popped another.
3. This is the moral of this experience is that any “ticketing buying software” is going to have a big system bottle neck somewhere. The trick is to compute the number of simultaneous purchases your software can handle per release. So in the case of the Auto Show, 190 purchases per minute was our limit and anything faster meant big trouble and degradation.
Next, we built a governor into the software, which ensured that if we ever reached our threshold, 150 purchases per minute, for example, we would present a page and apologize to the next group of purchasers for the upcoming delay. The important thing is to ensure that you guarantee, to each customer, that they are being kept in a fair order and that they will be able to buy a ticket at an appointed time in the future. This approach has the effect of forcing purchases to be staggered out at a rate below the threshold rate and at a rate that your entire system can handle.
Fewer Clicks are Better!
During the process of selling tickets online, the fewer the number of mouse clicks it takes the purchaser, the faster you can sell tickets to your event. Each time a purchaser clicks, there’s a delay while the server side of the transaction reacts. Many event ticketing software packages have too many steps. That is why ‘one-click registration’ is becoming so popular.
The idea is to ask the purchaser all the necessary questions including their credit card information on one screen, then having just one Process button to send it all to the server for processing and ticket delivery.
During the purchase, the purchaser usually expects an email as well as having the tickets presented in front of them. Creating a PDF attachment and sending out confirmation emails is time consuming for any ticketing software solution. Good ticketing systems will batch the PDF creation and the process of emailing, outside the one-click experience. This delays the email arriving to the customer, but it’s tolerable since most customers have already printed their tickets during the one-click experience.
Registration Forms must guard against SQL INJECTION.
SQL injection is when hackers deliberately type in nefarious database commands into registration form response boxes. If the registration form doesn’t have safe guards against SQL injection, a hacker can bring your system to a halt. I have already written a blog about on this subject. If you would like to learn more about SQL injection check here: Threats to Your Data.
Duplicate Credit Card Charges on the Purchaser’s Statement.
Seeing duplicate charges for the same event on monthly credit card statements is one of the most frustrating situations your purchasers may experience with poor ticketing software. This happens when the ticketing software fails to ‘DE-bounce’ their buttons. That is, once the purchaser presses ‘Process’ a second press should popup a dialogue box preventing a second press. Purchasers may press the “Process” button often, because they are experiencing slowness and they are not certain whether or not their transaction is being processed.
Being able to Process VISA DEBIT.
Young people today are using their VISA DEBIT cards to buy all sorts of things online. They don’t even have credit cards. So it’s critical that your ticketing software vendor can process VISA Debit. This is especially true in Canada. It’s not just sufficient to ask the ticketing software vendor, if they can process credit cards.
There are also pre-paid credit cards, as well as numerous corporate purchase credit cards. You must to be able to process any card bearing a VISA logo. Many payment gateway providers have limitations and can only process a subset of VISA/MC cards. Press this point with your vendor. Run your own tests to make sure all cards work as promised by the vendor.
Read more about VISA Debit cards in Canada.