How AI Will Shape Event Ticketing

Apple Intelligence, WWDC24, and Ticketing

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ticket booth

Yeah, that’s the ticket…

I’ve been fascinated by event ticketing for years, both personally and professionally. As digital marketers, our work has placed us next to dozens of ticketing solutions, and occasionally, when they have the ability to choose how to sell their tickets (many do not), our clients have hired us to help them select the ticketing partner for their attraction, show, or performing arts venue that would best integrate with their overall digital footprint. A few years ago at BroadwayCon’s Industry Day, I was interviewing a colleague who had just completed a large ticketing migration project and he said something that’s really stuck with me. “People don’t want to think about their ticket-buying experience,” he suggested, “If they notice it at all, that means it’s not as good as it needs to be.” This comment initially stung a little. As someone who had spent a lot of time sweating the details of the ideal consumer journey, I felt like he was dismissing that work as irrelevant. But upon reflection, I realized he was saying exactly the opposite. If you put in the blood, sweat, and, tears required to make buying an event ticket forgettable (or as we might say today, frictionless) that’s actually the pinnacle of success. As consumers, we want to be thrilled by the artist, band, or exhibition we want to see. Buying a ticket is a tolerated impediment to the fun that awaits us, and if recent conversations around monopolies and junk fees are any indication, the patience of our buying audiences is hanging by a thread.

One change I’ve noticed in the last couple of years from ticketing providers in our industry is a greater spirit of cooperation and a willingness to put the consumer first and to reduce friction at checkout. From opening up new transactional APIs to clean-room-based data enrichment, companies that were once staunch rivals are finding creative ways to work together that were unthinkable ten years ago (don’t get me wrong, healthy rivalries still exist but now it’s more if to secure bragging rights at industry conferences). The companies that have built the underlying technology infrastructures for ticketing modern events have grown more sophisticated and nuanced when it comes to partnerships. This is good news for audiences and marketers alike, and I think it’s come from a realization that when consumers are happy, the entire industry wins. 

Cooperation in the ticketing industry has never been greater, but big changes coming from AI agents could truly upset the apple cart.

What’s coming next could dramatically change the ticketing landscape as we know it. I’ll give you a hint, it begins with an “A” and rhymes with smartificial smintelligence. At Apple’s recent WWDC in Cupertino, SVP of Software Engineering at Apple, Craig Federighi, gave the world a look at Apple’s take on AI, which it has branded as Apple Intelligence (baller move, that). When it becomes a part of our worlds later this Fall, Apple Intelligence promises to be contextually aware of everything on our iPhones, every email, every text message, and every purchase we make via Apple Wallet, and it will use that context to provide agentive experiences on our behalf. Agentive experiences are those things that require connecting the dots, reading the tea leaves, pulling together the strings, and then taking the best action to get something done. If it works as advertised, the Apple Intelligence on my phone is going to know what kinds of events I like, how much I’m willing to pay, where I like to sit, and who I usually go to events with and it will then do the buying for me by reaching into the ticketing apps on my phone (via Apple’s App Intents API). Talk about REALLY giving consumers the ability to not notice the ticket-buying experience, they won’t even witness the purchase. And what happens to all the time and energy marketers are spending figuring out how to personalize the user experience if AI is going to intercept those messages before they even get to a human? Apple Intelligence, and similar agents from OpenAI and Google, will happily comb through dozens of offers and providers to hand-pick the ones it knows I will like. Soon, AI may radically change the consumer experience from both directions, by creating marketing messages that are tailored specifically to what each person likes and by giving us all agents who will be able to cut through those marketing messages to act in our best interests. It’s AI turtles all the way down, and my guess is that, as consumers, we’ll probably be fine with it. We’ll take to social media to vent about certain performers who perpetually start their shows 3 hours late and won’t give a second thought to how we got our tickets to have that experience.

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