Nliven, the new primary ticketing platform from California-based TixTrack, is heralded as one of the first to be built entirely around APIs. What’s behind this nextgen entertainment ticketing solution? Ticketing Technology Forum caught up with its developers to find out more.
Offering a new primary ticketing solution to one of the toughest entertainment markets is no easy task. Many have tried… and failed. But the geeks of TixTrack have drawn on six years of working with, assisting and listening to North America’s music and entertainment show promoters.
“The Nliven ticketing solution is a natural progression of the development of TixTrack’s analytics tools”, says TixTrack CEO, Steven Sunshine.
These tools have been tried and tested in one of the toughest ticketing segments – North American arena tours – with pressured onsales, high revenues, high volumes and very public expectations.
ANALYTICS DRIVES DESIGN
Some seven years ago TixTrack initially developed a “sold-seat map” so promoters could identify sales patterns on their inventory. The company then developed pricing engines so that promoters could make better-informed pricing and marketing decisions. The company continues to supply these “augmented ticketing” analytical tools and services to 100+ customers in North America, including major arenas and promoters Feld, Harlem Globetrotters, Cirque du Soleil, Staples Center and Barclays Center. Sometimes the ticketing data is delivered via API but, more often, via an overnight or 24hour data dump.
For its arena touring shows, Cirque du Soleil has been using TixTrack’s analytics tools to analyze available tickets and identify sales targets.
“It’s an integral part of our operation, and we couldn’t run our arena shows without it,” said Eric Valley, Ticket Sales Director at Cirque du Soleil. “It’s like getting a fresh pair of eyes on our inventory to help us identify inventory holes, manage our pricing and improve our ticketing queues. It was really a game changer for us when we began working with TixTrack.”
Ultimately, Nliven is the culmination of six years of studying consumer buying habits and sales analytics from clients like Cirque du Soleil.
“Ultimately, we realized our pricing analytics were limited by the purchasing process,” explains Sunshine. “Your inventory might be priced right, but the buying process was poor and the conversion rate was very low. So our attention then turned to fixing the primary ticketing sales channel.”
BUILT ON APIs
Offering an alternative, better box office experience for the customer was the starting point. Sunshine says that the consumer buying experience in other sectors is far superior to that offered in traditional ticketing and “we also wanted to give our customers – the venues, the promoters – easier access to more accurate web analytics, customer data and conversion rates.”
“We’ve built Nliven from the ground up around APIs,” explains Sunshine. “We believe this is unique in ticketing. Most systems are built around closed, internal-looking solutions, where APIs have become an afterthought. This can make it difficult to get data back into the system but also there’s a lot of proprietary data buried inside these systems which you can’t get to.”
In fact, Nliven is also built around a different sales philosophy – one that’s more akin to online retail models, where items are available at multiple sellers at the same time. This is particularly relevant in Europe where exclusive venue ticketing contracts are rare, with most business done on allocations. But without a clear flow of data, promoters can be left exposed when unsold inventory is returned from a third party seller at short notice.
“Our approach is the opposite. It’s very easy for us to open up any part of the system to third parties. For example, the inventory on our seat maps is via an internal API. This allows us to meet the needs of multi-channel selling with everyone using the same pool for their allocations.”
“We’re operating in a world where people are used to going to many different places to buy a product,” Sunshine told Amplify earlier this year. “If you want to buy a retail item, you can find it in dozens of places. Until recently, if you wanted to buy a live entertainment ticket, you were funneled through a single path.”
“The market is moving to multi-channel, especially with new late sales channels like GroupOn, LivingSocial and so on. This sales process can be difficult or easy – in our case, it’s very easy,” enthuses Sunshine. “Multi-selling is a good thing and our system is very good at it.”
TixTrack’s analytics tools had also highlighted a key issue for ticketing purchasers: the poor mobile experience. With more and more traffic moving to mobile and a growing consumer desire to make purchases from their mobile devices, a more effective mobile purchasing process is a key capability for a modern ticketing system.
“We were seeing 90-95% drop-off on some mobile sales. A good conversion rate on desktop is say 20-25%. Mobile can be typically a fifth of this,” offers Sunshine.
Higher mobile conversion and an improved customer buying experience is why Cirque du Soleil has utilized the Nliven mobile buying process for their traveling Big Top Shows for the past two years, with more than 3 million tickets sold via mobile to date.
“We’ve done some tests on mobile and on desktop with them as well,” said Valley. “It’s always amazing how quickly those guys can turn around. In all the years I’ve been working with them, I’ve got used to a certain level of speed and quality, but they keep surprising me.”
Sunshine says Nliven’s mobile ticketing solution is delivering conversion rates that are 30-100% better than other systems.
To allow for the fluctuating demands of onsale peaks, Nliven is cloud-based, hosted on both Azure and AWS. And again, all internal data transfers (such as JSON) are via APIs.
“We keep upgrading and enhancing the solution. We’re adding new code every week and the beauty of not being a deployed or server solution is that we can push out our improvement instantaneously.”
Nliven also incorporates Fraud Detection Software which is self-learning. And in terms of PCI compliance, there are few issues as all Credit Card details are tokenised before the system gets it, explains Sunshine. Nliven is integrated with Stripe (and ApplePay is on its way) but is also open to its own processing or client processing.
He offers up the word “unhackable” which is brave in this day of Panama Papers and Ashley Madison data breaches – but he is clearly confident of his team’s skillset.
With aggregated sales of some US$500m of face value tickets already under its belt, Nliven is a rare thing: a new primary, end-to-end ticketing solution but with a proven track record. So what’s next?
“We’re actively selling the solution now and we made a big North American launch earlier this year,” says Sunshine. “We’re showcasing at Ticketing Technology Forum in Dublin to gauge the European marketing, evaluate the potential and perhaps find some initial partners and customers. We are not just an arena touring show solution. We can satisfy the needs of arts, sports and other entertainment ticketing organisations.”
“But, for now, we’re most comfortable where the ticketing is promoter-driven. That’s a better marketplace for us,” admits Sunshine. “Most importantly, we’re a tech company that does ticketing. Yes, you could say we’re geeks but we’ve been listening to what the industry wants for seven years now. We think we have been listening well.”
More on the development of Nliven in this Amplify interview here.
Meet the Nliven team at #TTF16 in Dublin later this month – register here.