Ticketmaster: Making the Case for a UX Transformation

You’d be hard pressed to find anyone who has never done business with Ticketmaster, and even harder-pressed to find diehard fans.

From a PR perspective, it’s definitely not easy being Ticketmaster. The giant ticket broker has been a lightning rod in the entertainment world, generating waves of negative feedback over the years regarding its fees and its chokehold on many concerts and shows.

The rise of the independent artist, social media and self-publishing/marketing channels today make it easier for artists to avoid Ticketmaster altogether. In fact, there’s a certain “cool” factor in finding ways to avoid the music industry machine.

So what can Ticketmaster do to improve its customers’ perceptions and experiences?

I believe refocusing on the end user and finding ways to provide an irresistible online user experience (UX) will go a long way toward making Ticketmaster viable in the evolving entertainment scene.

Here are my top three UX recommendations for Ticketmaster.com:

1. Make it an enjoyable, engaging destination website instead of just a place people to go buy tickets (often grudgingly).

Despite the vast influence of social media and the potential ease of communicating with customers over the Internet, there is little sense of community on Ticketmaster.com and there are no incentives to connect. Once I buy a ticket through the site, I have no reason to go back until the next time I need what only Ticketmaster is offering.

Yelp is a great example of a site that has leveraged the community to become a destination for people searching for things to do. Not only is it easy to find events and businesses in my area, but there is strong participation from the community in the form of reviews and testimonials that engage me – making me want to take part in the discussion whether I have a good or bad experience. It almost feels as if you can gain some prestige among the audience of Yelp users by reviewing things around town; it feels as if your opinion matters.

In contrast, Ticketmaster does very little to make the site emotionally engaging. I don’t get the sense that Ticketmaster knows me or anything about the artists and events that I care about. In contrast, sites like Songkick have a simple and enjoyable “discovery” process and a very focused offering for the end user. On Songkick, you find your favorite artists and venues and “track” them to build up a profile. Then Songkick begins alerting you to relevant events in your area as they come up.

I enjoyed building up my profile on Songkick and rely on it much more than I do Ticketmaster to keep me informed. Ticketmaster’s customer experience lacks this kind of spark; I tend to see Ticketmaster as a hurdle I have to clear in order to attend a fun event that I found through other sources such as Songkick.

2. Improve basics around visual and interaction design.

The Ticketmaster take on events and ticket purchases feels clinical and database-driven.

My gut reaction when I browse the site is “information overload.” Its pages are dense and busy. They have a poor hierarchy for the content they feature, and the visual design doesn’t draw me in. There is no attention to detail in the design of Ticketmaster.com, and it affirms the feeling that the site is part of a corporate machine that is not connected to its end users.

It’s also difficult to understand the confusing network of sites that the company has acquired over time – Live Nation, Tickets Now, TicketWeb; Ticketmaster has chosen to maintain them instead of absorbing them under the company umbrella and making the site a single destination. Using Ticketmaster today, I am often handed off with no real rhyme or reason to one of the other sites on the network to find and buy tickets.

The ticket buying process can also be complex and frustrating. There are various pain points for the customer, including searching for tickets that may not exist, using frustrating tools such as the interactive venue maps or CAPTCHA security check, and of course, the infamous fees that are added at the end of this ordeal. Simplifying this process and making the tools work more effectively could really improve this core user task on the site and improve customer satisfaction.

3. Combat its overwhelmingly negative customer perceptions with meaningful changes.

Making Ticketmaster.com a great online community won’t increase Ticketmaster’s success if the basic complaints about the company aren’t addressed.

The company seems to be stuck in an 80’s mega-star and mega-arena mindset. It feels corporate and old-school, not cool and hip. I don’t think of Ticketmaster as a company that supports independent artists or smaller venues, and it doesn’t feel connected with its customers.

If the company does change gears on fees and business practices, it should make the changes very clear and assure customers that Ticketmaster is committed to becoming their favorite destination for finding and attending events.

The big picture

Ticketmaster has plenty of motivation for making big changes to stay competitive.

There’s quite a bit of buzz, for instance, about newcomer Tikly, an online ticket service for bands and venues created recently by 21-year-old band manager Emma Peterson after she became fed up with mega-brokers’ effect on advance ticket sales for indie bands like hers.

Fans wouldn’t buy ahead of time because the broker fees drove ticket prices up by $5 or $10, more than they would have to pay if they waited and bought tickets at the door, Peterson explained in an interview with website techcocktail.com.

According to the techcocktail.com story, “Tikly gives bands and venues an alternative to these traditional ticketing agencies through providing a simplified process of distributing e-tickets. The fees are straightforward: 10% for all tickets between $10 and $75, a $1 fee for tickets $10 or less, and a cap of $7.50 for tickets over $75. [Peterson is] not reinventing the wheel, just improving upon it.”

In Closing

If Ticketmaster wants to stay competitive in an environment where upstarts like Tikly can get a foothold, a new, pro-UX mindset and commitment will be crucial – that is, in the humble opinion of this entertainment consumer and UX believer.