Date: Jan. 2019 - Ongoing
Roles: UX Researcher
Methods: In-Person Observation, Contextual Inquiry, Interviews, Survey, Usability Testing
Why new, encrypted tickets?
Background: Imagine you want to attend a concert for a highly-sought after artist. You try to buy tickets during the on-sale, but unfortunately you don’t get lucky. You decide to buy them from the second-hand market. It’s show night, and you’re excited! You’re walking up the gate, with your print-at-home ticket in hand… and stop. Your ticket is “not found” by the scanner? How could that be? Well… scalping. It’s one of the biggest pain points for both live event fans and entertainment industry professionals. No one wants any fan to experience the pain of being sold a bunk ticket. Every year, thousands of fans buy tickets that aren’t real. How could we ensure that everyone has a positive experience going to an event they dedicated time and money to? Well, ensuring bad actors cannot prey on anyone is the key. We set out on a mission to greatly reduce, and hopefully eliminate, fraud in the event industry. Scalpers are taking advantage of a system and our goal is to stop it. Thus, the concept of SafeTix was born. SafeTix is a new technology that encompasses two new ticket types: one where fans either see a ticket with a barcode that changes every 15 seconds, called the rotating entry token (RET) or if they add-to-wallet, their ticket is now without a barcode and relies on near-field communication (NFC) to scan in. However, for our initial purposes and as of right now, RET is the only ticket available in the SafeTix ecosystem. The NFC passes are to come this summer.
However, implementing SafeTix did not come without it’s challenges. For one, it’s an entirely new paradigm in the fan experience of purchasing and accessing their tickets. In the past, and still today, people often have the option of printing their tickets at home or screenshotting their mobile tickets QR codes as a backup in case they lose service at a crowded event. I helped kick-off a project to roll out SafeTix to key alpha clients, see if fans understand the new tickets, and observe how they interact with the new tickets naturally at real events.
Do fans understand that this barcode is not static?
Will they know transferring tickets between accounts is the only method to send tickets to one another?
Will fans actually notice and read the first-time user experience when they pull up their tickets for the first time?
Will we observe a lot of fans trying to get in with screenshots? If so, why?
What is the optimal fan education flow from the moment they purchase tickets to actually attending the event? Will materials be updated based on the usability testing and in-person observations and interviews?
Approach: Usability Testing, Concept Testing, In-Person Observation
Consumer Usability Testing
In December of 2018, we decided to do moderated usability testing of the new ticket with a changing barcode to gauge consumer understanding of these new ticket types and their opinions. We wanted to suss out if any of the copy was confusing, and if consumers understood the shifting paradigm to tickets that they can’t screenshot and must transfer from their Ticketmaster account to another if they want to send to someone else. We also wanted to test the flow of accessing tickets, and if ticket buyers could understand where to access these tickets (either in our app or via mobile web).
I won’t go too deep into the findings but essentially, three major points came out:
Our fans liked the concept and that we were trying to stop scalpers.
Had concerns about being able to access their tickets when they arrive at an event.
Thought there was information overload at first.
We updated the language to not be so wordy.
One persistent theme comes across no matter which product we work on: the fan experience is #1 priority to both us, as a company, and to our clients who use our SaaS products. Interviewing clients who were set to be alpha clients revealed some major concerns on their end. The entire program of SafeTix involved multiple teams and I helped interview clients to keep them informed of how we can mitigate any potential concerns that they raise for both them and their event attendees.
Interviewing clients did not come without roadblocks, though. The wider team had yet to prepare any educational materials or prep clients for the change. We discovered in the first client interview that they were ill-informed, and so was our support staff. Due to this interview, the marketing department immediately went to work on creating an informational e-mail to send to alpha clients. I presented the key client concerns to the wider go-to-market group to help them develop marketing and educational materials that address those concerns.
In-Field Observation & Fan Interviews
The key to this project was really real-time in-field observation of fans and ticket-takers.
I went on-site at venues to observe the first few events to feature the rotating barcode portion of SafeTix to really comprehend if the fan or client experience would be disrupted by these new tickets. “Ingress” refers to the fans entering an event and one of clients’ and our key concerns is ensuring we optimize ingress. Specifically, we especially do not want to slow ingress and traffic down. Also, I wanted to understand if fans really noticed a difference in the tickets and their paradigms shifting in a natural environment. Usability testing is inherently a controlled environment and we needed data on what actually happens out in the real world. SafeTix is the top priority for Ticketmaster this year so ensuring I was on-site to help support their efforts and report back findings in fan and client behavior was of utmost important. Not just to me, but to the company.
This project definitely displays one of the limitations of usability testing, which is it can be great for testing comprehension of prototypes, but it can never accurately depict user behavior. Oftentimes, triangulating usability testing with contextual inquiry and in-person observation (for qualitative methods) is the best approach, in my experience.
What we found when we went to observe actual event attendees pulling up their new RET tickets is that they weren’t actually ready the first-time user experience cards explaining the tickets. The majority of fans we could observe across multiple events.
A decision was made from senior leadership to show a blue line scanning over the barcode to indicate the barcode is changing. When we came into the project, we wanted to test if the blue line washing over the barcode truly indicated to fans that the barcode was changing. When we interviewed fans on site, most of them didn’t think the blue line was indicating anything about the barcode changing. Thus, in the next iteration, we decided that instead of a blue line washing over the barcode, we should make two changes: 1) make the barcode actually look like it’s changing and 2) show copy on the ticket that says “screenshots are not allowed” to really drive home the point that this ticket is dynamic and you can’t screen shot.
Ticketmaster hosted an event at the South-by-Southwest conference in Austin, Texas in March 2018. That small, controlled event was the first one where we test NFC passes. The attendees were invite only, and received an entire communications plan describing the ticket ahead of time. We intercepted attendees as they were in line and pulling up their tickets to ask them if they understood the . We also observed some instances of attendees trying to get in with screenshot tickets.
One safeguard the product team put in place during these first alpha events was a backup QR code in the event of a failure of the RET barcode. The QR code was hidden behind a menu featuring three dots “…” right next to the ticket. However, during one event at a large arena, there were some tech issues and both ticket takers and fans found the QR code quite easily. They were immediately reverting the QR code, and we knew we needed to hide the failsafe QR code better. So, we removed the dots and just made it a tap to get to the QR code.
Naming Survey and Client Interviews
The SafeTix program was just recently branded with that name, as of mid-May 2019. The program itself went through many, many name iterations. However, we didn’t have concrete data on which names were really clear to fans that these were a new type of mobile-only ticket that were secure. Secure digital tickets, rotating entry tokens, etc. All these names were just thought of at the beginning without much research backing up if the names were clear to ticket buyers. So, product marketing asked my team to help them with the branding names. We set out to do a large survey and 14 short client interviews to ask for some unaided awareness word associated to tickets that are on phones and couldn’t be fraudulent.
Added Value Tickets
One use case that we’ve never supported very well is Added Value tickets. An added value ticket means there is an upsell involved in the ticket buying process, or a ticket buyer purchases an add-on after they bought a ticket to the event. Our backend systems weren’t designed to handle added value tickets or labels to the ticket. The SafeTix program shined a light on this gap, as many of our clients utilize added value tickets to upsell many of their services. How would we handle added value with these new tickets? Traditionally, clients would build a different event on the backend with the added value bundled in with the entry ticket. It was a workaround, and it worked for a long time because the ticket buyer would just get multiple tickets with QR codes. However, now that we were eliminating QR codes, this posed a problem. Would giving ticket buyers two separate ticketing experiences confuse them? One ticket without a QR code and one with a QR code. Due to technical limitations, we could not label the added value ticket as a ticket with added value, or not for entry.
One of our key client development directors, aka account managers, reached out to me to help figure out how we were going to roll out SafeTix to his clients when the majority of them have added value tickets. So, I set-up a few client interviews with clients who do a lot of added value to understand their needs, use cases, and what they would want their tickets to convey in the future. I also acted as the catalyst to get different teams thinking about and solutioning the added value challenge. I called multiple meetings for many different stakeholders to understand the landscape, and actually start talking to one another to discuss action items. I organized a knowledge share so that every team could come together and discuss what they knew, and how they could work together to achieve a better future state for handling added value tickets. Furthermore, I also set-up a round of usability testing with ticket buyers so we can see if having disparate experiences across tickets was confusing.
We found that labeling a ticket as entry vs. non-entry was good enough for ticket buyers to understand the difference. However, I plan to go on-site for an event at a venue that does a lot of added value tickets to see in a non-controlled environment if there is confusion.
Where We Are At Currently and Next Steps
The NFC add-to-wallet feature is set to be released in June 2019. Once it is, I will be going back on site to real events to observe natural reactions and behavior from both consumers and our clients.
The antenna to detect NFC varies in location between iPhone and Android, and the way to scan NFC tickets is different than the way to scan an RET barcode. Primarily we want to understand if ticket scanners struggle with switching between the ticket types, and if so, does that slow down ingress? I’m working closely with the education team to report back findings so they can write informed educational materials to distribute to our clients to help them with the transition. For fans, we want to observe if there is any confusion with the NFC pass now without a barcode. We have a new research plan to divert fans into lines with NFC-only, RET-only, and a line of mixed tickets to observe relative speed of each ticket
The NFL will be utilizing SafeTix 100% this season, meaning millions of fans will interact with these new tickets. So, ensuring we can get ahead of any potential pain points and prep our clients with as much information as possible is of utmost importance.