Oct 03 2012

Are We Ready for the Digital-Ticketing Era?

With Apple’s Passbook making its debut in iOS 6, digital tickets have never been easier to use.

In many ways, you have to wonder why it’s taking so long for us to shift from a paper-based ticketing system to a digital one.

Many users have already migrated to electronic forms of payment, such as credit cards, PayPal and electronic checks. Still, the trusty old paper ticket, for movies, concerts and sporting events is the norm, not the exception.

But Apple’s Passbook, a new iOS 6 feature that groups digital tickets for redemption and use in a digital-wallet format, could be the one that helps businesses and consumers forge ahead into the digital-ticketing era.

One major believer in the digital-ticketing revolution is Major League Baseball (MLB). As one of the premier partners of Passbook, the MLB is betting that digital ticketing will be a home run. So far, four MLB clubs have signed on to offer digital ticketing for their fans, according to an official announcement from the league.

"The Passbook app will be a great option for baseball fans to store their tickets on their iPhones," said Adam Ritter, SVP, Wireless, MLBAM. "Building from Tickets.com's open technology, we are able to seamlessly integrate the fans' purchasing experiences, allowing them to utilize Passbook as an efficient, secure and convenient option."

If the MLB is successful, it’s likely that other professional leagues, like the NBA, NHL and NFL, will follow in its footsteps.

Moviegoers who book their tickets through Fandango will also be able to take advantage of Passbook and digital ticketing. And Fandango is confident that the ease of use with Passbook will make adoption as painless as possible for users.

“It wasn’t a difficult integration,” says Jessica Yi, chief product officer at Fandango in an article for Internet Retailer. “We had to standardize to the way Passbook receives passes. There are certain data points you need to send over to Passbook, so when Passbook retrieves the pass we have the data stored on our server with location, title, time, all the basics. Apple has done a great job of packaging it and making it simple for consumers and I’m sure the adoption will be strong.”

Music lovers can also get in on the digital-ticketing fun, since Live Nation’s iPhone app also boasts Passbook integration. That means users can use the QR code–based application at 70 of the company’s live-music venues and go paper-free. And since music fans are already inclined to use their smartphones to snap pictures and record video footage at live shows, taking along their smartphones is already business as usual.

The promise of the digital wallet is one that’s been hovering around for some time. But with the smartphone integration we’re seeing with Passbook, live-event businesses can really benefit from digital ticketing by leveraging the digital wallet to build deeper, more loyal relationships.

With a paper ticket, once the live event is over, the opportunity to reach the customer is lost. But an app lives on the user’s phone for as long the user deems fit, so companies can send updates and alerts to engage the customer for repeat business.

If customer enthusiasm for digital ticketing spreads, we could be witnessing the first steps toward the digital wallet becoming a mainstream reality.