How to Select the Right Ticketing System for Your Organization
At Communication via Design, we often assist our clients in vetting ticketing and customer relationship management (CRM) systems. We recognize that the process of selecting a new CRM vendor can be a scary and confusing one for clients. With ticket sales and donations making up the bulk of most clients’ revenue and funding, the viability of the organization and its relationship with its users and patrons is at stake.
There are many criteria to consider:
1) The CRM’s feature set and fit with the organization’s existing customer data and ticketing process
2) The quality and level of customer service provided by the vendor
3) The total cost of ownership (TCO) and/or recurring and per-transaction fees
4) The migration process from the current CRM
5) The CRM’s fit with the organization’s current systems, especially the website
In this post, we dive deeper into this last criteria, the CRM’s ability to integrate with the client’s website.
Most clients are familiar with the hosted model for a CRM product. Basically, the CRM vendor themes and brands a series of screens on their system using the client’s logo and color scheme, and then provides the client with a custom URL (such as acmetheatre.crmsystem.com). The client can then direct users to this URL, either from an email campaign, website, or another digital channel, and the user completes their purchase, donation, or sign-up on the vendor’s website. This approach is simple, and all the technical requirements, such as an encrypted connection for sensitive information, and payment processing, is handled by the CRM vendor. For some clients, this approach is sufficient.
However, for many clients, immediately sending users to the vendor’s website is less than ideal. The experience can be jarring for users, since the theming of the CRM pages often does not fully match the website, and the URL visibly changes in the user’s browser. Also, the functionality provided by the CRM, especially in regards to the listing of events, or the cross-referencing of events to artists, music samples, videos, etc. is typically limited. Due to these limitations, as well as others, many clients prefer to integrate some of the functionality and data from the CRM into their website.
There are numerous ways we at CviaD achieve this integration for our clients. Generally, the deeper the integration, the more ticketing and donation functionality can be embedded within the website, and the more seamless the experience can be for users and patrons. The most common approaches, in descending order of depth and complexity, are:
Widgets are snippets of HTML provided by the CRM vendor, which can be embedded into pages on the website, allowing specific content from the CRM to appear within the website. Such widgets typically include calendars and lists of events. The advantage of embeddable widgets are that they are generally the easiest and quickest method of integration. Disadvantages include limitations on layout and theming, which can result in a visual mismatch with the rest of the website, as well as possible bugs involving browser security, which can sometimes result in warnings that are visible to users. Since the content within widgets is coming directly from the CRM, it is not accessible to the website, which limits the website’s ability to use the content for its own features, such as cross-linking artist pages with their upcoming events.
Feeds are special pages on the vendor’s website, from which the website can extract information. One common feed that many vendor’s provide is a feed of upcoming events. This feed is typically in a machine-readable format, such as JSON or XML, and includes data such as the title, date, time, description, and ticket price(s) of each future event or individual performance. When we at CviaD integrate a client’s website with a feed from a CRM, we configure the website to periodically connect to the CRM, download the data in the feed, and then check it against the list of events and performances already on the website. The website checks each event or performance to see if it is already listed, if it has been updated, or if it has been deleted, and updates its own database accordingly. Most of our clients also need the ability to add more information to events and performances than the CRM allows, so we configure the website to allow them to add addition content (which is preserved during updates) to events, and to link events to artists, sample tracks, or other content.
API (application programming interfaces) are special resources provided by the CRM, which allow the website and CRM to talk to each other behind the scenes. CRM vendors can choose how much data and functionality from the CRM to expose to the website. Some APIs allow only access to data relating to events, while others are comprehensive, allowing the website to pull data from, and sometimes to push data to, the CRM for a broad array of information, including previously purchased tickets, donation history and recurring payments, and personal account details. Integration via an API is generally the most time-consuming and expensive approach. However, it is also the most flexible and provides the best opportunities for a truly custom experience.
All of these approaches have advantages and disadvantages. At CviaD our role is to help clients understand which approach fits best with their business needs and budgets, and to ensure that the client gets the features and user-experience they want, while getting through the integration process as smoothly, predictably, and easily as possible.
The following table shows a brief assessment of capabilities and services for three popular CRM used by ticketing and donation-based organizations.
At CviaD, we have integrated countless websites with a wide-array of CRM systems, and would welcome an opportunity to help your organization with its CRM transition. Email (firstname.lastname@example.org) or call (617-204-9500) us today for a detailed recommendation based on the unique needs and structure of your organization.
* Please note that this assessment is for educational purposes only, and that the capabilities and services shown may not be accurate as of any specific date. CRM vendors are constantly upgrading their platforms, so it is imperative that organizations work with a qualified web developer, or contact the vendor directly to confirm current product specifications.