For quite some time now airlines have been offering users the ability to select their seats online when purchasing tickets. In the past few years performing arts organizations have been implementing SYOS tools on their sites, allowing patrons to choose their exact seat locations.
As a consumer, I love being able to pick where I am going to sit both when I am planning an airplane trip and planning a night at the theater. As an arts marketer, I know that building a flash-based SYOS tool on my website is expensive and resource-intensive. So the question I've wondered is: "is investing in SYOS technology worth it?"
Recently I have been working with the Pacific Northwest Ballet to implement web analytic tools to help them measure and understand how users are interacting with their new website. We recently completed a three-phase Google Analytics implementation. The first phase allowed for basic user tracking, the second for ecommerce tacking (adding dollars into the mix), and the third allows us to measure very specific user actions like video usage and using SYOS to purchase a ticket.
Now, my initial fear was that SYOS would allow users to spend less on their tickets since they could find seats that they were happy with in cheaper sections. On the flip side, I hypothesized that maybe since users could see exactly where they can sit, they would spend more on tickets to ensure better seats. And I am happy to report that the latter actually is what we are seeing. We found that users who use SYOS consistently spend 50% more on their ticket purchases. And this is not a one-time phenomenon. We have been examining over seven weeks of data and no matter the time period this holds true. Better yet, 87% of users use the SYOS tool rather than choosing by section.
These findings are by no mean conclusive. It would be great to say that with SYOS since users can see exactly where they will sit, they are willing to spend more on tickets to ensure better seats. In that case every arts organization should go ahead and invest in the technology. However, there may be demographic or other outside factors at work here. With web analytics you can see what is happening but never really know exactly why (that requires user surveys and focus groups). Perhaps, and I am making this up, older web users are not comfortable with SYOS technology and older users spend less on tickets. Or people with less money do not come to the theater very often and do not understand what "Select Your Own Seat" means and gravitate to the "Choose by Section" option.
If you can throw out any other holes in these findings by all means please do. Also, I would be interested to hear if any other organization has conducted this type of analysis and to hear your findings. I will continue to look at this and will report back if we find any new insights.