In our first couple blog posts of the series, we discussed the basics of online sales and what to consider when selling products. Selling tangible objects seems pretty straightforward, but what if your business a) is a venue, like a community center or stadium, or b) puts on a certain amount of events (or, as I like to call them, funtivities) each year? It’s not the same as selling a physical product on an ecommerce site. I only recently began to appreciate the many considerations of online booking when working on booking for Anchorspace this past month.
1) How does booking work?
There are two ways we can think about online scheduling. Option 1 is a “Class” event (there is a set number of attendees in one space). Say you’re a higher education institution or a local YMCA. You have multiple instructors offering all sorts of classes at various times, or just one or two classes going every six months. Or, maybe you’re a business like us, and offer a workshop once or twice a year that has roughly 30 spaces open. With this type of scheduling, you want the registration to stop once you reach the desired number of participants. At Anchorspace, for instance, there are 4 desk spaces available to daily users. It’d be inconvenient (and not to mention confusing) to have people signing up for the space even after the four person limit.
The other event type is a “Booking”- perhaps a “book now” situation for car maintenance or a haircut, or renting a bowling alley for a birthday party. This is more about attributing a certain time slot with a certain place/person, regardless of numbers. As the business, you don’t need to sell a ticket to each individual coming to the bowling alley birthday party- you just need to indicate to others that it’s already being used at that time. An example: the conference room at Anchorspace is available for booking every hour. We don’t need to know how many people will be using it (I mean, after 10 people elbow room becomes a concern), just whether or not it’s available from 10 a.m. to 11 a.m.
Discerning between these types of events will help narrow down the scheduling software that makes the most sense for you (some handle “class” types better than “booking” types).
2) How many people can attend?
Selling tickets for a rural high school’s prom is a slightly different experience than selling tickets to a Patriots playoff game at Gillette Stadium.
If you have tens of thousands of people purchasing tickets through your website, you’ll want to invest some money in a program that can handle that amount of traffic. A smaller venue probably doesn’t need quite as much attention, and can get by without all the complex bells and whistles.
3) How often does this event occur?
Is this a “one and done” event (sports game, New Year’s Eve Party) or recurring (a horse drawn carriage tour that leaves every two hours)? Certain plugins, like Tickera, are intended solely for “one and done” events. Maybe you’ve seen this in action, like a Bonnaroo 2015 site or Wordcamp Boston 2015. These events happen once a year, and often have their own website (though it may be linked to something larger).
Other plugins, like Events Manager, are made for recurring events, or businesses that host multiple events. With Events Manager, you can display a calendar in the widget area in the sidebar, along with your top 5 (or so) upcoming events. The example below is from the Grand Ole Opry. As you might guess, they have an event almost every day, and they have a vast number of users to accommodate in a buyer experience. Their event software is pretty robust and offers different viewing options to cater to the needs of many.
4) How does payment work?
Do you want to require people to pay in full at the time of booking, or just hold their card information? (Remember, if you decide to take payment through your website, it’s important to have SSL and a payment gateway in place). Not all plugins integrate with all payment gateways- but there is something called Mijreh, a PCI compliant plugin that links ecommerce systems with payment gateways. As a disclaimer, I’ve never used this plugin, but have seen it referenced in my travels online and thought it worth pointing out.
(Some places may have free events, but since this series is about selling stuff, I’m going to save myself some sanity and neglect such events for now).
All of these questions should help narrow down what you need to look for in event management software. This will also determine how much moneyu you’ll throw down. Most online scheduling software will give you a free month trial to decide whether it’s a good fit for your company’s needs. After that, the pay structure varies. Full Slate, for instance, is around $30/month, but increases an extra $15 for each additional staff member. TicketTailor and Events Manager have a flat yearly rate. Some plugins will take out a certain percentage for commission, so be mindful of that as you’re looking around. Bonus: many offer discounts for non-profits,
Next week, we’ll explore the topic of E-products!