When you run a small opera company—or any small company really—tightening the bottom line is a constant effort. It's my job to fret over the costs of things like music stands, gaff tape, feather boas, and cases of beer. I remember the first time we entered the cost of our ticketing service into the year-end budget, we were taken aback at how much we were spending on each production. We were leaking thousands of dollars.
Really, I know that seems like a lot, but let's do the math. We used the ticketing vendor as a third party to allow people to buy tickets to our shows online. The vendor took a two to three dollar cut on each ticket sale. This two- or three-dollar fee seems nominal compared to a $30 ticket, sure, but when you consider that we sell well over a thousand tickets for each production, and that we run a few productions per year, those fees can add up fast.
Just think about that line item on the annual budget.
Actually don't, it's not pretty.
But we had already gotten used to the luxury of this service, with various widgets, ticket stubs, mobile integration, maps, you name it. It seemed worth it, but looking back it was just the easy, expensive option.
Simplicity has always been the goal for our website. The photos of our productions should jump off the page, and too much clutter dampens the effect. We always want to present the necessary information in the cleanest way possible.
So we went back to basics. We looked at our website and said "What can we change here—what can we simplify—to cut this cost? What is the most elegant solution to this problem?"
Our friends over at OperaPulse suggested that we try to sell tickets directly on our website. It turned out that we could integrate with Square, a transaction processing service we were already using for non-ticket sales, to sell and manage our own tickets directly on our website. The fee was exponentially smaller, and we were able to trim our annual budget by thousands of dollars instantly!
The experience for our users is now clean and easy: they know what they've bought, how to get the the show, and our bookkeeping is just as simple as before. All of our ticket sales are now contained in our own online storefront, branded how we like it, rather than on a foreign looking widget on a third party site.
The web designer in me is happy with the change in our UI. And the opera producer in me is giddy with the change in our bottom line.