I remember going to my first concert. Reader, with no fear of dating myself, I can tell you it was Pearl Jam. I was dropped off at the suburban arena, a place that I had been before with my family to see rodeos and circuses. Here it was transformed into what for a scared and skinny kid was a monstrous and seething swarm of punks and adult bruisers. I couldn’t find my friends. I wandered around the outside looking for them, obsessively checking my ticket until it turned into a sweaty mess. Finally, screwing my courage to the sticking place, I went, scared the whole time of being ground to plasma by a spontaneous mosh pit. I didn’t even try to get a Coke, as I didn’t want to wander the halls looking for a vendor. My friends, of course, had the same experience, as we recounted when we finally found each other at the seats.
Stories like that sound as removed from today as Arthurian legends, and not just because Pearl Jam is now exclusively for suburban dads. Things like not being able to find each other, handling a ticket that was rapidly dissolving from fear, or even looking for the right concession stand are quickly becoming things of the past. The information age and especially our mobile tech have made going to any venue a vastly different experience, and it will change even more in the future, thanks to companies like San Francisco’s VenueNext.
VenueNext and Levi’s Stadium: The Start of Something Beautiful
It wasn’t a great year for the 49ers as a team, as we saw the end of the Khakied Screamer era, but as an organization, they made huge contributions to the mobile age. We’ve written before about how wired the new Levi’s Stadium is, with its hundreds of miles of WiFi cable to make sure fans could connect to see replays, check their fantasy stats, check other scores, tweet, post on Instagram, etc. There were mixed reviews, but that was mostly churl – truth be told, it was a huge step forward.
Another part of that experience was VenueNext, a San Francisco-based company that develops platforms to connect the visitor and the venue in incredible ways. With VenueNext, you could have a one-app Levi’s Stadium connection that would allow you to buy your ticket, get checked in electronically, find the right concessions (in case you really need a churro), get in-seat delivery of food and drinks, buy in-house merchandise that can be delivered to you, and anything else you might need.
This paid huge dividends for both sides. There’s nothing worse than missing chunks of action because you can’t find what you are looking for, or because you are craning your neck looking for the beer guy, not wanting to miss him. For venues, this slows down the waste of having vendors walking around and hoping that someone will hear their cries and need their services. That’ll still happen, of course, but less so. Levi’s estimates it saved 5% on the year due to less waste, and sold $1.25 million worth of food and merch through the app. A full 65% of season ticket holders used the VenueNext app and the stadium expanded its user database over ten-fold. [1 http://www.businesswire.com/news/home/20150624005399/en/VenueNext-Secures-9-Million-Series-Financing-Led#.VYwEPPlVikp]
The Power of Mobile Data
VenueNext has been rewarded, as well, recently announcing a $9 million round of funding from some major players. They are looking to expand to more stadiums, as well as music venues, theme park, hotels, and transit centers. It’s easy to imagine that such a convenient one-stop app can transform all of these and make the overall experience better.
Just think of having one at an amusement park like a Six Flags: knowing where the lines are, what rides are packed, which are open, and where you can go to get that churro will make your day so much better, and indeed will make the park run more smoothly, as people will move in more logical and planned orders. These benefits can expand to the venue as well. The park will be able to judge patterns more easily by having a real-time database and enormous data sets that can allow them to set up and run their facilities in a far more efficient way.
Apps have gone from being frivolous to being essential. And while there is nothing less essential, from a strict economic sense, than going to a show, there are also few things more fun. Having the ability to be fully connected with the venue, and having it respond to your needs both in real-time and through a data-based transformation of its business model, can remove the crush of glacial lines and the sweaty frustration from some of your most memorable days.
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