The events industry has been one of the hardest hit by COVID-19. Local businesses in Vancouver, BC and across Canada are struggling to answer the question: What can I do to re-open my venue safely? What sort of considerations go into ensuring my business is adhering to the CDC and federal government regulations? How can I maintain appropriate social distancing measures and keep my customers safe?
MyZone CEO Mike Schwarz and Dan Afshari, VP of MyZone Tickets, sit down (virtually) to chat about the MyZone Tickets platform, the benefits of contactless ticketing and venue capacity management, and how local businesses have successfully adapted to the new norm.*
*The conversation has been lightly edited for clarity.
Mike Schwarz: Hey, everybody, how’s it going? Mike Schwarz here. I’m the CEO of MyZone Media, and today we’re here to speak with Dan Afshari. Dan is the VP of MyZone Tickets. He’s been with the company—for how long have you been with us, Dan?
Dan Afshari: Just over 10 years now.
Mike Schwarz: So, Dan. The reason we’re on this call is we’ve had lots of people—lots of our clients and supporters and friends and investors, everyone—asking questions. How are we adapting to this COVID crisis? Tell us a little bit. What was it like in those first few months when the pandemic hit MyZone Tickets?
Dan Afshari: Yeah, it was definitely a little bit scary when it all happened. We didn’t have any clients anymore.
Mike Schwarz: So MyZone Tickets was shut down pretty much ninety-eight percent for how long?
Dan Afshari: About three months. We shut down in March and we recently opened back up about a month ago now.
Mike Schwarz: Got it. And we got an unexpected, exciting phone call from the City of Vancouver’s Van Dusen Gardens. Tell us a bit about how they helped reopen the business model.
Dan Afshari: We worked with Van Dusen Gardens to help reopen their doors. We have a timed entry system that allowed us to manage their capacity and allow people to enter their doors safely. It was a great tool that we had in our back pockets that worked really well for them and helped them open up again.
Mike Schwarz: It was in our back pocket. A lot of other ticketing companies don’t yet have that sort of timed entry feature. Want to tell us a bit about why we have it, how that originated?
Dan Afshari: Yes. So we originally started this platform about three years ago to help our existing clients such as Glow Gardens and some other large scale events that we do. The platform basically managed their capacity, allowed a better flow of entry for the customers that were attending, knew when they’re arriving, and better managed our capacity on site.
Mike Schwarz: It gave us a quick sort of head start. So tell me: what are the main COVID-friendly features that MyZone Tickets customers are using now?
Dan Afshari: One of the key ones is entry times. Being able to have different times of entry and allowing a certain amount of people to enter during those times. Contact tracing. Collecting the customer’s information, their phone numbers, their emails. Being able to contact the customer if something were to happen. And lastly, a calendar feature that we have so customers can clearly see what dates are available and choose the specific dates that they want to attend as well.
Mike Schwarz: This has been a core of ticketing for years as contactless commerce. In the e-commerce world, that’s not that common. But in the ticketing world? We’ve always had that. It’s really COVID-friendly to show up with your QR code. Do you want to explain how that process works at the gate?
Dan Afshari: Yeah. The customers would receive a QR code. They could pull that QR code up directly on their mobile device or print it out if they’d prefer. When they arrive at the event or to the venue, they would show that QR code to a staff member who is behind plexiglass. The staff member would scan the QR code and allow them in for entry.
Mike Schwarz: Awesome. Working with the City of Vancouver and all those referrals seemed to open up a whole new avenue of businesses that we wouldn’t traditionally think would fit into a ticketing model. Tell me about how this sort of contactless ticketing has evolved into working with different businesses.
Dan Afshari: It’s been great. Once we started working with the City of Vancouver and Van Dusen Gardens, a lot of different people from across the country started reaching out to us and asking a lot of questions. We pivoted our business to do ticketing more for venues and not just events. So now we’re doing ticketing for places like museums, like the Museum of Vancouver, playgrounds, Botanical Gardens, you name it. We’re actually going to be bringing on the City of Vancouver pools soon to help open up their facilities. So we have lots of demand and a lot of different uses for our platform. It’s been great to see. We’re growing day by day and a lot of new customers are coming on board.
Mike Schwarz: Yeah, it’s really great having City of Vancouver’s referrals behind us. I remember in the past closing big accounts like, say, the City of Vancouver pools. That would normally be a multi-year sales process. How has the sales cycle changed for you through the crisis, Dan?
Dan Afshari: There’s definitely a shorter sales cycle. Things are happening a lot quicker. People are wanting to open their doors right away and it’s a race to the finish line to get things going. So it’s definitely been a positive experience for us. It’s helped us bring on clients and make the turnaround times a lot quicker.
Mike Schwarz: What was the previous technology that these businesses were using before they switched over to MyZone Tickets? Would they just have their own in-house POS systems? Were they using cash boxes and people paying at the gate? What was it like before?
Dan Afshari: It varies from business to business but for the most part they’re using their own internal POS systems and sometimes even doing manual processes. No one really ever sold tickets in advance prior to this. It’s opened the doors to get them to do that in the future as well, not just during COVID. They’re selling tickets well in advance and it’s helping them out as a business, too.
Mike Schwarz: Yeah, we’ve seen other clients transition online. Once you sell online in advance, you know how many people you can expect and you can adjust your marketing budget accordingly. Those are things we always knew, but we never thought about being able to safely adhere to the local social distancing or physical distancing requirements of the local government. They have put this mandate on the businesses: in order to reopen, you need these features. You don’t have them? They have to call you.
Dan Afshari: Exactly. We’re in the right place at the right time.
Mike Schwarz: That’s awesome. Well, thank you to the city of Vancouver for their support. It’s pretty stressful being a small business that gets completely shut down and forced to pivot. You’ve been helping a lot of small businesses get their doors back open. Do you have any advice for other small business owners that are looking to reopen? Any recommended steps or checks? Things you can help them with?
Dan Afshari: Definitely. I think the number one thing I would always recommend is to start small or start slow. Really get a read for how things are working, how your capacity is doing, and make adjustments as you go. You can always start with 15 minute timed entries then go to 30, 40 and just keep adding capacities as you feel things are better and safer. Another way is just to track that customer data, see how people are feeling and get that feedback. And that’s something you work with, Mike. Correct?
Mike Schwarz: On the marketing side, yeah. We use delighted.com to send out a real-time net promoter score (NPS). It crosses over between ticketing and marketing: after somebody scans their ticket, we set a time 2-3 hours after that scan. We’ll send out a net promoter score survey and collect that data and see how customers are feeling. It’s one thing to adhere to government regulation, but it’s another to see how customers are feeling about that density on the inside. So really, listening to customers I think is key.
Dan Afshari: Yeah, I totally agree.
Mike Schwarz: Very cool. I had a question about facemasks. Are you seeing a lot of places that are reopening mandating facemasks or are they handing them out for free? What have you seen there?
Dan Afshari: Yeah. All the staff that are running these events are all definitely wearing face masks. They’re also offering face masks for their customers as well. So most places do do that, but it does vary from place to place. But, yeah, it’s definitely available where customers need them.
Mike Schwarz: Our client Canadian Outback Rafting up in Squamish. On their rafting trips they’re actually handing out not just the temporary disposable facemask, but they’re handing out tubular bandanas, fully customized with their logo on there. I’ve seen some of that where you can use the facemasks as a branding opportunity as well.
Dan Afshari: That’s pretty cool. Right on.
Mike Schwarz: Cool. Well, Dan, thank you so much for your time. It’s been a tough roller coaster ride through this, but we definitely appreciate all of those people who’ve been helping make this possible. So thank you, Dan.
Dan Afshari: Well, sure. And thank you as well. It’s definitely been a team effort. I’d like to thank the City of Vancouver and Van Dusen Gardens and everyone else that’s trusted us along the way.
Mike Schwarz: Awesome. Good talk to you, buddy. Hang in there. Go wash your hands.
Dan Afshari: Have a good one, Mike.
Mike Schwarz: Take care. Bye.
Managing your venue’s capacity can mitigate the risk of reopening your business to the public. MyZone Tickets is here to help with an affordable and easy-to-use solution with features such as contact tracing, timed entry and contactless ticket scanning. Chat with one of our ticketing experts today!