Broadw.ai: Buying Broadway Tickets Out Loud
Broadw.ai provides an intelligent ticketing agent. A show or theater can host the agent on its website, Facebook page, or another location.
Broadw.ai had the Broadway marketing and sales experience to know that theaters and show attendees would find a digital ticketing agent appealing. But the company needed to work with a partner to develop its AI-based answer engine. It sought a developer that could provide answers by text or by voice, depending on the platform.
Vendor of Choice: Satisfi Labs
Satisfi Labs’ Answer Engine fields customer questions in real time. Retailers, sports venues, attractions, and hosts of live events, like concerts, use the platform.
The Problem in Depth
Buying box office tickets over the web is not always a straightforward procedure; you’ll inevitably have follow-up questions. Which seat is best? If you bring in a stroller, can you place it somewhere during the show? Are kids even allowed in the theater?
Broadw.ai sought a way for potential theatergoers to simply ask their questions rather than hunt around a website for answers. Being able to pose your questions directly—via text or voice—eliminates the frustration from the experience, says Micah Hollingworth, CEO at the company.
Hollingworth believed theaters would benefit, as the capability could boost ticket sales and reduce the time agents and theater employees spent fielding questions. And he felt customers would seize the opportunity to ask questions aloud using a voice-enabled device. But Hollingworth and his cofounder’s backgrounds are in sales and marketing. They’d have to find a development partner.
Answer Engine, the AI technology from Satisfi Labs, moves the conversations with ticketing agents to platforms such as Facebook Messenger or Alexa. Responses from Answer Engine are generated autonomously based on data feeds, expert knowledge, and customer-generated content, says Courtney Jeffries, Satisfi Labs’ senior vice president of sports, entertainment, and tourism. It’s been hosted on chatbots, voice-based devices, messaging apps, and website forums. Users might ask, for instance, when a team will play against a rival or for the location of a venue.
Though the company typically works with sports teams and tourist attractions, it knew its Answer Engine could also work for Broadway. Broadw.ai spent nine months incorporating the Answer Engine into its platform. The company then unveiled its Broadway ticketing agent in late 2018.
Most Satisfi Labs customers have at least two channels, and many have four. The Tampa Bay Lightning hockey team, for example, include the AI technology within the Tampa Bay app, on the team’s website and Facebook page, and on Amazon Alexa, says Don White, CEO at Satisfi Labs. Theaters that use the Broadw.ai technology can likewise choose the number of channels on which to participate.
“The strategy is that we build this ‘brain,’ and then we distribute it into all the places fans naturally go. So rather than make them download something, if they go on Facebook or the web, or the app, or their Alexa at home, they should be able to access the same information on their terms,” White says.
So far, the technology has been implemented on the websites for Anastasia at the Broadhurst Theatre and Come From Away at the Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre, with others slated to come on board soon, including Broadway.com, The Phantom of the Opera, and Be More Chill, according to Hollingworth. The two initial theaters haven’t opted for the voice capabilities, but Hollingworth expects new theaters coming on board in 2019 will. For now, Broadw.ai customers are using the chatbot features that let them use Facebook Messenger or a chat window to get answers and purchase tickets.
Broadw.ai says the voice interface will let users feel like they’re speaking to an employee at the box office rather than an Alexa-powered device. Users will also be able to buy tickets without visiting a website using Alexa and their Amazon Pay accounts, Hollingworth says.
“Imagine someone is watching TV and a Phantom of the Opera commercial comes on. A message says, ‘If you’re interested in tickets for this special offer, ask Alexa.’” Hollingworth says. You could talk to your Alexa-powered device, complete the purchase, and ask any remaining questions without ever opening a web browser.