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Selling tickets by Lottery (how to)

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Lottery based ticket sales are a way to fairly and equitably sell tickets to a large number of people by spreading out ticket sales across a longer period of time - so that an instantaneous free-for-all on your web site will not overwhelm your hardware.
Lottery based ticket on-sales can be used in a situation where:
  • many more people want tickets than are available
  • you expect the tickets to go like hotcakes and, most likely, vastly overwhelm your hardware's capabilities
  • you want the patrons to sign up in advance to say that they are interested in having a chance to buy the tickets
  • and then you randomly decide:
    • which of those people will actually get a shot to buy the tickets -and-
    • the unlucky ones do not get a chance during the onsale because they lost the lottery - but might be able to buy later when the tickets are placed onsale, unannounced.


General Steps to do a lottery based Onsale

How, you ask? There are a few things that need to be set up as summaried below and explained in detail afterwards. You will need:

  1. A self subscribing double opt-in mail list to track the above patrons who want to be in the lottery
  2. These patrons will need to sign in and create a full account (if they don't have one already)
  3. A merge process to look for duplicate patrons in the mail list - eg same person, multiple emails - so that they can't game the system.
  4. Extract a random group of patrons from the mail list and organize into presales groups
  5. One or more coupons that allow presales access to the event
  6. Set up auto-release holds that release in waves
  7. An eblast to winning patrons telling them when their access time to the tickets are
  8. An eblast to losing patrons to tell them they are not in the lottery.
The key is that each coupon's access time range corresponds to when some tickets are released - so each group will have access to fresh tickets and the prior lottery winners will no longer be able to buy, since they lost their time slot. At the end, of all lottery sales time slots, you might allow all lottery winners to have acess to anything left before opening to the public.

Note: this intentionally spreads out web sales across time so that your servers have less load at any given time. eg, if there are 10 lottery slots, hardware/servers required to handle a single onsale need only be 1/10th as powerful to handle a lottery spread out over time (which becomes 10 mini-onsales).


Step 1: Make a mail list that people can self subscribe to

You will need to make a mail list that lets patrons to add or remove themselves online.

  • Give it an external name of Lottery Sales sign up for 'the event' or what ever seems obvious to the patrons.
  • The description should describe the purpose of the list, when the date range of the actual onsales occur and a link to your marketing page that describes how the lottery system will work and that not everybody is guaranteed a spot, but that it is random
  • Make sure the mail list is double opt-in which will ensure that the email addresses are real since the patron needs to confirm it (it prevents people creating dummy emails).
  • Refer to the instructions to make a mail list patrons can self subscribe to
  • If patrons call the box office to be part of the lottery, you can manually add them to this list, just make sure you:
    • Make sure that they have an email address on their account
    • If you have to add an email address for the patron, use the reset password feature to send them an email to indicate its better to make a password right away (i.e. well before before the onsale)
    • Merge any duplicate records together for the patron that may exist


Step 2: Send an email to patrons asking them to sign up

You can use the form letter feature to send an email to patrons asking that they sign up to the lottery mail list. You will need to:


Step 3: De-duplicate and merge people

Now that you've collected a lot of people in to the 'Lottery' mail list, you may still need to de-duplicate entries before the actual onsale. Why is that? One of the tenets of mail lists is that patrons can only be in the list once. Very true, but if a patron signed up multiple times using different email addresses, you may want to do some merging by:

  • Open the 'lottery' mail list
  • Go to the Whos in tab
  • Right click on the list to see the context menu and pick find duplicates
  • This will limit the search for duplicates to people within the list. Try a few broad brush searches like:
    • Combined name
    • Last Name and First Name
    • Name and phone number
  • You may also want to sort the list by various fields and see if you can identify and merge duplicates that way. eg:
    • Sort by phone and see what you can find
    • Or sort by email


Step 4: Randomize the mail list

As the date of the lottery nears, you need to look at:

  • the total number of people in the list,
  • the number of available tickets,
  • and match to approximate load that your servers can manage
For example, if there are 90,000 people, 10,000 available tickets and your servers can sell 1,000 tickets per time period easily, then you need to make 10 random lists (10,000 tickets/1,000 tickets per time period = number of lottery slots). To do this, we need to do two randomizations of the mail list:
  • The first randomization is used to extract approximately 10,000 out of 90,000, or 12% of the patrons into a new mail list to identify the people who you are eligible for ticket sales by lottery (option 2 in the randomization image to the right)
  • The second randomization will take the new list and break it into 10 more or less equal groups of people in 10 new mail lists. It is these last 10 mail lists that we'll use for emailing and coupons in the next steps (option 1 in the randomization image to the right)


Step 5: Make Pre-access Coupons

Per the example above, if we have 10 lottery sales groups, then we will need to make 10 preaccess coupons with the following characteristics:

  • Internal Descriptions might be 'Lottery Group 1' through 'Lottery Group 10'
  • Internal Description is displayed to the patron on the shopping cart and should be simply something like 'Pre Sales access to the Greatest Event time xx:xx to yy:yy'
  • Make each one restricted to ONE OF the final 10 random lists created in step 4
  • Set the coupon to be Auto Add in Web and for Any household member
  • Make the coupon usage type Presales access via internet
  • For the Redeemable From and Redeemable to dates, set up distinct sales times on each coupon such as
    • Monday 10:00am to noon
    • Monday noon to 2:00pm
    • Monday 2:00pm to 4:00pm
    • Tuesday 10:00am to noon
    • etc.
      Make the time periods suitable to how your patrons buy online, although for an onsale like this, they will probably just come to your web site.
  • In the Performance tab, select the performances that the lottery presales are for
  • In the Notes tab, you can create html links that will show the event as a convenience for the patron. Contact ArtsMan support and we can help with the link and button names. These will appear on the cart window as an aid to the Patron


Step 6: Create auto release holds

This step can be done at any time but needs to be ready before the onsale. The idea is to select and hold an equal proportion of tickets for the performance and auto release them at the same time just prior to the onsales time slot - eg. a couple of minutes or so. To do this:

  • Go to the Maps Tab for the event that you are going to sell
  • If there are 10 onsales slots, you want to:
    • hold 10% of the tickets in each performance
    • for a specific patron - you may want to make a specific before-event-sales patron for this onsale that you can merge into the standard before-event-sales patron later
    • and coordinate the release time to match the coupon access time in step 5 above

At this point, the Lottery is set up. You have:
  • 10% of the tickets ready to be released in each of 10 waves.
  • 10% of the patrons who applied for the lottery enabled to purchase in each wave


Step 7: Inform each patron of their lottery time

This uses Theatre Manager's Eblast capability to merge and send a letter to each of the winning lottery participants informing them of their time slot.

  • Create a different form letter for each of the winning lottery groups
  • Put the access time range for that lottery group into the letter
  • Into the letter, add a
  • Eblast that letter to the patrons that won


Step 8: Inform those Patrons that did not win the lottery to buy tickets

You'll also need to create a mail list of those that did not win in the lottery to let them know that they mighrt get some singles after the onsale is over

  • Create a letter to send to the patrons that did not win.
  • Make another mail list of all people in that applied and remove those that won
  • eblast those in this final mail list of people not selected