On this episode of Payments Dialog, we connect with Micah Hollingworth, co-founder and CEO of BROADWai, to discuss how his platform is enabling payments and an improved customer experience for theater goers.

Want to learn more about how Spreedly can help with your platform's payments stack? Reach out to us here.

Rough transcript of this Payments Dialog:

Peter Mollins:

Hi everybody. This is Peter Mollins with Spreedly, very excited to have you here for another edition of Payments Dialogue, and very excited to be joined by Micah Hollingworth, who's the co-founder of BROADWai. Micah, welcome to Payments Dialog.

Micah Hollingworth:

Thanks for having me. I appreciate it.

Peter Mollins:

Absolutely. So always love to hear perspectives on folks that are doing interesting things in eCommerce and love to hear a bit more about, an overview perhaps, of BROADWai, as well as some insights into your own background, if you don't mind.

Micah Hollingworth:

Yeah, happy to. So my background is almost entirely commercial theater, and by commercial meaning Broadway. So I've worked there for over 25 years in a large variety of roles. My most recent one before forming BROADWai was with Jujamcyn Theaters. I was a VP of company operations there, which lended itself to a wide variety of interesting things and projects mostly in the business development side. And as you can imagine, there's always a lot of interest around working with Broadway. In many ways, especially in technology, it's an untapped field, or an untapped opportunity. And so I was introduced to technology provider Satisfi Labs that showed us an interesting conversational AI tool that was primarily for in venue support, which is interesting, but Broadway houses are smaller, right? 2000 seats or less. You can typically find an usher within your line of sight if you need one.

Being entrepreneurs, you have that light bulb moment, where it struck us, "well, wait, what if we actually use that technology to recreate the experience of purchasing tickets at the box office window?" So moving the analog to digital, and all the data that then gets captured as part of that conversation, and then the ability for the show partners, in this case, to sell tickets directly. And with that idea, we were off and we've been at it since 2018.

Peter Mollins:

That's great. Well, very interesting story then. And maybe I'd like to ask you a little bit more about some of the challenges that you face. Because as a platform, I know one of the challenges that we often hear for our platform customers is the challenge of building integrations, to help with onboarding new merchants. So onboarding new houses, new show houses in, in your case. How does payment orchestration help BROADWai to facilitate that and make it easier for your venue customers?

Micah Hollingworth:

It's a crucial piece of our infrastructure and what we need to operate. Because we made a conscious choice early on not to be that third party ticket broker, meaning we weren't going to purchase and then resell inventory. Our purpose to exist was to help extend the primary ticketing provider. And there's a variety of them, like Ticketmaster or Telecharge for the Broadway space. But then beyond that, you've Tickets.com, Axs, Ingresso, there's a large variety of providers. What we want to do is facilitate or extend their reach and allow our clients the ability to have a stronger voice in the ticket sales process. So working with Spreedly was crucial for us because you provided us with a solution that allows us to capture those payment details, tokenize and hand off, without actually having that, all of the obligations and requirements that come with it, the real stringent policies and challenges.

Peter Mollins:

Right. That's great. So in that role that you have, where you're able to connect to many different of those ticketing providers, I imagine you have a very unique perspective. So do you have any predictions on what we're going to be seeing as it relates to payments in the live events industry?

Micah Hollingworth:

It feels like we're at an interesting moment. It does feel like there's going to be significant consolidation in the not too distant future. You have major players or you have major shakeups of the business happening right now with someone like SeatGeek who is grabbing more market share and adding new partners. But the live event space is still in a challenging circumstance. We're still coming out on the other side. We're not in a post pandemic world yet. So those challenges felt across all those organizations leads to me to think that you're going to be looking at consolidation in one way, shape or form, probably in some surprising ways.

Peter Mollins:

Right. Yeah, no, that's interesting. And now that we're hopefully coming out of that period of challenge that we've had over the last few years, and with shows starting to reopen, how is your organization responding to that, to that that reopening that's occurring right now?

Micah Hollingworth:

Well, the initial heavy lift is just in the communications piece, because we have all that information available in our answer engines and we're serving it up. So there's a lot more that goes into the consideration of buying tickets than there once was. Vaccination, testing policies, masking at the theater, exchange, refund policy, all those things are very much up in the air and are fluid. A venue or a show could announce a policy this week and then next week they actually need to pivot their change to the circumstances of the city or town that they're in.

The additional wrinkle here is the changes that are happening with the major tech players, specifically around privacy, whether that's Google and their cookie policies, or Facebook and iOS, and the battle between those two organizations. Ways in which I would market my shows pre pandemic, where I would be able to track on a Facebook campaign, for example, they're searching for and then purchasing tickets, and being able to close the loop and follow that person all the way through the journey, and no longer can do because of the iOS privacy restrictions that have been put in place and their relationship with Facebook.

So having a partner like us involved, where you can still capture that first party data, you can still capture the sales completion so that you can fuel your campaigns is a really important tool for most marketers in particular to have in their toolkit [inaudible 00:07:07].

Peter Mollins:

Right. Yeah. That makes sense. Maybe you can talk a little bit more about how Payments Orchestration helps to support this process. Love to hear more about, from the payments perspective, the various services that BROADWai is enabling.

Micah Hollingworth:

For us, it's about simplifying and removing any and all friction to the purchase flow, humanly possible. Because we were already on this trajectory, but you look at what the pandemic has done to shopping and purchasing behaviors. The customer expectation now is much higher. I can order from Amazon and be done with that one click checkout right away. I can do similar things with Shopify integrations with other smaller retailers, how come or why can't I do that within ticketing?

And you look across the the ticketing landscape and it's still, in most cases, it's still not easy to search for and purchase live event tickets. And that's something that, as an industry, everyone's keenly aware of, then you need to find ways to improve and simplify that. So working with Spreedly for us has been a significant improvement in what that purchase flow looks like typically for a consumer. And you're constantly rolling out or providing new features that we can utilize for all these new payment methods that are coming out, in order to facilitate that, so that we can continue to meet the expectations that essentially retail is driving into the live event space, whether we want it or not.

Peter Mollins:

Right. So essentially facilitating a great customer experience is kind of what you're looking at and help payments factor into that. And I imagine, as you said, that if it's more challenging for buyers to come in and purchase a ticket, then you want to optimize as much as possible, where you can, throughout that buying process. And so offering the right payment methods, ensuring high success rates, I'm sure that must be a vital part of that.

Micah Hollingworth:

Huge, right? They've already committed some time and energy to at least ask you the questions, get some information before deciding to search for tickets. Now they've searched. At the moment that they showed you the greatest intent, willingness to purchase, I have to make that as easy as possible, so that they're, "oh, this is great. I've got what I need. I'm going to move on to the next thing I need to get." The more work it requires on their part, the more that's going to impact our conversion rates.

Peter Mollins:

That's great. Yeah. Yeah. Because I mean, you think about a standard retailer where I'm maybe looking at some shoe online or something, but with a Broadway show, there's so much excitement that's involved, picking the seats and getting to see what the view is, and a lot of anticipation that goes with it. Especially if it's a show where it's maybe more difficult to get a ticket for, so you're excited that you were able to snag a ticket for the hottest show on Broadway right now.

Micah Hollingworth:

Yeah, that's right. That's right.

Peter Mollins:

So any words of wisdom that you would share, from your experiences with other folks that are looking to optimize their payments or any other payments professionals that are out there?

Micah Hollingworth:

For me, what's been most successful or most eye opening is always keeping in mind what my own personal behaviors are, what my own personal preferences are. And I continually surprise myself, in terms of, "oh, well I was just shopping with this retailer and I was able to check out this way," or "they introduced this as part of the process as I was going through checkout." Those kind of little surprises, what my internal behavior is, it's then, "okay, how can I bring that back to what I'm actually working on?", so that you are always viewing it through the lens of the consumer, the purchaser. Always.

Peter Mollins:

That's great. Yeah. That's terrific advice. Well, Micah, I really appreciate this very much. It was great to talk with you and hear a bit more about your strategy and what you're seeing in the market. So thanks again for joining me today on the Payments Dialogue.

Micah Hollingworth:

Thanks. It was great to be here.

Peter Mollins:

Terrific.