Home > LSO, Mobile, location and games, Overview, QR codes > The LSO Pulse App: mobile apps, QR codes and the problem with paper tickets

The LSO Pulse App: mobile apps, QR codes and the problem with paper tickets

The LSO Pulse project is the London Symphony Orchestra’s discounted ticket and loyalty scheme for students – they offer £6 tickets for 10 (thereabouts) on selected concerts throughout the LSO season at the Barbican to students aged 18 years old or more. 

I caught up with Jo Johnson, digital marketing manager at the London Symphony Orchestra to find out how the Pulse project was coming along…

“We wanted to update the technology we used to run the scheme and to give it a 21st century feel,” explained Jo, which is why LSO chose to use an app to reach a younger audience. “The app lists all the events included in the scheme, allows the students to share their attendance on their social networks and enables them to buy tickets for themselves and their friends directly from the app.

“It means that they don’t need to leave it in order to call or book online – this also means that they don’t have to pay a booking fee, which would usually be up to a third of the ticket price again on top.”

Jo explained that the tickets are delivered to the app as a QR code, which users can bring with them on the night for scanning on entry: “Students also collect points in the app for completing actions such as sharing with their friends, buying tickets for themselves and their friends and for filling in short surveys after the event. Points build towards a tiered series of rewards, such as CDs, free tickets, free drinks and meals, Amazon and Spotify vouchers – at the end of the season we reward the person collecting the most points with a trip to Paris with the LSO.”

Jo was keen to mention that, overall, the project has gone very smoothly: “We were delighted with the initial take-up of the app by our existing LSO Pulse members and pleased to see that the transition was pretty smooth for them. We haven’t had too many bugs surface in the app itself, and have had a smooth ride on the scanning hardware side, with no on-the-night disasters or total tech failures (aside from a couple of minor Wi-Fi problems!).

“We have been surprised by some of the ways in which the students have used the app – for example, a couple of users without smartphones used the mobile website on a desktop computer and then printed the QR code ticket to bring with them on the night, something we hadn’t considered as a possibility. Luckily this worked just as well!”

Because LSO are yet to do all the data-crunching, Jo didn’t have any concrete numbers but revealed that early indications show that awareness of the scheme itself has grown, with more first-timers attending LSO concerts.

“Our main challenge was related to the scanning process in our venue, the Barbican Centre,” admitted Jo. “When we sat down with them to explain what we wanted to do, they raised an issue with their auditing process – paper tickets were a required part of this and entry to the hall was not permitted without one. They were also concerned about their stewards having to decipher more than one type of ticket quickly when large numbers of people were entering the hall together.

“As a short term solution we decided to set up a dedicated desk for scanning and printing off the tickets that had been purchased in the app – stewards could then hand the purchaser the corresponding ticket after their QR code ticket had been scanned. This also meant the stewards didn’t have to be trained to use the scanners.”

Jo also mentioned another work-around they had considered: “We also thought about a solution whereby we purchased a ticket printer which printed a ticket when the QR code was scanned, but we discounted this solution as the Barbican could only accept tickets printed on their own stock.”

Despite this change to the initial plan, the app team have been working with the Barbican on future implementation of mobile ticketing, and Jo said she’s delighted that their test project has been able to demonstrate to them the pros and cons of this method: “We have however still been able to test the full solution twice at our venue, LSO St Luke’s, with stewards scanning the phones and without handing out paper tickets, which we were pleased to see went smoothly.”

Matthew Caines is a journalist currently blogging and posting updates from all eight projects involved in the Digital R&D Fund for Arts and Culture

  1. July 5, 2012 at 3:40 pm

    I’ve just been catching up on this project, thanks very much for documenting it like this.

    We recently launched a new mobile website for the AT&T Performing Arts Centre in Dallas that features online purchasing and scannable E-Tickets for people to present to ushers. We decided not to go down the app route – instead anyone can browse/bookmark/follow a link to the URL on a mobile device (it’s at http://m.attpac.org/). Otherwise it isn’t a million miles from what you’re developing here.

    It’s an interesting area and it’s good to see there’s some research into it being carried out. All the best with further developments.

  2. July 16, 2012 at 2:45 pm

    Hi Chris, thank you for the feedback, very interesting – we have HTML5 mobile site plus iPhone and Android app, and the apps perform better – especially during ticket redemption where you don’t get users trying to scroll around to get their QR Code. Plus we have reasonably complex maths going on inside the apps for loyalty points and reward scheme, which we kept off the mob site. Then there’s the streaming audio previews…..so there are quite a few things beyond the actual usability (which is faster / better in-app), but we certainly have users on the the lsopulse.mobi site also.

    Drop me a note on hello@kodime.com if you want to discuss further.

    Thx Nico

  3. July 17, 2012 at 6:14 pm

    I bet you wish NFC (Near field communication) was more prominent in the Uk. Mabye in the future when phone companys catch up you will have an all in one NFC soultion.

    • July 18, 2012 at 12:02 pm

      Hi Yard, funnily enough we actually have an NFC element in the application, but with only a few Blackberries and one Nexus supporting NFC, indeed it is too early to be rolled out. But we have tested it 🙂

  4. Dalan
    September 3, 2012 at 9:44 am

    This sounds like a great project. It also goes to show the power of gamification marketing, i.e. collecting points, giving feedback, share with friends. I guess it is not only cheaper, but also gives the user some sort of empowerment feeling or at least being able to participate and give something back. The organization itself could benefit from such a feedback.
    Nice job!
    The thing one should think about is also why the app is working better than the mobile site: is it because the site lacks in your case some of the options the app offers or is it that users are just more used and keen on using an app on their mobile devices as opposed to a traditional website? With HTML5 spreading, it is something many companies can’t afford to overlook.

    • September 3, 2012 at 11:38 am

      Hi Dalan thank you for your positive feedback, much appreciated. Re HTML5 vs app – we at KODIME build quite a few things on both native and mobile web. Reality / experience to date is that while HTML5 is indeed flexible, it can not deliver all the ease of use, functionality and intuitive user experience that a native app does. Examples here in the Pulse project are one time logon via app, username/password on mobile site, and the payment flow. An app (at least to me and I think to many users) that stores your tickets and manages transactions will feel “more solid” than a mob site can. Plus then features such as audio preview, offline storing of ticket barcode, sharing of ticket info with a single “tap” etc. For apps that require lots of repeat user engagement, content delivery, profile management etc we believe native versions/code are the most important option, then the mobsite (in HTML5).

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