22 May 2019

If you’ve purchased concert, train or airline tickets recently, chances are you’ve come across paperless ticketing. The concept is simple. Taking advantage of the fact that a majority of people now carry a smartphone, digital tickets are sent via email, SMS, web link or within an app rather than being printed. As long as the customer has their phone with them, they can present this e-ticket to get into a concert, travel on a train or board a flight.

Use cases for paperless ticketing are multiplying rapidly as the world realizes the benefits of going digital. Cinema operators are also catching on. 

More eco-friendly and cost-effective

There’s no getting around it, paper ticketing is wasteful. Every ticket printed consumes resources. A cinema ticket has an effective operational life of perhaps a few minutes from the time the machine prints it to when it is checked by an usher on the way into the theatre. After that, it is simply discarded.

A large cinema chain might print hundreds of thousands of tickets a year. Paperless ticketing offers a way to reduce overhead by cutting the use of paper, ink and electricity. At the same time, it also helps to promote more sustainable practices that slash waste.

Better alignment with online sales

One of the big trends that has helped cinema operators improve customer experience is the introduction of online ticket sales. Well aware that long ticket lines at peak times is off-putting to some customers, nearly all major cinema chains have introduced online ordering to ease the congestion.

While it has undoubtedly made a difference, the need for paper tickets has continued to pose a stumbling block. Even if a customer buys a ticket in advance, they may still need to go to a ticket booth or self-service machine to print their ticket out on arrival. This still creates potential for queues.

With digital tickets, this friction point is eliminated. However it is delivered, once the customer has the e-ticket on their phone, there is no need to print the ticket at all, they can go straight to the theater.

Supports more flexible POS options

As well as simplifying the ticketing process and shortening customer lines, paperless ticketing opens up new operational possibilities for cinema owners and new ways to engage and interact with customers.

One exciting opportunity is the pre-ordering of food and drinks as well. In the past, cinema goers had to line up twice – once for their ticket and once for their drinks and snacks. In the future, they may be able to avoid lines entirely, by ordering food and drink choices when they buy their ticket, either online before they arrive or at self-service kiosks. Redemption vouchers can be sent the same way as their tickets, as QR codes or similar. Orders can be prepared in service areas and quickly redeemed by scanning the code, in the same way some fast food restaurants are already operating.

Paperless ticketing also ties in well with branded apps, personalized marketing and loyalty programs. A cinema goer downloading a loyalty app can buy e-tickets and automatically collect points, with rewards and discounts automatically applied when milestones are reached. Similarly, when a customer buys an e-ticket, the theatre can tailor promotions and upsell to individual preferences to build stronger relationships and boost the chance of conversions.