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CityPass takes next step toward mobile ticketing to top attractions

July 2, 2014

0701CityPassScreenShot185A company that bundles pre-paid admission tickets for top attractions in several cities around the country is planning to go mobile.

CityPass, a family-owned company based in Victor, ID, has launched a test in Chicago through which customers can pick up their physical booklet of tickets using a voucher on their mobile phone. The plan is to eventually digitize the whole coupon booklet for mobile use, the company said.

Deborah Wakefield, vice president of communications at CityPass, said the challenge the company faces will be working with all 77 of its partner attractions to make sure that their ticketing systems and software will accept mobile payments. CityPass has a five-person internal technology team that has been coordinating this effort.

“It will probably take about a year or so to get the mobile vouchering in place, then maybe the ball will be rolling faster for mobile ticketing,” Ms. Wakefield said.

She said that initial feedback from customers using mobile vouchering in Chicago has been positive.  Once the voucher program has been tested, CityPass said it plans to roll it out within the year to all 11 cities where it offers CityPass booklets. Then it will move onto the next phase, which will involve actual mobile ticketing for the attractions.

Travelers use mobile

“As people are traveling, it is so much easier to purchase things and find things to do using smartphones and tablets,” Ms. Wakefield said. “That is what is driving this.”

Alex Campbell, co-founder and chief innovation officer at Vibes, a Chicago-based mobile marketing technology company, said using mobile commerce is a smart move for a travel-related company such as CityPass.

“I like that CityPass is thinking mobile, especially because they are targeting tourists,” he said. “Tourists will already be using their phones as a tool to explore a new city, and mobile coupons fit in well.”

CityPass booklets were initially launched 16 years ago in Seattle and San Francisco. They allow visitors to pre-purchase tickets to the top five or six attractions in each city at a discount of up to 50 percent.

0701CityPassShedd400The attractions that are available through Chicago CityPass include Shedd Aquarium, Skydeck Chicago, The Field Museum, Museum of Science and Industry (or 360 Chicago), and Adler Planetarium (or the Art Institute of Chicago). All CityPass holders also get VIP or expedited entry to the attractions.

The company said with an increasing number of travelers using smartphones and tablets as part of their vacation experience, the move to mobile vouchers made sense. Previously, users needed to print vouchers in order to redeem them for a coupon booklet.

With the new mobile voucher system, users can download their vouchers to their smartphones or tablets and then present the mobile voucher at certain of the attractions in order to redeem their ticket booklets. The new process will make it easier for users to purchase and pick up their ticket booklets on the go, CityPass said.

0701CityPassVoucher400Mr. Campbell of Vibes said he would encourage CityPass to consider how a mobile coupon could enhance the experience for the customer.

“Since the coupon is digital, that means it can change,” he said. “For example, what if the coupons themselves told you when lines were short for a particular destination like the Shedd or the Skydeck? That would add significant value to having the coupon in the first place. It would also help drive traffic to the venues when they need it most rather than during peak times.”

Validating tickets

Mark Tack, vice president of marketing at Vibes, said one of the most important considerations for CityPass will be successfully validating tickets at check-in.

“To make this happen, the participating attractions will need to have scanners capable of reading phone screens,” he said. “I would recommend CityPass come up with a voucher-validation strategy that can be applied to all partnering attractions.”

Mr. Tack also suggested that CityPass should research the mobile-wallet space to learn as much as possible about the technology.

“If you are going into mobile ticketing, choose a platform that works for all types of mobile phones,” he said. “I would recommend tapping Apple’s Passbook  and Google Wallet as their mobile platforms of choice. Between the two of those and mobile web, virtually 100 percent of mobile users will be able to save a voucher to their phone.”

Additionally, Passbook and Google Wallet will allow CityPass to personalize tickets with unique bar identifiers and numerical codes, which are needed if a vendor cannot scan at check-in, Mr. Tack said. CityPass would also be able to capitalize on the location functionality of Passbook and Google Wallet.

“This triggers lock-screen notifications whenever a visitor is within close proximity to a participating location,” Mr. Tack said. “I strongly believe CityPass is tailor-made for mobile wallet.”

Final Take

Mark Hamstra is content director at Mobile Commerce Daily.

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