Liverpool FC creates a seamless online ticketing experience

Building a fast, reliable platform with help from IBM and IRIS Ticketing

Published on 01-Oct-2012

"By working with IRIS Ticketing and IBM, we plan to continually enhance our ticketing processes to improve the experience for our supporters and staff alike; and with the versatility of TALENT Sport and the power of the IBM Power servers, we are confident that we can achieve our goals." - Phil Dutton, Head of Ticketing and Hospitality at Liverpool FC

Customer:
Liverpool Football Club

Industry:
Media & Entertainment

Deployment country:
United Kingdom

Solution:
Business Resiliency, High Availability , MidMarket Framework

IBM Business Partner:
IRIS Ticketing

Overview

Liverpool Football Club is one of the most famous, successful and storied clubs in world football. Founded in 1892, the club has won 18 League titles, seven FA Cups and eight League Cups; it has also won the European Cup five times, and the UEFA Cup and UEFA Super Cup three times each. Liverpool FC employs around 500 staff.

Business need:
Liverpool FC aims to provide the best possible footballing experience for its supporters, and recognised that online ticket sales were a key part of its interaction with its fans. The club decided to review its ticketing platform and create a roadmap for future development.

Solution:
From more than 20 vendors, the club selected IRIS Ticketing, its incumbent supplier, to deliver a programme of enhancements for the TALENT Sport ticketing system. IRIS Ticketing focused on transforming the fans’ experience with a new queuing system, and improved performance by moving the software onto a new IBM® Power® 720 server.

Benefits:
Increased capacity by 250 percent; the system can now support over 750 concurrent users. Handled 100,000 ticket sales within four days without a single moment of downtime. Queuing system gives supporters a better understanding of the ticketing process, improving customer service and fostering loyalty.

Case Study

Liverpool Football Club is one of the most famous, successful and storied clubs in world football. Founded in 1892, the club has won 18 League titles, seven FA Cups and eight League Cups; it has also won the European Cup five times, and the UEFA Cup and UEFA Super Cup three times each. Liverpool FC employs around 500 staff.

Liverpool prides itself on maintaining an extremely close relationship with its supporters, and is constantly developing its services to improve the match day experience. To this end, the club has an established customer experience department, which is responsible for monitoring and enhancing all off-the-field interactions with supporters: retail, catering, hospitality, museum and stadium tours, the website, and ticketing.

Ticketing: a key factor in customer experience
Ticketing is one of the most important aspects of the overall customer experience. Supporters need to feel that the ticket purchasing process is secure, reliable and fair, and to meet these expectations, the club needs a system that is capable of selling large numbers of tickets in a relatively short period of time.

“We release match tickets in two main tranches,” explains Phil Dutton, Head of Ticketing and Hospitality at Liverpool FC. “In July we release the tickets for the matches in the first half of the season, and in November, we do the same for the second half. Demand is very high, and we have a few days of intense activity following each release, as tens of thousands of supporters log on to our website to purchase their tickets.”

Taking the opportunity to improve
Until earlier this year, the ticketing site lacked a queuing capability – which meant that supporters simply had to keep refreshing the webpage until the system allowed them to log on. The system had enough capacity to support around 300 concurrent users, but with thousands of fans trying to access the site, this could still mean a long and unpredictable wait. Although some users were able to log in almost immediately, others had to keep trying for several minutes, which made the process seem unfair and detracted from the overall user experience.

“We conduct reviews of all our IT systems on a regular basis, and since we had been using our existing ticketing system for six years, we felt it was time to consider all our options,” comments Phil Dutton. “We drew up a detailed list of all the features we wanted from a ticketing system – including both immediate needs like the queuing system and longer-term objectives. We then sent an invitation to tender to all the major ticketing software vendors, not just in the sports sector but also for airlines and tourist attractions. We wanted to see how far the ticketing industry had moved forward, and really explore what the possibilities were.”

Finding the best solution
Liverpool FC received proposals from over 20 vendors. Following presentations and site visits from each of the vendors, the club decided to stay with its incumbent vendor – IRIS Ticketing.

“This was an important and detailed process for us and TALENT Sport from IRIS Ticketing was still the best solution for our needs,” says Phil Dutton. “It offered all the features we were looking for in the short term, and IRIS had a solid roadmap for longer term development.”

The implementation itself was straightforward; it simply involved an upgrade of the existing software and the replacement of one of the old servers with a newer, more capable model.

Harnessing a new generation of hardware
“TALENT Sport runs on the IBM Power Systems™ platform and harnesses the IBM DB2 database that is built into the IBM i operating system,” explains Alison Dalrymple, Product Director at IRIS Ticketing. “This is a highly robust platform, which makes it a key factor in the solution’s ability to manage very high volumes of ticket sales without any problems or downtime. The elder of Liverpool’s two existing Power Systems servers had run without any significant issues for several years, but to gain some headroom for future requirements, we recommended replacing it with a new model with latest-generation technology.”

The IRIS Ticketing team helped Liverpool FC install a new IBM Power 720 server with a single six-core IBM POWER7® processor and 32 GB of memory. The old production machine, a Power 525, is now used as a standby server, while the previous standby, an IBM Power Systems 810, has been retired.

The Power 720 and the 525 are both running IBM i 7.1, and use iTERA software for high availability management, disk storage replication, and rapid failover in case of a problem with the production server.

“The upgrade has at least doubled our capacity on the TALENT Sport system, and may even have tripled it,” says Phil Dutton. “We haven’t really pushed it to its limits yet, so we’re not sure how high the ceiling is – but we know we can support 750 concurrent users now, whereas the previous maximum was around 300. This makes a significant difference to the speed with which fans can purchase their tickets, which cuts waiting times and helps improve overall customer satisfaction.”

First-come, first-served
The other immediate advantage for Liverpool FC has come from the new queuing system that IRIS Ticketing has developed within TALENT Sport. Now, when a user attempts to access the ticketing portal, they are placed in a queue and kept informed about how many people are in front of them, and what the probable waiting time will be. This has eliminated the unpredictability of the purchasing process, and gives supporters confidence that the club is allocating the tickets fairly.

“Last July we sold about 80,000 tickets online in four days, and it was a busy time for everyone concerned,” says Phil Dutton. “This year we sold 100,000 in the same period and everything went much more smoothly. The queuing system worked perfectly and the supporters were much more satisfied with the first-come, first-served approach.”

Integration for an end-to-end solution
The TALENT Sport solution is integrated with Liverpool’s accounting and CRM systems, and also with the Fortress access control system. The club’s members and season ticket-holders are issued with smart cards, and paper tickets for individual matches are printed with barcodes, so that supporters can simply scan their ticket to gain entry to the stadium.

“TALENT Sport supports online, telephone and traditional ticket-office sales channels, but online ticketing is more cost-effective for us and more convenient for the vast majority of our supporters,” comments Phil Dutton. “We currently sell approximately 85 percent of our tickets online, and we’d like to get as close to 100 percent as possible in the future. By working with IRIS Ticketing and IBM, we plan to continually enhance our ticketing processes to improve the experience for our supporters and staff alike; and with the versatility of TALENT Sport and the power of the IBM Power servers, we are confident that we can achieve our goals.”

Products and services used

IBM products and services that were used in this case study.

Hardware:
Power 720 Express, Power Systems, Power Systems running i

Software:
DB2 for i5/OS, IBM i

Operating system:
IBM i, Power Systems running i 7

Legal Information

© Copyright IBM Corporation 2012 IBM United Kingdom Limited PO Box 41 North Harbour Portsmouth Hampshire PO6 3AU Produced in the United Kingdom September 2012 IBM, the IBM logo, ibm.com, DB2, Power, Power Systems and POWER7 are trademarks of International Business Machines Corporation, registered in many jurisdictions worldwide. A current list of other IBM trademarks is available on the Web at “Copyright and trademark information” at: ibm.com/legal/copytrade.shtml. TALENT Sport is a product of IRIS Ticketing. IBM and IRIS Ticketing are separate companies and each is responsible for its own products. Neither IBM nor IRIS Ticketing makes any warranties, express or implied, concerning the other’s products. References in this publication to IBM products, programs or services do not imply that IBM intends to make these available in all countries in which IBM operates. Any reference to an IBM product, program or service is not intended to imply that only IBM’s product, program or service may be used. Any functionally equivalent product, program or service may be used instead. All customer examples cited represent how some customers have used IBM products and the results they may have achieved. Actual environmental costs and performance characteristics will vary depending on individual customer configurations and conditions. IBM hardware products are manufactured from new parts, or new and used parts. In some cases, the hardware product may not be new and may have been previously installed. Regardless, IBM warranty terms apply. This publication is for general guidance only. Photographs may show design models.