Ticketmaster Unfazed By Odd Band Names
Ticketmaster's ticket search capability must take on a bevy of misspellings
Mon, November 29, 2010
IDG News Service — If you can't quite spell Hannah Montana or Boyz II Men you're not alone. But Ticketmaster found it doesn't pay to be too strict about spelling and modified its search engine to accommodate creative alternatives. Managers of enterprise and website search services could do well to follow Ticketmaster's lead.
"Search drives sales for a company like us. It is also the primary point of customer interaction. It is highly visible and it needs to work. Otherwise, we'd lose millions of dollars," Ticketmaster's Geoffrey Young said during a presentation at the ApacheCon (APA) conference earlier this month in Atlanta.
Ticketmaster improved the success rate of its searches by 30 percent by examining those queries that did not produce any results for the user, Young said.
"We approached things as a miss-driven solution and asked, 'How are we going to take care of our users in their existing usage patterns?'" he said.
When the company revamped its search service, it incorporated some of its findings into the new search logic. With Ticketmaster's quirky data set, it was a difficult challenge.
Ticketmaster processed US$1.3 billion in ticket sales in 2009. In order to buy tickets for a music performance, sports game or some other event, a user visits the site, types in the name of an event and is presented the option to buy tickets.
While this may seem like a straightforward process, a lot can go wrong, Young explained.
His team examined 2,000 unsuccessful searches to determine how people were failing to get what they were looking for. The idea was to "look at the historical data and let it drive the product that we're building," he said.
The most prominent form of unsuccessful searches was for cities or states. People were looking to find events in a certain area but, at the time, Ticketmaster only indexed artists, venues and events. It soon started indexing locations, and dates as well.
The next largest cause of unsuccessful searches came in the form of misspellings. For instance, the phrase "Circus Olay" is routinely used to find Cirque du Soleil.
Artist names can be a huge source of misspellings The Disney fictional pop starlet Hannah Montana gets spelled in a variety of ways, most involving too many n's and not enough h's. Adding to the confusion, Miley Cyrus, who plays Montana in the show, now performs concerts under her own name, even if many of her fans still look for these events under Montana's.
Also not helping matters are the unique spellings of performers such as Boyz II Men, P!nk and Flight of the Conchords, Even their fans miss the subtleties of these quirky spellings. Users also type unofficial, though widely accepted, names for acts, such as "NIN" for Nine Inch Nails, or STP for Stone Temple Pilots, or Amy Lee, who is the lead singer for Evanescence.