We love collaboration here at Spektrix, and in this blog post we’re going to talk about a collaborative project we recently completed working alongside Town Hall Symphony Hall (THSH) and their web agency Supercool. We’ll take a look at what the overall objectives were and the process we followed to develop an effective solution, and highlight some of the benefits to THSH along with how those benefits can apply to anyone else who implements this solution.
THSH offers a diverse music programme presented by a range of different partners. They’re keen to provide their audiences with multiple ways of engaging with both the venues and the events taking place, while also looking for new revenue streams which will help build resilience.
The project, in a nutshell, was to design and implement a tool that would allow THSH to run an online shop as part of their website, which would be powered entirely by Spektrix and their site, and wouldn’t need anything else in order for it to work.
In conjunction with Supercool, we developed a brand new Web Component which allows THSH - and any other Spektrix organisation who implements it - to set up and run a sophisticated online shop using Merchandise items in Spektrix.
With the main objectives being around increasing sales and improving efficiency, the goals were as follows:
- Allow for inventory to be managed in Spektrix, and content in the website’s content management system (CMS).
- Avoid directing visitors away from the main site.
- Add calls to action throughout the website, not just on a single merchandise page.
If we could find a solution that would achieve all of those goals then we knew we would have a tool that would benefit organisations industry-wide. Arts organisations are increasingly needing to be resilient and looking for diverse revenue streams, so we know that creating channels to drive secondary spend has a vital role to play in resilience.
The opportunity, therefore, was to create a solution that would fulfill those goals whilst also being straightforward to implement, in such a way as to not require expensive, difficult changes to organisations’ websites. There were a number of approaches we could have taken for this, including using our powerful API (click here if you’re not sure what an API is), but with simplicity being so important we decided, in conjunction with Supercool, to develop a new Web Component for this purpose. This way we could tap into all of the benefits of our website integration tools, but without the need for a complex implementation process.
What’s a Web Component?
In simple terms, Web Components are online tools which can be integrated into websites in order to perform specific functions. In this case that means to allow for merchandise items to be sold online without the need for any external ‘shop’ functionality. They’re really flexible, and can be set up without needing an in-depth understanding of how the underlying technology works.
What this means is that they give you lots of customisation options in terms of how you want them to look and work, but your web developer doesn’t need to build each implementation from scratch.
This is just the latest in a growing range of Web Components that we’ve created for Spektrix users - recently we introduced a Donations Web Component to allow for quick and easy low-level online giving. There are lots of opportunities for us to use this technology in future, and we’re excited to see how we can use it to help the arts industry even more.
So what was the process?
We knew it was important for the key developers at both Spektrix and Supercool to be able to work together and share ideas for how to create the best possible solution. Here at Spektrix we know all about the ticketing side of things but the talented folks at Supercool are very much the website specialists, so it made sense for us to focus on our respective strengths.
This part of the process kicked off with Tom Loake, our Front End expert at Spektrix, outlining the capabilities of Web Components so that Supercool’s developers had a clear picture of what was possible. Thus armed, Supercool were able to work with THSH to come up with a series of concept designs for how they envisaged the Web Component to look and work in context of THSH’s existing website.
By this point both Spektrix and Supercool had a good idea of what was possible and how we wanted the Web Component to work. After that it was then a case of iterating the process, working the final designs into good shape to be tested and then implemented.
The key part of the project was that at every stage during the process we made sure to check that what we were doing was going to fit in with the objectives we’d decided upon at the start. This way we were constantly validating the choices we made, and keeping our focus on the outcome rather than the process itself.
Don’t just take our word for it, though. We’ve asked Kate Mroczkowski, Head of Strategy at Supercool, to talk us through the project from a Supercool perspective and give some insight into the thought process behind the solution:
“THSH have around 60 products to sell online, and as well as an online shop the team were keen to be able to up-sell individual items across the website. With this number of products, we decided to build an import (using the Spektrix API) which pulled all the Merchandise items from Spektrix into the CMS, and combine this with the new Web Component on the front end of the website."
Once an item is imported into the CMS, the team at THSH add an image and description, after which the product can then be added to any page on the website. Products can be added to a News story, in the ‘About Us’ section, or even on an event page! We also built in the option to have a quick ‘Add to Basket’ button or a ‘More Info’ button.
These can be set each time a product is added to a page, making the ability to upsell products really flexible.
The end result is a powerful call to action that THSH can use to engage audiences and increase revenue.
For the shop part of the project, the categories menu was a complex challenge. We knew THSH would want to be able to change their range of products, adding new items or discontinuing older ones. We also knew that products could feature in more than one category, and could even feature in a main category and a sub-category at the same time.
This meant the categories wouldn’t be fixed - we needed to come up with a dynamic, responsive solution. Our solution was to build a set of queries into the website which builds a menu of categories based on current live products on the site. So when THSH have some special Christmas products, there will be a Christmas category, and then once these are removed from the website the Christmas category will be removed automatically.
What does it look like?
If you’re keen to find out what the end result looks like and how it works, you can have a look for yourself over on the THSH website. In the meantime, we thought we would pick out a few highlights of the functionality which help fulfil the original goals of the project.
The shop is embedded within the main website, so there’s no need to redirect customers elsewhere. Instead, THSH can retain customers within their site, offer upsells and encourage them to purchase tickets as well during the same journey.
Each merchandise item can sit in multiple categories if need be, giving THSH the flexibility to cross-post items and make them as visible as possible. For example, you can see in the screenshot below that within the Gift category there’s an item - the Bowie Cushion - which is also part of the Homeware category.
As well as a dedicated Shop page on the THSH website, merchandise items can be visible anywhere on the website. They can be included as tailored upsell items for upcoming events, or even added to blog posts to capitalise on new stories. As per Kate’s comments earlier, the call to action for each item can be tailored, so for example items in the shop can encourage further browsing by pointing customers to the ‘more info’ section, while items included on other pages can encourage customers to buy now.
The great thing about a collaborative project like this is that it doesn’t have to end once the first iteration is live. Here’s Kate again to talk a little about what’s next on the radar for the Merchandise Web Component on the THSH website:
“Having clear goals for this project gave us a shared vision that we could all work towards. This level of collaboration meant we could deliver the first iteration of this project quickly and efficiently. Now the merchandise items are on the website, we can start looking at how the team at THSH make use of the new tools and up-sells on their website, and how customers engage with them, all of which will inform future development.”
This is just one example of the sorts of collaborative work we love to take on with our clients and partners. Collaboration takes a great many forms, from working directly with individual client organisations to joining in with projects that involve a whole range of organisations spread across disparate geographical locations. Here are a few examples of collaborative work we’ve been involved with before:
We’re always looking for other opportunities to get involved with, and we would love to hear from you if you’ve got an idea for something to collaborate on. If you’re a web agency, come along to one of our events and have a chat about your ideas, or get in touch with our Partnerships Manager Anna Wiseman.
We would love to hear from you if you’re a Spektrix client, or are thinking about making the move to Spektrix, and would like to investigate setting up a similar online shop. Please don’t hesitate to get in touch with us to discuss this further!