Ryan Smolek - Gesture won't be using QR Codes

By: Ryan Smolek, Vice President of Strategy & Product Management

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A few of our competitors in the mobile bidding space have recently issued fancy press releases that simultaneously announce the addition of QR codes to their product and the QR codes as the feature that has solved the problem of event registration/check-in by making it ‘light years’ faster. I’m not buying it.

Look, I agree that event check-in at charity events is a problem that remains to be, and should be, solved. Charities want to provide their event guests with a fantastic experience that inspires the guest to open his or her heart and wallet for the charity’s cause. Standing in line so that your name can get crossed off a list certainly does not make for a fantastic experience. Upon the guest’s arrival, the check-in line is the only thing standing between the guest and socializing, cocktail hour, and dinner. Those are 3 things with which I would not want to tease my potential donors.

So while check-in is a problem, QR codes are not the answer.  I see three primary issues, though there are likely others.

gesture won't be using qr codes1.    Now where did I put that email? – For the QR solution to work, the guest needs to produce a QR code. That QR code is likely buried in an email from when the guest signed up for the event, often a month or more before the event. So now you have someone, head buried in phone, looking for the email with their QR code. Many won’t think to do so until they get up to the front of the line. Everyone knows their name, and can produce that for the registrar a lot faster than they can search through their email they received 3 weeks ago.

2.    Why won’t this thing work? – Have you ever been waiting in the security line or boarding a plane when someone is using a mobile boarding pass (read: QR code)? That often doesn’t go so well. Either the screen keeps rotating on them, or the brightness on the phone is not set high enough for the reader to capture it, or their phone dies just as they are placing the thing on the reader. There is a good lesson here not to mimic anything the airline industry does if you care about customer experience. Just imagine what this would be like at a charity event. Your biggest donor can’t get her QR code to work and the rest of your check-in line is now scowling at her. That isn’t what I would call a giving ‘mood’.

3.    Treat your donors the way you’d like to be treated. – I understand why QR codes may work for a rock concert. A bunch of people you don’t know bought tickets and a bunch of people you don’t know were unable to buy tickets. You want to let the former in and keep the latter out. But charity events usually don’t work that way. Invitees are known in advance and most attendees have a prior relationship with the charity. So when your most loyal supporters show up to your event and you treat them like they bought a ticket to a rock concert, you are working against your goal of getting them to donate more to your cause.

So how can we do better? I don’t have a fully formed answer yet, but this is what I do know:

  • Registration goes faster when the attendees are known prior to the event
  • The threat of charity event crashers is lower in reality than in the minds of charity organizers.
  • Many activities performed at check-in, such as capturing personal information of guests or handing out bidder numbers (for live auctions) can be done in advance of the event through a more efficient medium

At Gesture, we build product based on what we know, with the goal of putting the product in our customers’ hands to discover the answers to what we don’t know. Based on the points above, we’ve recently implemented a world class ticketing solution that is primarily focused on getting to 100% confirmed attendees before the day of the event.

If everyone is confirmed in advance, you already have all of your guest names. And their email addresses. And their mailing addresses. And you already know what they want for dinner. And you already know what t-shirt size everyone needs. And that means the line HAS TO move faster because you don’t need to collect any information from your guests. That is why we built our ticketing product with the primary goal of 100% confirmed attendance, because it helps solve the check-in problem.

While this feature doesn’t solve the whole issue of check-in, it is certainly a start. For the remaining issues, I have some ideas about how to solve them, but I need further data from our users before I offer them up as a solution. But we are going to do the work to understand the needs and develop a solution, and not just throw out an imperfect technology like QR codes and act like they are the be-all and end-all solution to the problem of check-in.

If you are interested in learning more about Gesture’s improved ticketing platform, or using Gesture to manage your event, or if you just want to tell me how wrong I am, shoot me a note at ryan@gesture.com.

View the original article on LinkedIn