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Lea's live event assistant for Messenger makes buying tickets easier

Lea's live event assistant for Messenger makes buying tickets easier
From TechCrunch - January 4, 2018

Buying event tickets online isnt a great experience. Sites like Ticketmaster are the default, but are difficult to use and expensive. A startup called Lea wants to offer a more modern experience by combining event search, discovery, seat selection and payment all in a single application that works right in Facebook Messenger.

Yes, thats rightLea is a chatbot.

And while bots havent had the warmest reception as of yet, theyre increasingly becoming a common way for consumers to interact with apps and brands. But in the case of Lea, the chatbot-style interface may actually work better than using a ticketing website or dedicated mobile app, like Ticketmasters.

According to Leas CEO Brian Canty, the original ideaback when the company was known asTicktatewas to offer a concierge-like application for buying event tickets. Similar to Postmates, the company would send people to the box office to buy tickets on users behalf. But this idea didnt scale, Canty explains. It was expensive and the box offices themselves pushed back because of their deep ties to Ticketmaster.

When the company joined 500 Startups in 2016, it was still self-funded, and in search of a model that worked. That is, one that still made it easier to find and buy event tickets while offering users the feel of the high-touch, hand-holding experience they seemed to like from before, says Canty.

Initially, Lea tried building a bot that used natural language processing (NLP, which understands language) to aid with users inquires about tickets. But after six months of testing, the team found that the technology on its own wasnt matching up to user expectations.

We decided to pull out all the NLP and just take advantage of the Facebook platform to build something that accompanies the fan throughout the full journey of going to an event, explains Canty. Everything from discoverywe pull in their Spotify information, suggest events based on their location and what their friends liketo a chat extension, Facebooks feature for allowing people to chat in a group with a bot and make purchases, he says.

The bot today works only with Spotify, but the company aims to support Apple Music and SoundCloud in time.

It offers users the ability to search for specific artists, bands and concerts, or they can leverage Leas discovery mechanisms to stay informed of events they may like. Every week, Lea pushes out an update with around five suggested events and then tracks those you click to improve its future recommendations.

When you find an event you like, you can make the purchase right from Messenger or your Messenger group chat, without leaving the app.

Every step the user takes in Lea is guided by the bot using prompts, but Lea hopes to add NLP back in to augment the experience in the future.

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