Priority Tickets

O2 Priority Tickets: A platform built to withstand a stampede of superfans

Priority Tickets, which provides O2’s customers with access to thousands of gigs and events nationwide 48 hours before the general public, is a well-established market-leading O2 proposition, and a key part of the Priority programme.

Equal Experts has long been involved with the ongoing evolution of Priority, including its customer-facing website and apps.

The Priority Tickets website and app had traditionally been maintained by a third party, offering a completely separate process to the main Priority program.

By the end of 2016, the popularity of Priority Tickets meant the service was beginning to outgrow its legacy platform. It was running on a monolithic architecture and reliant on databases that would not be actively supported into the future, so to avoid running into stability issues in the event of high traffic, it made sense to make improvements.

A megastar approaches

Due to the increasing demand for tickets to the big-name concerts, we needed to look at a way to improve customer experience. We set the target of ensuring a seamless experience for the approaching series of gigs at The O2, including Ed Sheeran, Alt-J, Jamiroquai and Foo Fighters, to celebrate The O2’s 10th birthday in June 2017.

To deal with the anticipated demand, Equal Experts was asked to integrate Priority Tickets into O2’s main Priority offering – something that would both introduce a more consistent, high quality customer experience, and allow O2 to provide a more robust, scalable platform for high-profile concerts.

We had just a couple of months to get the new system ready in time for the ticket pre-sale.

How we helped

Meanwhile, as part of our wider engagement with O2, we’d kick-started a major piece of work to replace the main Priority platform with a shiny new AWS platform. This was built around a modern microservice architecture and fully furnished with an automated build and deployment pipeline.

It was clear that our only hope of supporting the anticipated demand would be to use this new platform in some way. We designed and delivered a hybrid model for the launch.

All the hits

This hybrid solution continued to use the legacy platform for less vulnerable aspects such as registration and profile services, while relying on the new platform to handle the sheer load of concurrent users. This would allow us to meet the deadline, provide a great experience for eager fans, and be in an ideal place to move the remaining features to the new platform in time.

Of course, what sounded a straightforward plan on paper was highly ambitious in practice, particularly within such a tight timeframe. The hybrid solution required us to route customers via the new platform to get their tickets, but still worked with the old platform to provide everything else. And of course the eventual user experience had to be seamless – at a time of extremely high demand.

There was also the small matter of updating the iOS and Android apps and the Priority website, within the same deadline, to reflect the new Priority Tickets offering.

Happily, the team achieved it all. When the digital doors were flung open, we had 40,000 superfans simultaneously flood into the new Priority Tickets service, and much like the artists themselves it didn’t skip a beat. The only complaint? Well, a grumble or two from those who were too late to snag a ticket.

Further improvements were swift

The hybrid model was only ever a (successful) means to an end. With the initial goal complete, we immediately set out to complete the transition of legacy services to the new platform. We’ve now achieved this, enabling O2 to decommission the legacy platform.

We’ve also continued to iterate upon the new platform, adding new functionality. A key feature was the addition of third party access to the Priority Tickets content management system, adding the concept of roles and permissions to what was previously a non-hierarchical CMS. O2’s sponsorship partners now have a (limited) view of the Priority Tickets backend, allowing them to add 80% of all tickets to the platform directly.

It’s not all backend improvements; the customer experience has also been enhanced in multiple ways, including a tour-tracking feature that provides customers with more options to see their favourite stars live.