Website/app specialist helps venues communicate with fans during crisis

Carbonhouse, a developer of websites and mobile applications for sports and entertainment venues, has filled a key role during the COVID-19 crisis, mostly through informing clients of the digital tools they have to communicate with their customers during the shutdown.

The Charlotte-based company, owned by AEG, is among the few divisions within the company that continues to operate after arenas, stadiums and convention centers, many run by its sister firm ASM Global, have kept their doors closed over the past six weeks.  

As the shutdown approaches two months in duration, Carbonhouse has reached out to its 300-plus clients to see what they can do to help them facilitate ticket refunds tied to the hundreds of concerts, family shows and other events affected by the coronavirus.

“One of the things we’re finding out is venues are recognizing the website is their primary means of communicating to the fans,” said Brandon Lucas, a principal with Carbonhouse, a firm with 18 employees. “During this time, they’re trimming back their spend on Google ads and billboards, but realize their website has become that critical channel.”

In mid-March, when the national shutdown began, Carbonhouse immediately sent a note to all clients reminding them of the tools they have to update customers on events. A lot of it was simply reminders on functions gone unused for years before COVID-19 took a sledgehammer to live entertainment, Lucas said.

A few weeks later, Carbonhouse sent a second note suggesting it might be a good time for “spring cleaning” to refresh websites and maybe think about developing a new site. Some venues had plans to build new sites and the shutdown accelerated those efforts. Tyson Events Center, Petersen Center and Oakland’s Paramount Theatre are three facilities forming new websites, Lucas said.

This week, as part of a continuing education initiative, company officials supplied a list of free online resources accessible to clients on topics such as search engine optimization, making better use of analytics and creating higher quality images for websites.

“It all comes back to what we can do to help,” Lucas said.

One client called Carbonhouse asking for ideas on how to best communicate its approach as the building prepares to re-open after the shutdown. The firm referred them to the website for AsiaWorld-Expo, a convention center in Hong Kong in a region where the virus originated. The site takes users to a preventive measures page listing multiple safeguards the facility is taking to keep it clean and safe.

“It wasn’t about scaring people; it’s very matter-of-fact,” Lucas said. “They’re not posting a giant message on the home page about the virus. It’s about how their customers are going to be comfortable coming to the venue. They’re very clear about what they’re doing. It’s a good summary.”  

In addition, on its own website, Carbonhouse compiled links to 25 programs its clients have done to support their communities. Comerica Center, for example, the NHL Dallas Stars’ practice facility and home of the G League’s Texas Legends, introduced a Family Meal Kit program in conjunction with RS3 Strategic Hospitality, the arena’s concessionaire. For about $200, the package covers five full meals over two days for four to five people. 

For residents of Frisco, Texas, where the arena sits, it’s a lot of food for the money, Lucas said.  

“I saw that offer and thought we need to share that information with our clients,” Lucas said. “We want to be a resource for them and share things that other people are doing. The most impressive thing is seeing all these venues come together, not just the ones turning their facilities over as medical centers, but to entertain people.”