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Focus: Top Ticketing Trends for 2015

Wed 14th Jan 2015 | IT & Technology

Without doubt, there have never been more ways for fans to engage with their favourite sports teams or clubs; whether that’s joining online fan clubs, following them on social media or watching the latest goals on the go.

But have ticketing methodologies kept in step with increasingly sophisticated consumer tastes and preferences, and how will the ticketing landscape evolve in 2015?

Mark Dewell, Managing Director, Advanced Ticketing sets his sights on the future and predicts what’s to come for this competitive and rapidly changing industry over the next 12 months.

1.       The Demise of the Paper Ticket

As consumers we’re getting more used to purchasing online, and relying less and less on paper tickets. Whether cinema tickets, Oyster cards or rail tickets, we can all think of everyday examples. But bigger sporting or entertainment events largely still rely on paper ticketing.

Many argue paper tickets give fans more freedom to re-sell on secondary sites or amongst fans, arguing paperless methods could limit this freedom. But, conversely, being able to make ticket sales and delivery electronically should mean scalping becomes a thing of the past and will give secondary market control back to the club. The key is identity tracking - what could this look like?

Of course there’s more than one way to go paperless. For loyal season ticket holders, smart card access is now prevalent, providing more sophisticated loyalty and reward schemes and the much revered idea of the cashless stadia and contactless payments.

We predict it is only a matter of time, with E-Wallets becoming a favourite way for travel companies to manage the way we buy tickets, this type of technology will become prevalent for sports clubs.  

2.       Multi-Channel Becomes Reality

Online, website and mobile device engagement will continue to grow in popularity as ways for fans to engage with their favourite club. Mobile in particular represents a perfect way for clubs and sporting organisations to engage fans in ticket promotions and regular club updates; increasing loyalty and assisting ticket sales.

We anticipate a key feature of the future will be the convergence of entertainment and sports brands across multiple channels. The movie industry, for example, is a fine example of adopting mobile technology, both to drive cinema ticket and DVD sales but, more importantly, to create connected communities which drive momentum around new releases. We see synergies emerging for the sports industry. Joint sponsorship opportunities will see sports brands marketing over mobile alongside some of the world’s biggest entertainment brands. With the power of established channels now open to them, the revenue generation opportunities could be endless.

3.       Amplification of the Ticketing Channel

Gate revenues remain the biggest preoccupation for many sporting organisations and, whilst gate takings are predicted to increase in the next 12 months (thanks to the effect of the 2012 Olympics, the recent Tour de France’s Yorkshire leg and Commonwealth Games), sports brands are looking for ways to extend their revenue opportunities within loyal fan bases.

For some companies, this will mean making ticketing work harder for them; transforming it from an order fulfillment process to a marketing and communications platform offering a range of new merchandise and services. Choosing the right commerce platform to provide a flexible and creative approach for customer engagement will be key to defining the sporting businesses of the future; capitalising on fan loyalty and advances in technology to deliver rewarding new experiences.

4.       Technology Drives New Fan Growth

Shareable social content will provide the gateway to the extended ‘fan family’ as club communications and content become more accessible. Clubs will be able to create games and competitions that will involve the whole family, encouraging wider fan engagement across the demographic spectrum and thus improve loyalty, sales, and future proofing the next generation of supporters.

As discussed earlier, online channels can open the door to new kinds of fans with different interests. For football clubs, for example, engaging in a relevant manner to female fans continues to be a challenge and an opportunity.  Technology will now enable clubs to create and communicate tailored content to potential female fans for example, using their preferred channels. You can read our independent research on this topic, here (insert link).

Ticketing, too, will become insight driven as clubs seek to tailor packages and deals to the right fans – no more blanket emails, the future is all about the individual and being relevant.

5.       In-Stadia Fan Engagement

Location-based fan engagement will become a big feature of the landscape over the next 12 months and one of the most exciting opportunities has to be in-stadia fan engagement.

Picture the scene; you’re watching your favourite team, its approaching half time, you’re debating whether to make a dash for the half-time snack. Just as your mind turns to thoughts of hot dogs and Bovril (!), you get a text message from the club inviting you to indulge in 20% off your favourite snack through the use of an easily-redeemable mobile voucher. As you’re heading back to your seat, feeling refreshed, the club texts again reminding you to stop by the shop to pick up the latest fanzine; half price with a voucher.

Your enjoyment of the game has increased with more direct engagement from the club and, in the background, the club is (ideally) analysing your receptiveness to its communication; whether you redeem your vouchers, and scrutinising your journey throughout your visit. With this data, amplified by many thousands of connected fans, the club has an opportunity to tailor its offering to capture the imagination by anticipating its fans needs and thus deepening their loyalty.

6.       Data Analytics to Drive Social Success

Coupled with in-stadia digital engagement, sports clubs are busy ramping up their online and social presence; websites, forums, social networks. But it’s not just about driving fan engagement and building online communities, it’s about knowing who is engaging on which social media channels, and when and therefore choosing the right approach to drive success.

We’ve touched on in-stadia innovation but sports brands will capitalise ever more on social media insight outside the ground and between matches to help them understand their fan base and create a more tailored and rewarding experience. With a range of social media monitoring tools now making is possible to measure and analyse the demographics of audience engagement, it’s never been easier to drive social success. Clubs that invest will see significant payment, with the potential to drive commercial opportunities.

Research shows that 30 per cent of fans who like a sponsored product on a club page go on to buy the product. Clubs are therefore finding effective ways of tapping into this information to deliver bespoke offers across multiple channels. We predict the next 12 months will see a shift towards online and social tactics that drive an emotional relationship with the club but also deliver behavioural reaction e.g. purchase tickets, merchandise and encourage friends and family to do so.

7.       Primary and Secondary Ticketing Drives Demand for Bespoke Solutions

As mentioned earlier, the primary and secondary ticketing industries have dominated sports event attendance for the last three decades and have come under much criticism for adding extortionate handling fees, as well as hiking ticket prices – something fans increasingly abhor. A desire for greater control over ticket distribution, in the interest of fans, will drive paperless innovation but that’s not where it ends.

We predict we’ll see more and more bespoke solutions come to market, with sports clubs clearly defining their own digital and paperless ticketing methodologies to better control the transaction with customers; not only to keep all the revenue but to create new sales and marketing opportunities at point of sale.

As has been seen in the US where some clubs now have sole control over ticketing, we expect European sports organisations to follow suit; providing the gateway for fans to purchase and engage on one unified platform. Having total control of the ‘fan journey’ will allow greater insight, deepen and lengthen the relationship for the long-term.

8.       The Rise of the Global Fan

The beauty of creating and nurturing a great online presence is your fan base becomes truly international; not tied by geographical boundaries but digitally immersed, wherever there’s internet connectivity. A new, online marketplace has multiplied the number of ways existing fans can engage with sports clubs; a new opportunity to engage in new, exciting ways.

Clubs will have more commercial opportunities to extend the ‘viewing audience’ – social season tickets and digital memberships will become the norm, offering opportunities to see live-streamed games and ‘subscribe’ to exclusive mobile content. Even if they can’t see the match in the flesh, fans will be just as immersed and no longer required to rely on TV coverage.

In this way, the ticket will become an online passport to multiple digital destinations offering access to rich media and merchandise, regardless of location. Clubs will need to think about catering to multilingual audiences, tailoring content and sites to suit regional variances in culture and language. Once they get this right it’s easy to imagine clubs becoming leisure providers; offering tailored travel packages – all this whilst retaining valuable customer data.

9. Mobile Technology Matures; NFC

Near Field Communication (NFC) is a promising communication technology that, among other things, allows mobile phones to emulate smart cards such as the travel cards used in public transportation. This will create a multitude of benefits for consumers and service providers, which is why mobile ticketing with NFC technology has been considered potentially promising for a host of sectors.

Outside of payments and transport, however, NFC technology and mobile ticketing services built around it have yet to find favour. Technical challenges have created deployment issues with many fearing insecurities but, more importantly, effective business models have yet to crystallize.

We predict a maturation of this technology over the next 12 to 18 months with the sporting industry capitalising to bring transformation to tired strategies.

Posted by: Aaron Gourley

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