The premium ticketing industry overhaul: how ecommerce innovations have raised the bar for fan experience

As we hurtle through 2023, with Beyonce selling out in seconds and sporting records being broken across the 6 Nations, to stand up and say that technology is changing the game could be seen as a little, well…outdated.

That said, with media focus on the live events themselves and social media proliferating the aftermath, there is still very little focus on the lead-up to the experience, its influence on evolving customer behaviour, and what that means in terms of its potential to unlock new audiences and give an even broader reach of people access to the most sought-after of matches, concerts and more.

The traditional perception of premium ticketing was akin to ‘stuffy’ corporate boxes, risky, high-tier purchases and often unattainable experiences to many fans faced either with a general admission sold out in seconds or in seeking a more luxurious experience. Those boxes still exist, and the experience within them continues to delight, but the luxury ticket bracket is now far broader, and, crucially, more accessible. And that’s down to the way that venues and rightsholders have opened up their premium purchasing options to eCommerce.

Technology is revolutionising the way that fans can buy tickets to live events, particularly when it comes to premium experiences. Online ticketing platforms can now streamline the buying process by providing a user-friendly, friction-free and most importantly, trusted buying experience. This has resulted in significant growth in the premium ticket industry, as fans can now easily purchase high-end tickets from the comfort of their own homes, avoiding the inconvenience of lengthy phone-calls during office hours and the rising risk of third-party resale fraud. According to a recent study by Mordor Intelligence, the global premium ticket market is expected to grow at a compound annual growth rate of over 6% from 2021 to 2028. In the UK, attendance at live events has also seen a surge, with a reported 20% increase in spending on live events in the last year alone, according to a recent Mintel report. As this shift is now established, consumers and rightsholders need a platform designed to build trust and remove friction in the buying process, shorten the buying cycle and reduce the number of buying journey clicks to as low as four.

It’s no surprise that friction in the buying process can greatly impact customer experience and is often the determinant of customer attrition on ecommerce platforms. This is not only down to the systemic lack of trust in online retail, especially considering the rise of phishing attempts, malware and illegitimate resellers, but also because the bar has been set so high in terms of the experience itself. Time-poor consumers are focused on a quick, uncomplicated and efficient transaction, which is often missing when it comes to purchasing online premium tickets. In many cases it has only recently been possible to transact online for this category at all, thereby unlocking these previously unattainable experiences to a whole new audience. From limited availability of customer contact and care to cumbersome online journeys, these challenges can leave customers feeling frustrated and deterred from making a purchase. This is especially true when it comes to buying premium experiences, where customers expect a seamless, hassle free process. In fact, a Cloudways study found that 53% of consumers have abandoned a purchase due to a complicated checkout process. Furthermore, it’s estimated that traffic attrition due to friction in the customer journey can reach as high as 80%, underscoring the need for technology platforms like Seat Unique to prioritise a seamless and transparent buying process, providing customers with the best possible experience and ensuring that they feel compelled to come back for more.

Opening up technology conversations with partners, sports clubs and venues has allowed organisations to unlock new audiences and opportunities. Many of those tasked with increased demand and traffic across their websites as consumption models change have now had the opportunity to level up not just the online experience but also the way that offerings are positioned, too.

With an aim to increase revenue through online sales and offer a superior online experience for customers, Yorkshire Cricket depicts a tangible view of the way that a technology re-think can transform both business, and also customer experience. By deploying a white label platform designed, tested and built for hospitality and premium ticket sales, Yorkshire Cricket was able to transform the booking process, offering fans greater access to premium experiences in just four clicks across different devices. It has since seen online hospitality sales soar by 400%, as well as generating £1m revenue for The Ashes 2023, representing an 80% uplift in new business.

As technology has transformed the customer journey, it has also revolutionised the way that clubs and venues can operate when it comes to premium seats and hospitality. Bringing premium sales online has eliminated the need for manual booking processes, instead providing fans with a safe, secure and seamless customer experience allowing clubs to capture sales immediately, whether out of office hours or at the weekends. This shift to online sales also creates operational leverage, allowing commercial and hospitality teams to refocus on other important areas. It has also provided the opportunity to open up new hospitality offerings, with, in Yorkshire’s example, the launch of a new premium ticketing category. This category gives fans the option to access premium seat-only tickets, unlocking a brand new audience and array of experiential options.

The growth in premium ticketing will only continue to accelerate, as premium experiences become ever-more popular and, most importantly, accessible. 2023 post-pandemic consumers are putting more emphasis on time and experience than ever before and so we all need to adapt to this trend and have the technology infrastructure in place to unlock these experiences in a seamless and transparent way. Technology platforms such as Seat Unique have made it easier for consumers to buy tickets to events, but most importantly to discern between premium experiences. What was formerly a multiple-step process involving phone calls to hospitality desks and lofty corporate prices has now been reduced to a few clicks from a mobile or desktop device in any location.

In addition to reducing friction in the process and making it more accessible, technology platforms like Seat Unique also unlock a greater number of opportunities for consumers, with more tickets available at different price points and more options for venues. All of these changes have led to a much richer fan experience both before and at the game or concert.

About the Author

Phillipa Hicks is Co-Founder and Head of Product at Seat Unique. Seat Unique is the premium ticketing marketplace helping fans get VIP access to the best live events. We work with venues, clubs and artists directly to ensure all premium tickets and hospitality packages available on our platform are 100% official. By using our innovative software, our partners can exclusively exhibit premium tickets and hospitality packages through our website. This enables us to create a safe and secure online space in which customers are guaranteed access to the best packages at the best possible price. Our software allows clubs and venues to sell hospitality tickets to fans safely and securely, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. By powering online hospitality sales in this way, we’re helping clubs and venues maximise their sales channels and increase sales conversions more effectively and efficiently.