Last-minute purchases

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Stephanie ChanMarketing Manager, Ideal Home ShowMedia 10Last-minute ticket agencies have entered the market place much like Starbucks did in the 1990s: Quickly, furiously and with many imitators in tow. As a consumer events marketer, you would be doing your show a great disservice not to at least consider them. I joined Media 10 shortly after the company bought the Ideal Home Show. Our marketing objective was to attract more than 250,000 visitors with an equally ambitious revenue target. My instincts told to me to work with third-party ticket agencies, to cast our net to a wider audience base and build relationships to gain maximum promotion within these sites. It paid off. In 2010, we sold more than 10,000 tickets through lastminute.com alone, without altering our pricing structure, and smashed all our targets. In 2009, the show’s previous owners sold 18 tickets through the same site. Revenue from third-party agencies and ‘daily deal’ sites can now account for 10 per cent of total tickets sold – more a bonus than a windfall but still significant to the bottom line and final visitor figures. Groupon proved invaluable with the launch of Ideal Home Show Scotland in May 2011, as an advertising tool if nothing else. In Groupon, we had a ready-made audience base of nearly 1 million people all living north of the border, which was perfect for a brand extension into a new region. But you only have to ask the bakery facing bankruptcy after a cheap deal on Groupon to know these sites have to work for you on your terms. Lessen the impact on yield by adding value to your packages instead of discounting. Value your brand and negotiate hard on commission rates. When onsite, be prepared to invest in additional staff to handle extra demand on the box office. Don’t overlook your capacity limit, especially on seated or timed events. And most importantly, don’t treat these sites as a last-minute fix. Visitors from these sites are a savvy new breed of consumer with an eye for a bargain who enjoy luxury for less. In these recessionary times, who can blame them? Justin ClarkeGroup CEO, Taste FestivalsBrand EventsI think last-minute ticket sales sites are definitely an event organiser’s friend, but one to be used strategically to enhance your ticket sales campaign so as to not compromise your ticket yields.Ironically, we tend to use last-minute ticket sales sites at Brand Events early in the campaign to give our ticket sales some momentum and generate word of mouth and interest in the product. Ticket sales agents such as Groupon and lastminute.com have extremely large and active databases and it would be an oversight not to take advantage of them. Of course we are very careful with how many tickets we choose to sell using these sites and what we make available. Generally we tend not to do deals on higher-end tickets, cap our deals at limited ticket numbers and only discount tickets on days/sessions where we historically have a lower footfall (such as Thursday and Friday day sessions). We are also seeing new ticket sales trends with our events in European cities including Milan, Amsterdam and Edinburgh, where events are using ticket auctioning sites in last-minute sales campaigns. The trick is to ensure you get the best possible outcome from the ‘deal’ and that you don’t compromise your brand in partnering with them. We recently worked with a few last-minute ticket sites for Taste of Christmas 2011. Using a strategic marketing plan incorporating last-minute deals early in the campaign as well as integrating these deals into our comp campaign strategy resulted in an increase of 6,000 tickets sales sold in advance compared to 2010, with 20 per cent of our audience coming from last-minute ticket agents deals. If used strategically, last-minute deals can be used to your advantage as an organiser. At Taste of Christmas, we increased total ticket revenue by 30 per cent and last-minute ticket deals accounted for more than 15 per cent of total ticket revenue. This was a brilliant result considering the tough competitive environment we face. Matt Hodginshead of events, Gadget Show LiveUpper Street EventsAcross our portfolio of shows at Upper Street Events we have considered the opportunity for ticket sales through last-minute, third-party agencies but having investigated the proposition we have taken the decision not to use these services. The reasons for this are that from a practical point of view a number of our events are already at capacity including the Country Living events and Gadget Show Live, so we are looking to sustain the revenue generated from each ticket sold by reducing the number of complimentary tickets or discounts on offer. When looking at the structure of working with agencies like Groupon, the organiser will need to factor in a significant incentive on the ticket price and a substantial commission to the agent, which leaves us as organisers with a very poor return. As a consumer who had already purchased a full-price ticket weeks before, I would not be too happy to then find out I could have got a better deal if I had waited until nearer the time. We want our visitors to have a positive sense of expectation before the show and this will surely alienate some of the most passionate followers. We prefer to offer a fair price and to maintain that price for all our visitors. The other factor for us is that all our events are designed to attract an audience with a specific passion for that particular subject. Sites like Groupon and lastminute.com have such a huge and generic following. We feel any tickets sold through these routes would add quantity but dilute the quality of our audience. Our exhibitors also appreciate the fact that visitors are paying a decent admission price for their ticket as it is indicative of an increased likelihood to spend money on the products on show. Anyone who is making a decision to attend on a whim based on a last-minute deal is hardly likely to be planning a significant purchase when they get to the venue. Last-minute agencies provide a very cost-effective way to reach the mass market and fill up aisles but for us they do not offer a significant financial return to mitigate the dilution of our core audiences. Any comments? Email exhibitionnews@mashmedia.net
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