Why Venue Ticketing Is Going Mobile-Only

  • by , Columnist, September 12, 2017

When you go to a game or a show, you’re bound to see a lot of phones out for ticket scanners. While some sports and entertainment fans have hung on to the idea of the ticket stub as a memento, most have embraced digitally delivered tickets for several years now. Of course, digitally delivered in many cases still meant that you could print out those tickets, but teams and venues are now making mobile tickets truly mobile. 

Ticketmaster had found that marquee NFL matchups could have over 400 cases of ticket fraud. According to SportTechie, teams had issues with PDF versions of tickets—after all, it’s pretty easy to either make several copies of one ticket, or buy a lower-level ticket to get in, and then show a copy of a club-level ticket when trying to get into a section. Ticketmaster decided to partner with the Dallas Cowboys to see what would happen if the printed option was totally off the table; they saw fraud “significantly decrease.” 

Since then, teams across leagues have followed suit to varying degrees:

  • The Montreal Canadiens are allowing printed tickets, but charging extra for them. 
  • The Kansas City Chiefs are offering mobile-only season tickets at a discount without knowing your seat beforehand.
  • Orlando City SC implemented a tap-and-go system and so far have found “zero fraud.”
  • The Miami Heat have gone all in. The NBA team will have no physical tickets, period.

Battling lines and the resale market

Fraud may be the number one reason for the shift away from physical tickets, but it’s not the only one. As the president of Ticketmaster, Jared Smith, put it, “There is also a much better understanding of who is in the venue and who your fans are with mobile adoption.” After all, a PDF is simple to transfer via StubHub or Craigslist, and if that happens, the venue has no idea who’s in the seat. In a $5 billion ticket resale market, that’s a lot of unknown fans. Mobile ticket transfers typically require at least three pieces of information: First name, last name, and email address. 

That’s enough to reach out to someone, but leaves a lot of questions like how old they are, where they live, etc., which a venue would have if the ticket was purchased directly. Because of this gap, organizations like Turner Sports and Brooklyn Sports and Entertainment seek out data-collection opportunities to uncover fans at live events. This can be a personality quiz, a digital scratch-off, or a simple legal waiver that can gather hundreds of data points using social authentication. Even if the event-goer buys tickets directly from the venue, these data-collection opportunities can collect otherwise hidden data, like affinities for sponsoring brands, visiting opponents, or artists that may be playing at the venue. 

Aside from a data-collection opportunity and less fraud, the Cowboys told Sports Illustrated that they saw smoother ingress and a “morale boost in the box office.” 

A better fan experience with mobile

And what about the fan? Teams have pointed to several major benefits. Though older fans may resist the move away from physical tickets, mobile has a major convenience factor for most fans tethered to their smartphones. This isn’t just in not having to remember to bring the ticket, but things like lines moving faster because of a standardized ticket and no issues of a printout already having been used. 

Like personality quizzes and in-venue sweepstakes, mobile tickets can also offer another way to engage fans on gameday. The Miami Heat, for example, incorporate their mobile ticketing system into their Heat app, which also includes exclusive content, contests, and exclusive offers. With data from mobile tickets and other activations, teams and venues can increasingly personalize the experience with highly targeted content. That can be before, during, or after the game to get those fans back in the venue. 

Is it time for your venue to move to mobile-only? The Cowboys are certainly a success story, going from 3% of fans entering with mobile up to 80% of single-game ticket holders, and we’ll soon find out how these initiatives go for teams like the Canadiens and the Heat. 

What about those who don’t want to rely on smartphones (or are still using flip phones)? Teams are adding an asterisk to “mobile-only.” The Heat, for example, states, “If a fan does not have access to any kind of smartphone...They will need to bring a valid ID with the name on the account. We’ll accommodate all guests with a valid ticket, of course.” 

At the end of the day, it has to go back to the fans. David Haggith, a spokesperson for the Maple Leafs told USA Today:  "We're taking a measured approach, watching the landscape and how it affects our fans. Whatever we do about hard ticket stock will be after a conversation we're having with our fans.”

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