Better Data Makes Better Festivals: Bournemouth 7s’ Online Ticketing Transformation
The key to running a great event is learning what works—and what doesn’t. And as Senior Events Manager at Bournemouth 7s, the world’s largest sports and music festival, my job centres around that experimentation.
Each year, we turn 65 acres of sporting grounds into a 30,000-person festival. I love seeing something come from nothing and then, at the apex of the festival, walking around knowing I've had a huge part to play in the creation of this world-renowned event. It makes me proud to see that in the end, all our hard work results in an amazing experience for our attendees, year after year.
I’ve been part of the festival for a while now. I started off as a bartender, later transitioning into the event management side a couple of years ago. My various roles have allowed me to see almost every aspect of the festival. And now that I am charged with helping to run the whole show, the bread and butter of my job are general logistics and operations, with much of my time spent asking myself and my colleagues, “What worked this year?” or “What didn’t work and why not?” Sometimes this means attending other festivals for inspiration, and often development happens through behind the scenes work: enhancing the effectiveness and efficiency of our operational logistics. But whatever decision we make, it all comes down to what’s best for our attendees.
The Benefits of Online Ticketing
A great deal of my focus is spent organising ticket promotion and sales. Some event organisers discount the importance of the ticketing process. They think the way people buy and receive tickets doesn’t matter—so long as you have a great event, people will do whatever it takes to get there. I don’t believe this is true. My philosophy is that the festival industry is so competitive that making the ticket buying as easy as possible is the best way to attract new and repeat attendees. For me, it’s all about removing barriers.
With our reliance on smartphones and online payment technologies today, online ticketing is the best way to ensure people get their festival passes as seamlessly and quickly as possible. Now, more than ever, people have less time and patience, so the optimal ticket-buying process is all about speed and service. Attendees know what they want and they're ready to buy it—so let's make that happen.
Online ticketing also has an array of benefits as an event manager. Not only are we able to get our attendees their tickets or passes as quickly, efficiently, and securely as possible, but we also have access to a vast amount of data that has almost limitless potential to improve our event. For example, we can use ticket data to see how many people we have on site at any one time, when individuals have entered or left the festival site, and how close to capacity we are. This helps us immensely when it comes to festival security, as we can track individuals in case someone goes missing. We can also make sure we’re not breaking any license conditions.
With an online system, we can avoid the age-old ticket scalper and counterfeit ticket issues. It also makes the festival entry process fast and streamlined: We no longer have to make our attendees wait hours in line in the hot sun or the rain. Just scan their ticket and they're quickly off to have fun.
Having endless amounts of online data at our fingertips is key to running a great event. I truly think that overall, people trust online ticketing platforms more, which is a vote of confidence for our festival. We see increasing numbers of attendees coming in at peak times, which means our system is becoming more efficient and trustworthy, thus keeping our customers happy.
Accessing Key Data
Prior to last year’s event we were still pretty old school, using a mix of physical and online tickets with other service providers. Even though the old processes seemed good enough, we felt limited in our capacity. With our old ticketing partner, we had to call the account manager to get any data or information we wanted. Often, that process would take numerous days—even up to a week—because the system was just one man dealing with a whole bunch of spreadsheets.
We knew compared to other festivals we still lagged behind when it came to ticketing solutions, so we decided to work with Eventbrite. We’ve never looked back. Now, I have an event organiser’s app on my phone, and I can access and share any information I need at the click of a button.
The amount of back-end data Eventbrite gives us is second to none. Rather than just having contact details, as with our previous system, we can now see how people found out about the festival, which website they bought their ticket through, and when peak buying times and months are. Eventbrite is extremely powerful and head and shoulders above anything I've used before. No solution is perfect, but Eventbrite is pretty close.
From Stats to Sales
One of the most considerable advantages of the statistics we get from Eventbrite is that we don’t just throw ideas at a wall and hope something's going to stick. We now have the data we need to make informed, strategic and sound investments, especially when it comes to marketing and promotion.
Previously, we would simply roll with an idea or assumption, like when ticket sales would spike or drop, or what online platform would yield the highest sales. Now, we have the data to analyse the success or failures of our previous marketing choices and make educated decisions for the future. For example, our team had all agreed we wanted people on the Bournemouth 7s website as much as possible, assuming that’s where we would make the bulk of our sales. This decision was made early on and it seemed sound. Now, we don’t have to assume. We know if that’s true or false and can act accordingly. This year, we've added tracking links for our online marketing initiatives, so we can get a clear picture on where we should invest in advertising and promotion for next year based on our results.
Another area where Eventbrite has given us insight is around the comparison of ticket type sales. We've been able to see not only when people are buying tickets (early bird, regular, or last minute), but also how many they've bought compared to the previous year. We cross reference this information with our social media content, then all of a sudden, we can see which social media campaigns drove ticket sales and which didn’t.
This new information is motivating for our marketing team, mainly because Facebook is such a huge platform which is becoming more and more difficult to understand. The data is key to helping us strategise wisely. Now, we can try messages in a different tone or through another channel because we've got all the event reports to back us up.
The Perfect Partner
Eventbrite has been a tremendous all-round partner for us. Apart from the immense amount of data we now have, Eventbrite also allows us to maintain cohesive branding across our online profiles, social media, emails, and tickets. Our promotional material has never looked better! The account management service we get with Eventbrite is also second to none. We hardly ever have to pick up the phone anymore, but when we do, they're willing to look into any issues for us. Last year, we came back with a few things we felt could use improvement and they looked into it straight away. They're willing to listen to the needs of festival organisers.
With so much of my time spent trying to understand the initiatives that take Bournemouth 7s to the next level—and which fall flat—it’s amazing to know I have a resource like Eventbrite to rely on. We’ve never had this level of actionable data before. We even receive industry insights from their newsletter, which helps get creative ideas from our peers. And now that we’re armed with this information, we can finally understand how to most effectively market the festival. I feel like we're no longer in the dark. Now, the future for us is ‘brite!