Want to Boost Festival Ticket Sales and Create Unforgettable Experiences? Start Looking at Your Data
I’m a data and reports nerd working for one of the most exciting festivals in the world. On the surface, it’s not obvious that much of our success is driven by the information that’s hidden in ticket purchases. But think about it; by leveraging the right data, you can instantly learn who bought the ticket, what type of ticket, whether it was a repeat customer and more. The insights are truly endless and so are the benefits. But without proper access you’re blind to all these opportunities—just like we used to be.
Bournemouth 7s is the U.K.’s largest sport and music festival, where we combine a variety of sports tournaments with huge concerts. Over 30,000 sports enthusiasts and concertgoers now come for the fun every year, with over 400 sports teams registering annually. With this many attendees, the amount of data we can potentially capture is huge.
I attended Bournemouth 7s every year since 2010, well before I started working with the team. The festival itself combines things I love; festivals, music and sports. Before joining the team, I was in insurance and realised it just wasn’t for me. I wanted to leverage my digital and administrative skills in a different area. I discovered the available Digital Manager position and met with the Bournemouth 7s directors for an interview. The role was a perfect way for me to get my hands dirty in the data.
Now, I get to manage all our digital platforms including our CRM, ticketing and payments, gateways and more. Before we went digital we missed out on key information like spending habits, ages, time of purchase, and reason for buying. But with all of this new data at hand we can target our key demographics every year, at the right time.
Exciting, Inviting, and Rebuilding
Each year, we try to make our digital presence more exciting and inviting. We essentially rebuild the Bournemouth 7s website from scratch. It’s bigger and better every time, and more tailored to what our customers want based on the information and feedback they give us.
But our thinking truly started to shift when we began working with the Eventbrite team. They flew out to pitch us on their platform and we loved what we heard. Their offering made us rethink everything—from how we attract people to our website to how we sell tickets. We’re basically going all-digital now rather than using any printed tickets. In previous years we had ticket sellers out in Bournemouth, but we don't need to do that anymore. We're at the stage where we realise it’s better to go totally digital.
Before Eventbrite, our old digital ticketing providers left us quite frustrated. We had very little control to make quick changes to tickets and prices. We needed to be dynamic and agile to succeed as a business. If we saw a new opportunity or had a cool idea we wanted to implement immediately, we didn’t want to wait a couple of days for it to go live.
For example, we tried something called a “Lad and Dad” ticket but soon after decided that it would be more inclusive to change the ticket to “Parent and Child.” We realised this was an oversight on our part and wanted to make the edit immediately.
We wanted to make the switch on a Friday night, but we had to email any requests over to our previous solution provider. They didn't send a response until Monday. It was infuriating having to wait for something we wanted to be changed right away. Weekends, particularly Fridays, are when we get purchase spikes so waiting until Monday hurt. It also meant we had to keep an eye out for "Lad and Dad" tickets that had sold after we changed the name. It was just one extra thing to keep track of on event day.
Something simple like that should be easy to change. Considering the number of events and ticketing solutions on the market, surprisingly many of them don't seem to have that functionality. This wasn’t the final straw that made us switch to Eventbrite, but it was certainly part of the equation.
A Better Experience
When we made the switch to Eventbrite, the difference was felt immediately. I could make changes in the system if we came up with a unique idea even after we launched. I could simply go on Eventbrite, add a new ticket or package with some images, set the price and commission, and that's it— it's immediately live online.
The pricing structure is perfectly clear as well. The customer sees exactly what they're paying for and what their fees are. A lot of our customers already use Eventbrite and that familiarity is helpful. Having full access to the back-end means we can edit things at any point and run off reports whenever we need to. A third party doesn't have to be involved. We manage the event, the prices, and the attendees ourselves. This enables us to take more responsibility and accountability for what’s being shown. As a Digital Manager, these are all amazing advantages.
In the past, we had to direct people to external ticketing websites. We even had to do that last year with Eventbrite, but they've since introduced a website plugin. We want to keep people on our site because it looks more authentic and professional. If you're already an Eventbrite customer, it couldn't be easier— just a click of a button. If you're not, it's just a few fields to fill out. Every year, Eventbrite gets even better— and so do we.
Patterns and Trends: A Digital Convenience
Now that we have the data, we look for patterns in ticket buying on a daily basis. Our founder Roger loves stats and always asks me to look up specific patterns or data points. For example, he recently asked how many people have been to the festival more than 8 times out of our 10-year existence. He considers them a loyal base so he wanted to send a personal thank-you message and offer them something special, like an upgrade to a VIP ticket. It’s an up-sell, a discount, a reward, and an acknowledgement of their loyalty which all can be done simply with a quick search of our data. These things crop up every week, he'll text me and ask for a report of who came in 2016 but didn't attend in 2017. I'll pull up a report of maybe 1,000 people, and we'll come up with a campaign to target them. Whatever kind of demographic or behaviour you can think of, you can track them and target them if need be. It's giving them a valuable, tailored marketing piece—offering them something they actually care about.
We’ve only been using Eventbrite for two years, and I wish we’d gotten onboard even earlier. It would’ve been so much easier, and cleaner to mine that rich data. We have limited data from previous years that we've managed to fit into our current solution. Eventbrite is far superior to what we had before.
We're doing instantaneous year-over-year comparisons we couldn't get in the past. I can analyse whether ticket sales are up or down, explore the reasons behind those changes, discuss strategy with the team, and then act immediately. Previous years' data isn't perfect, but we're doing our best with it. We use Eventbrite for all our analytics and don’t even need our CRM for ticketing analysis.
The Lessons We’ve Learned
Our Eventbrite account manager and tech support team have been fantastic as well. It’s more than a business relationship—it’s a collaborative partnership. They genuinely want us to succeed and they prove that by being available immediately and offering suggestions. They're a tech company first, and it shows because they're head and shoulders above the competition. It’s through their help that we’ve developed some of our best practices.
1. Ask the right questions at check out. Don’t waste a valuable opportunity to ask your customers for feedback or insights. It's important we know who our loyal customers are. It allows us to respond effectively to feedback. Collecting just an email address doesn't give us any insight into that person, including what they might like and why they might buy a ticket at that particular time of year.
2. Know your audience. A better understanding of your attendees means you know who’s coming to your event, therefore you can better anticipate their behaviours. For example, a massive base for us are students and many of them buy the team packages. This means they won’t come through our ticketing system—a fact that’s important to know.
3. Target your demographic. General admission and team signups are different ticket avenues. We need to know if it’s worth the targeting of universities and sports groups and whether that boosts our ticket sales. If you know what drives your customer base, your marketing game plan starts to take shape. We know how to get teams to sign up. They're excited about the festival—they want to come, play and party. They'll organically spread the message that Bournemouth 7s is a great festival.
4. Mine your data. There are hidden clues in your data about what gets people excited—you just need to know where to find it. Brainstorm even random questions amongst your team that could provide insight into your customer segments to help you better tailor your marketing. That, for me, is invaluable.
The New School
We continue to try new tactics to stay dynamic and agile in our market. Instead of selling physical tickets, which we've always done in previous years, our festival ambassadors now promote us on social media, websites and the like. We finally had the goal to eliminate physical tickets this year, thanks in large part to Eventbrite.
Eventbrite is on the cutting edge of new events technology and they’ll even call when they discover something that could be useful to us. And, more often than not, we’re excited about what they tell us. Eventbrite will look into innovations like RFID or cashless payments. They know what festivals are looking for. We've been searching for solutions around RFID for years and it's always been too expensive. We'd never been able to justify the cost until we started collaborating with Eventbrite. Now, it might be possible for next year.
Last year was our 10th anniversary and we made the most of it. People wanted to come for the occasion, so it basically sold itself. We thought it would be difficult to match or exceed such a massive event, but this year we're actually doing even better. Tickets are flying. We're doing the same work and it's taking off. It just goes to show that when you have a little resourcefulness and all the right information, your success is only limited by your creativity.