Ticket presales are among the most effective, cheap, and impactful strategies ticketers can use to nurture loyalty and drive sales. Discover why exclusive presales are so important, what benefits they drive, and how you can get them right.
Exclusivity is one of the most powerful cards up the sleeves of ticketers. You need only look at the massive markups fans pay scalpers to realize just how valuable early access presales are for customers.
The exclusivity play in ticketing is so powerful that other industries use ticket presales to build out their own member benefits. Credit card companies, telco companies, retailers, and airlines all bundle up their loyalty programs or membership benefits with early access to ticket onsales. They know it’s one of the most powerful drivers of sign-ups and long-lasting loyalty.
But how can ticketers make the most of presales? How can you best play the exclusivity card? How can you use it to foster loyalty and engage customers? And how can you ensure you get your exclusive sales right?
What makes ticketing so uniquely positioned to leverage exclusivity?
In a word: scarcity.
The scarcity principle states that the scarcer something is, the more people value it. And while most products are produced to meet demand, live events are always constrained by capacity and the fact that an artist can only be in one place at one time.
Apple can make more iPhones to meet demand, but you can’t make more Taylor Swifts. (Although the recent rise of hologram concerts show people are trying).
To put it more simply: ticketed events sell out. People who want tickets often can’t get them. And this means they’re willing to trade a lot for a competitive advantage.
How do you use the scarcity of tickets to your advantage? How do you make the most of the exclusivity play?
There are two main routes:
The most common way to offer exclusive presales is through loyalty programs and/or memberships. This typically involves the customer providing some personal information and subscribing to a newsletter to get access.
Different ticketing companies configure these loyalty programs in different ways. Some are low-effort and just involve shoppers providing an email address. Others are more exclusive and ask for recurring payments or repeat purchases in exchange for benefits.
However your loyalty program is configured, this approach has several benefits:
- Capturing first-party data which can be used for personalization, decision-making, and a better understanding of customers
- Getting owned media channels (such as email or text) through which you can promote future events practically for free
- Encouraging a deeper connection with customers through which you can foster loyalty and increase brand affinity and advocacy
The focus here is building your brand and your audience. Strengthening communication channels and fostering future sales. Making loyal customers feel special.
Exclusive presales are among the most effective marketing strategies at ticketers’ disposal. Plus, unlike discounting tickets or providing free meal bundles, a presale lets you sell the same number of tickets for the same price. They can drive loyalty and sales with virtually no impact to your bottom line.
RELATED: The Live Event Marketing Strategy You Can Steal from Hollywood
The second common strategy is to partner with a third party on an exclusive presale for their customers or loyalty members. You’ll typically see this in presales for events that give exclusive access, for example, to American Express cardholders or customers of AT&T.
In this situation, ticketers (or more often, artists and their managers) essentially sell their exclusivity card to a third party. The artist and ticketing company makes some extra cash, and the credit card or telco company gets to reward and foster loyalty among their customers.
The partnership presale is more of a short-term play. It’s a valuable infusion of cash when margins are thin. But it also means you’re not reaping the long-term benefits of loyalty generation and data collection you have at your disposal.
Queue-it has spent over a decade working with some of the biggest names in the ticketing industry, from Ticketmaster to AXS to Stubhub. Our virtual waiting room solution manages traffic during high demand onsales to prevent crashes and block bots.
Hearing how ticketing companies struggle to deliver exclusive presales at scale, we developed the invite-only waiting room, which lets you control access to exclusive sales, block bots, and incentivize loyalty program sign-ups.
Below we’ll cover some of the best practices for presales and how the invite-only waiting room can help you deliver successful and exclusive onsales, no matter the demand.
When does something stop being exclusive? When a hundred people have access? A thousand? A million?
There’s no real criteria around what exclusivity is or what its upper limits are. By all accounts it’s relative. Ticketmaster’s presales, for instance, are likely 10x that of your local theater’s presales.
But if you’re offering presales in exchange for something—be it an email address, a subscription fee, a donation, or long-standing loyalty—it’s crucial you deliver an offer that matches the ask.
Valued customers should be treated according to their expectations.
You can achieve this with tiered presales, where access is granted according to a loyalty score or customer value.
With tiered presales, you can get more granular with how you reward customers. Think of it like a frequent flyer status for your customers. For example, you might tier access as follows:
- 1st presale: high-value donors, industry insiders & influencers, etc.
- 2nd presale: members with a paid subscription, or “fan clubs”
- 3rd presale: newsletter subscribers, social media followers, etc.
- General access sale
To achieve this tiered access and deliver the benefits your customers deserve, you can set up multiple invite-only waiting rooms to run concurrently. With an invite-only waiting room, you get complete control over onsale access, meaning you can activate the 2nd presale the moment the traffic from the first onsale sells through.
You can use the GO Queue-it Platform to get full insight into live traffic, so you know exactly when to open access for your next loyalty tier.
In a recent hyped product drop with cycling brand Rapha, for example, the company granted first access to the sale to paying members. The sale initially went live exclusively to members, and the team monitored the flow of traffic in the GO Queue-it Platform.
Rapha could see there were no more members waiting in line from about 11:45 a.m., meaning they could open access to the general public.
The general access queue gathered visitors in the waiting room while the members purchased their items. Only when Rapha knew their loyal members had gotten their chance to buy (at 11:45), did Rapha flow traffic from the general waiting room to the site.
“Our members expect to get the benefits they pay for. Queue-it helped us deliver the exclusive drop access members were promised and gave us the peace of mind the website would be there for them.”
Tristan Watson, Engineering Manager, Rapha
Ticket bots and scalpers are the parasites of the ticketing industry. They exploit the scarcity of tickets to take money out of the pockets of genuine fans. But they’re also extremely savvy, at least when it comes to getting their hands on tickets.
You may set up a presale with the best of intentions. You want to help genuine fans. You want to reward loyalty. But these presales are often easily abused.
If your only requirement is an email address, botters can easily spin up thousands of those.
If you want to reward the people who buy the most tickets, you’ll quickly find that scalpers buy more tickets than anyone else.
The last thing ticketers want to do with their presales is give first access to bots. So what can be done?
Ticketmaster’s Verified Fan program is one example of how ticketing companies are getting inventive to provide fair presale access to the people who deserve it most. It does this by vetting fans who register, and giving them an exclusive access code, so only the people they choose can enter the onsale.
This program has been highly successful, with Ticketmaster reporting around 95% of tickets bought by verified fans are not resold.
How Verified Fans are verified as fans is a secret—it must be, otherwise resellers would abuse it. But one decision-making feature Ticketmaster’s Head of Music David Marcus did give away is that customers shouldn’t attempt to sign up for presale access for the same artist across multiple cities.
Trying to buy tickets for the same concert across the country is a simple, tell-tale sign that the purchase is not intended for personal use. But there are many other signals you can use to detect and block bots, especially when using loyalty programs, where you have access to account history and user behavior:
- Unusual buying patterns (i.e. a large number of tickets being bought for very different shows across different cities)
- Duplicate payment, address, or personal information across multiple accounts
- Suspicious IP addresses (such as a mass of IP addresses in Finland buying tickets for a concert in Washington)
- Bot mitigation software, which can identify suspicious behavior, account fraud, and various other signals of foul play
Just like Verified Fan, an invite-only waiting room lets you distribute unique, secure access codes to only the customers you choose. You can also enable two-factor authentication to make your invite-only presales even more secure.
With the invite-only waiting room, you can prevent bots gate-crashing your presale party.
RELATED: Everything You Need to Know About Ticket Bots
If you’re using presales to reward loyalty or provide exclusive benefits to members, it’s crucial you nail the online experience.
You want to exceed expectations, not let people down. Preventing bots is, of course, an important element of this. But so too is delivering a fast, functional, and reliable site experience.
You’ve worked hard to create loyalty, to build relationships, so it’s essential you avoid tarnishing that with site crashes, an unfair onsale, overselling, or a false sellout.
In addition to the invite-only waiting rooms exclusivity benefits, it has all the site protection and user experience benefits of a traditional waiting room:
- Preventing web traffic overload
- Ensuring fair access to the onsale with randomization and/or first-in, first-out access
- Providing detailed wait information & real-time updates
- Keeping customers engaged with embedded content