Four Lessons From SeatGeek’s Fan-Friendly Assault On Ticketmaster

The mobile ticketing innovator dishes on how it’s taking on one of the most hated companies in America.

Four Lessons From SeatGeek’s Fan-Friendly Assault On Ticketmaster
[Photo: Flickr user Elizabeth Albert]

“The goal is to use data, design, and technology to get users to go to more events,” says SeatGeek CEO Jack Groetzinger. “There’s a lack of advocacy baked into the [ticketing] business. Tickets in North America are sold via exclusive long-term contracts where buyers can only purchase them from a single venue. This is good only for the ticket vendor.”

SeatGeek has spent the last seven years aggregating tickets for sale by resellers (from FanXchange to brokers to individual sellers) and creating as fan-friendly an experience as it can. This is no mean feat in an industry still dominated by Ticketmaster. At a Fast Company Innovation Festival event, Groetzinger and his CMO Jenn Ogden-Reese explained how SeatGeek has created a customer-centric environment despite the challenges.

Build for yourself. “We talk to users a lot,” says Groetzinger, “but we build for ourselves.” When one attendee complimented SeatGeek on its integration with Venmo, which sellers use to receive funds when their tickets are sold, Groetzinger admitted that the company loses money by offering that service. They use it because the SeatGeek team, who are firmly in the Venmo demographic of twentysomethings, wanted that convenience.

Balance transparency with fan service. “I’m a failed economist,” admits Groetzinger, who says that when he started SeatGeek, he packed it with information that it turns out fans did not want. “Now we put that data under the hood.” One data point he did keep is DealScore, which quickly tells ticket shoppers whether a potential ticket is worth it or not. “We’ll say what’s a bad deal, too,” he notes, which isn’t popular with partners but builds immeasurable credibility with customers. And users tend to vacillate between wanting to see the “all-in” price for an event or getting a complete breakdown of fees. SeatGeek lets customers set their preference so as not to annoy or overwhelm.

Feed desire for instant gratification. Because SeatGeek is a marketplace and doesn’t hold any ticket inventory, the most commonly asked question is, Where are my tickets? “We want 100% of tickets to be delivered instantly,” Groetzinger says, adding that the company is working on a “Dominos Pizza Tracker-type technology” for customer tickets. He also said that the company will roll out an improved version of its seat-tracking tools early next year.

Make yourself indispensable. Both Odgen-Reese and Groetzinger discussed the company’s new Open product, which is SeatGeek’s first foray into selling tickets directly. Its announcement partner was Major League Soccer, and SeatGeek will roll out Open with Sporting Kansas City in early 2017. “We will have a level of access within the venue,” Groetzinger says, meaning that SeatGeek will be able to serve its customers beyond just getting them in the building.

“Discovery is the next big thing,” said Groetzinger. “We want to answer, what do you want to do this weekend?” SeatGeek users already go to an average of eight live events a year, and the company sees an opportunity for more. Says Groetzinger: “We’re getting an Amazon Prime-type lock-in.”

As some attendees wistfully observed that digital technology is rendering the physical ticket stub obsolete (a particularly powerful example just a couple of days after the Chicago Cubs’ historic World Series victory), Ogden-Reese hinted that SeatGeek was thinking about how to serve its audience’s desire for a keepsake, another foray beyond e-commerce. “How do you create a memory and not just a receipt?” she asked rhetorically. “A photograph is much more powerful nostalgia than a stub.”