Going digital with TicketCo
It was all change at the Oxford City Stars in the summer.
A small group of people, including myself, took over the club after the previous owner stepped down due to other commitments. We devised a new strategy designed to make the club sustainable as quickly as possible, so it can be enjoyed for years to come. It will be a challenge, but it is one we are relishing.
A key component to the success of our strategy is growing the fan base. Every extra ticket sold makes a difference to our club. While data has demonstrated at a lot of clubs a successful team helps sell more tickets, it is also vital that clubs consistently work hard to attract people to their matches. Aside from improving our fan and community engagement, partnerships, match-day experience and increasing our PR and Marketing, we knew we had to improve how we sold tickets.
We wanted to make access to tickets as easy and straight forward as possible for supporters and potential supporters. Equally we wanted to be able to generate special offers and partner discounts, be able to track them and make the process simple to operate. I previously ran Oxford United Football Club as Managing Director, so I know from experience how important data will be in our efforts to grow the club. Historically Oxford City Stars did not hold any data on supporters. It was a big gap and thus a big opportunity for us. I have also been working in partnership with TicketCo in the UK for a year via my PR agency Fortitude Communications and have seen the impact it is making with various club and events. I knew TicketCo was the answer for the Stars.
There is a common stereotype: ‘no-one likes change’.
But technological advancements are turning that adage on its head. I remember when ‘chip and pin’ first hit the market being wary of it. I had physically signed for my transactions for years and my instinctive reaction was it must be a security risk. Of course, it was designed to make our lives easier. So, when contactless ‘tap and pay’ hit the market I embraced it much quicker. As consumers we are much more comfortable with technology now.
When the club launched our mobile-friendly season tickets with TicketCo we offered supporters the option to still receive a plastic season card, if they preferred. We felt it was sensible to ease supporters into the new system of having QR codes on their mobile phones to enter home matches by offering the old system in case. But every single new season ticket holder embraced the digital technology, and nobody requested a plastic season card. At that point I knew we were on the right-track.
The system is straight forward to use and after a short induction we set up our season tickets for sale ourselves. Then before the season started TicketCo visited the ice rink and provided a training workshop for our operational team to better understand the full functionality of the system and make sure we were ready to host our first league game.
Around one third of people purchased tickets online for our first league game of the season when we hosted the Bracknell Hornets in Division One South, with the remainder paying cash at the door. They were treated to a remarkable opening match of the campaign, as we rode out winning 6-5, after losing the first period 0-5. We believe as we continue to develop the club and awareness of the platform more people will purchase their tickets online in advance, as the message spreads.
Improved Marketing opportunities
Partnering with TicketCo has given us more options to market the club and drive revenue. The ‘up-sell’ functionality at the online checkout has already delivered some results for the club. For our opening match we added the match-day programme to the platform, as an option to purchase when supporters were buying digital tickets. Around 6% of supporters made the additional purchase and collected the programme when they arrived at the game.
We are currently in talks with a local children’s charity about providing tickets at a charity rate for a fixture this season to help provide the charity’s youngsters and support staff with an affordable evening out together, as part of our community values. The TicketCo system will enable us to create an exclusive code for this project, rather than having to manually manage a guest list as we did in the past.
Additionally, we can now sell our tickets on the club’s Facebook page, which we hope will directly help increase sales. Facebook is our most popular social media channel and so we view this as a good opportunity for us. It is an additional tool we did not have before.
Online to soar
A lot of people don’t carry so much cash now, so offering digital sales at the club makes commercial sense. We anticipate our online sales will grow. Feedback from supporters has been fantastic and there have been a lot of positive comments. Not only does it mean we can offer our supporters a better service, it also means we can plan better, market the club better and save money on printing tickets. Now we have a great system in place we believe we can use it to support our growth. It is still very early days for the club and TicketCo and we are looking forward to using the functionality more and beginning to examine data to help grow the club.
Available to all
Oxford City Stars are a relatively small club. We are semi-professional and all have careers away from the club. But we still strive to make the club as professional as possible. We have clear values and expect commitment, respect and hard work from everyone at the club.
What is great about TicketCo is they are making the technology available to clubs of all sizes. Every club should have access to the same technology and opportunity as the big boys, whatever the sport. There was no up-front cost to us and TicketCo have treated us like a true partner and care about where we are now and where we want to go. We are proud to be the first ice hockey club to partner with TicketCo and I am sure others will follow suit.
At Oxford City Stars we are passionate about delivering for our supporters and each other. By partnering with TicketCo we have improved our service. Ultimately, we need to attract more people to the club to reach our goal of becoming sustainable and we are confident the platform will help us engage with more people effectively and increased attendances.
Greig Box Turnbull
Director of Oxford City Stars Ice Hockey Club