Leveraging its online ticket sales platform, home and garden show organizer Marketplace Events boosted attendance at its first four exhibitions of the year by 17 percent. Online-only, sales are up 32 percent. Ticket purchases in the Philadelphia market spiked almost 80 percent on the web.
More than half—about 54 percent, Marketplace Events CEO Tom Baugh says—of attendees now buy their tickets online, up from less than 10 percent five years ago.
“We realized several years ago that if we could achieve a greater sophistication on online sales, having people commit and spend their money with us earlier would enhance their commitment to attend the show,” Baugh says. “It’s all about getting the bodies there.”
Purchased in advance, collecting between five and 10 data points, the value of a web ticket can be significantly higher than a physical ticket purchased at the box office window.
Even with Internet discounts generally between $2 and $4—a sizeable drop from an average box office price of around $12—the planning and marketing benefits of a ticket bought online outweigh the costs of the markdown. Those advantages are only amplified for a home and garden consumer event that previously had no way of contacting its attendees once they left the showfloor.
“You hate to start from scratch the next year,” Baugh says. “We had over 1.5 million people go through our events each year and it was so frustrating not knowing if we were going to get these folks back. So we decided that the online ticketing was going to be the answer for us, not only to make it more convenient for them to purchase the ticket, but also allowing us to build a database—that’s really been the key to this thing.”
Marketplace Events has been able to build its database out thirty-fold since it began selling online tickets in 2006. Now, with a list of more than 600,000 names and contact points, the challenge lies in using it properly. With 34 shows, the group has been able to test its marketing and social content in small spheres before rolling it out to the larger group.
“It’s the culture within the company that the database is one of our most important assets,” Baugh says. “We’re testing everything continuously, and the more of that you do, across 34 shows you learn a lot.”