When describing his company's business philosophy, Tickets.com CEO Joe Choti always comes back to two words: Frictionless and fun. And when Minor League Baseball signed a deal late last season to make Tickets.com the preferred ticketing partner for all of its 160 clubs, that's the attitude he hoped to bring to every market in the country.
In Choti's eyes, Tickets.com isn't a ticketing partner. Rather, it is a technology partner that works with each club to optimize the way it does business. That's necessary in this era of consumerism.
Every year, more and more people do a greater percentage of their shopping online. Whether it's for gifts during the holiday season, electronics, groceries or other everyday needs, people are choosing the convenience of delivery over physical stores more and more often. That's true, too, in the world of Minor League Baseball, where Tickets.com will look to update the ticketing strategies of clubs across the country.
"We have continuously been an industry leader in family entertainment with over 41 million fans attending games in our ballparks annually," MiLB president Pat O'Conner said. "Looking forward, we have some lofty attendance goals, and our long-term partnership with Tickets.com represents a core pillar to our overall growth strategy."
It was revealed at this year's Minor League Promo Seminar, held in Greenville, N.C., that one team—which wished to stay anonymous—disclosed that it sold more tickets online than it did at the box office. As the years go by, they're sure to be joined by others. Tickets.com wants to help clubs ease into the digital revolution as seamlessly as possible.
"Across the entire vertical, we are looking to standardize on technologies—feature set and functionality—to reach out, embrace and personalize Minor League Baseball's fanbase," Choti said. "To bring that data back to headquarters so that they can market, upsell and cross-sell to fans with a goal of increasing the number of tickets sold per year."
Part of that plan includes getting to the customer as early as possible. If fans are starting to eschew the box office—and the physical ticket—in favor of shopping online and getting digital tickets, teams will want to plant the seed as early as possible.
"People don't use computers as much as they used to. They live on their mobile device," Choti said. "Whether they're mobile smartphones or whether they're tablets. (Teams should be) meeting and greeting fans and understanding who they are and delivering a personalized experience in the ballpark."
One particular innovation that's caught on over the past couple of seasons involves not only the way people buy tickets, but how teams get them to keep buying tickets, and it's built around the way younger people have begun to digest their favorite movies and television shows.
The A's this year, toward the end of the season, introduced Ballpark Pass, a Netflix-style subscription service for their remaining home games.
For $19.99 per month, fans could purchase mobile access to every remaining home game in 2017. Unless cancelled, the Ballpark Pass would renew monthly at the same cost.
The A's led the way, but in the end 22 other MLB teams adopted the idea in one form or another.
"We sold almost a million tickets alone with that program throughout the 23 clubs," Matthew Gould, the vice president of corporate communications for Major League Baseball Advanced Media, said. "I think that when you talk about the kinds of things that Tickets.com can bring to Minor League Baseball and particularly gets young people into the ballpark, I think that's one of the key programs that you'll see moving forward."
The flexibility, Gould continued, will facilitate a more sociable atmosphere aimed at attracting the millennial set.
Tickets.com is aiming to continue building on ideas like that to make further connections between consumers and teams.
"What other value propositions, what other ways can we bring all the touchpoints of ticketing—whether it's the purchasing, whether it's the delivery or whether it's access control or what they do once they're inside a venue," Choti said. "Bringing that full-circle and making it digital and making it frictionless and fun."
A particular example involves the access points at a stadium. Piloting a technology called Alfred, Tickets.com found a way to make the experience seamless and frictionless with mobile ticketing.
That's the product of NFCs, or Near-Field Communication, and Alfred. NFCs have been in use for sometime with smartphones. Remember those commercials in which iPhone users could share files by placing two phones near one another? That's an example of an NFC in action.
That's the near future. In the long-term, there are even more applications that will help utilize upcoming innovation and turn it into something that will help fans get into the ballpark easier. And once they're in the ballpark, new technology might also help sell concessions and merchandise as well. For example, a team could sell tickets with discounts on the food and drink aimed at that particular fan.
"Our focus is on exploiting technology to meet and embrace fans' and venues," Choti said, "where they are and when they are and what they're looking for in personalization."
Together, Tickets.com and MiLB are taking the next step.