How to Build an Effective Online Sales Channel for Suites and Premium
Here’s everything we learned at last week’s FEVO Forum Presents: Suites, But Make It Online
January 31, 2024
“People can’t buy it if it’s not there.”
When it comes to selling premium seats online — which your organization should have started doing yesterday, if it’s not already — that’s really all that needs to be said.
So says Ben Conrad, a ticketing veteran of more than 25 years who currently serves as the VP of Digital Marketing and Automation for the Milwaukee Bucks.
Last week, Conrad joined Bill Makris — Senior Consultant for the Association of Luxury Suite Directors (ALSD), an organization with 1,500 members serving the $10 billion premium seating and corporate hospitality marketplace — for FEVOForum Presents: Suites, But Make It Online, a webinar that dug into the steps required to get a digital sales channel for suites and hospitality up and running.
Per Makris, the reasons for doing so are obvious: the decision makers buying premium seats increasingly expect to be able to complete their purchases anytime, anywhere, from the comfort of their mobile phones. To wit, Makris says that “almost 55% of (ALSD’s) members’ transactions now happen online,” while Conrad notes that “60% of (the Bucks’ online premium sales) occur when our offices aren’t open.”
Below, we’ve compiled the insights that Makris and Conrad shared into a series of six tips to help you get your own online premium business off the ground. You can also watch the webinar in full at the bottom of this page.
1. Make it easy. Make it frictionless. Make it quick. This is the number-one benefit of selling online versus selling via more analog processes like interest forms or phone calls — fans can decide they want to buy a suite and then complete the purchase in seconds. With FEVO, that’s what you get: a seamless checkout process that is almost indistinguishable from buying standard single-game tickets.
2. Use visual assets to paint a pretty picture — and add important context. FEVO makes it easy to share various image and video assets on any premium listing, thus giving shoppers a sneak preview of the exact specifications of the spaces on offer. “Be aware of the graphics and make sure it translates really well to mobile,” says Makris. Not only does this give you the opportunity to showcase your most beautiful offerings — it also allows you to provide important context that can make the premium buying experience more inclusive. “Before, a customer might’ve said, “Oh, it’s a suite, it must be out of my price range.’ But the more information that’s out there, the more consumers can educate themselves, and that means a bump in incremental sales.”
3. Visibility is essential. What distinguishes standard seating options from premium ones on the Bucks’ ticketing website? Very little, to be honest. That’s by design. “Because (online premium sales) is new for us, we wanted to create additional visibility for the consumer and make sure they can find it,” says Conrad. You can go to bucks.com/premium to find a searchable, shoppable hub displaying all of the team’s premium spaces, but you can also buy premium seats at the individual game level. “If you’re searching for a game, we want you to know there’s premium available,” says Conrad.
4. Re-target every new customer who comes through the door. Both Conrad and Makris noted how many online premium customers are first-time buyers. That makes for an incredible lead-generation tool for sales teams. “30% (of these purchasers) have never talked to a sales rep,” says Conrad. “These are net new fans who can then get passed onto the sales team, who can mature them into higher-level product holders.” Critically, this is also a way to make online sales work symbiotically with your premium team’s existing goals and agenda — rather than the initiative being one that could potentially cannibalize their business.
5. Create a dedicated marketing plan for your online premium audience. Since Conrad has sat on both the marketing and sales sides of the aisle in his time with the Bucks, he was the ideal person to launch a marketing plan dedicated to building and engaging an audience centered around buying premium products online. That marketing playbook consists of number of key tactics:
Put a dedicated opt-in for premium sales on your website. Allow any curious fan to learn more about premium offerings by opting into further communications (via email, SMS, etc.).
Create content dedicated to showcasing premium spaces. The Bucks’ make richly shot, sharply edited video diaries showing what it’s like to attend a game with premium tickets — just check out this video for their West Bend Lofts.
Send out content dedicated to premium spaces. Once you’ve got a healthy audience to which you can market premium spaces, you need to create content and communications tailored to their needs, like the Bucks’ “Premium Playbook,” which notifies fans about upcoming premium offerings and experiences.
Identify and connect with other potential buyers. The Bucks also use lookalike targeting and sales data to find fans who can be converted into premium buyers. Says Conrad: “If you spend over a certain amount of money, we’re sending you the Premium Playbook messaging. We take demographics into account — people who bought certain products in the past, the higher-end clusters — and match them up against (existing premium purchasers) and then send tailored communication.”
6. Follow-up is everything. According to Makris, many ALSD members treat their online purchasers the same way they do season-ticket holders — as a respected, dedicated fan base with whom you can create feedback loops to improve your sales strategy moving forward. “The sale is just the beginning. Once that person leaves the venue, your real work starts. Every one of those (premium buyers) is a network of further opportunities. We always survey season-ticket holders and do unique focus groups — some of that intel would be fantastic for premiums as well.”