Everyone is looking for ways to reduce close contact and limit physical touchpoints at events these days. Your ticketing and admissions process is one of the best places to start.
But for many events, getting guests to switch from cash at-the-door sales to online advanced tickets is tricky. That can be a tough habit to break. The secret is to offer the right incentives and use the right messaging.
Keep reading for five tips to help you encourage guests to purchase tickets online, before they arrive.
Benefits of online ticket sales
Before we get into the tips, let’s clarify why more and more events want guests to purchase tickets online these days.
You get your money sooner
When guests purchase tickets in advance, you don’t have to wait until the day of your event to have those funds in hand. You also aren’t left guessing how many tickets you’ll sell on any given day. If you’re using Passage as your ticketing partner, funds are always deposited directly into your bank account within two business days of every ticket sale.
Low contact. No germs.
In the post-COVID world, this is probably an obvious one. Reducing contact between guests and your staff helps prevent the spread of germs which in turn helps keep your events up and running. When guests buy ticketing online, there’s no exchange of cash or a card between them and your team. There’s no touching of a card terminal or other surfaces which need to be shared among multiple guests.
More accurate staffing and revenue projections
When you know in advance exactly how many guests are going to attend your event, you can plan precisely how many staff or volunteers you’ll need on the day. You’re not left guessing, which leads to over- or under-staffing. Plus, you can better predict how much revenue you’ll gain from ticket sales, saving you the anxiety of wondering whether you’ll be able to cover your costs after the event ends.
How to convince guests to buy online
1. Offer lower prices online
There’s no better incentive than a better price. Encourage guests to buy online by offering a lower price point than your in-person tickets. Make it clear that pre-purchased tickets come at a discount. The bigger the discount, the stronger the incentive guests will have to buy online. But that doesn’t mean you need to slash prices in half for online sales. A 10% or 15% discount is often enough for guests to see the value.
This strategy works best when you let guests know up front that they’ll get a better deal when they buy online, so make sure you include both the online and in-person price points in your print and digital marketing materials.
2. Limit ticket quantities available in-person
In today’s world of limited venue capacities, guests will likely expect the total number of tickets available for your event to be lower than it was previously. You can use that fact to encourage advanced sales: secure your spot now because availability is limited.
You can take that a step further and reserve a small number of at-the-door tickets that will be available the day of your event; make the rest online sales. This will encourage guests to get their tickets in advance so they’re not worried about snagging one of those limited-quantity spots on the day. Even if your event never sold out before, the one-two punch of limited capacity and pent-up demand might make tickets hard to come by this year.
The key to making this strategy work is communication. Guests will only know about limited inventory if you tell them. Be sure to make this part of your messaging on your website, your ticketing page, social media, and anywhere else you communicate with you guests, such as email newsletters.
3. Eliminate the option to purchase on site
This might seem a little extreme at first glance. Why would you want to turn away potential walk-up sales?
Here’s the secret: you don’t have to! Eliminating in-person sales doesn’t have to mean rejecting a single guest. It’s about re-training your guests to purchase online, even if they do it onsite.
Here’s how we’ve seen events do this successfully. Post a few signs or large posters near your event entrance with a QR code and information about how to purchase tickets with their phones. Scatter a few of these in your parking lot, too, so guests don’t even have to get out of their car while they purchase. The QR code takes them to your ticketing page on your website where they can select their tickets and checkout right on their mobile devices.
4. Offer faster entry to guests who pre-purchase
Everyone loves feeling like a VIP and no one likes waiting in line. Offer a separate entrance to guests who pre-purchase their tickets online (or even multiple entrances if you expect a large number of them to arrive at the same time). Rather than standing in the general admission line, they can speed right through with little to no wait.
Remember that wait times could potentially be longer this year if you’re doing health screenings or temperature checks prior to entry. Or they might just seem longer due to social distancing in the line.
Communication is key with this strategy, too. Make sure guests know that pre-purchasing tickets will give them a special advantage when they arrive at your event.
5. Give them a prize
We’ve seen a few events entering guests who pre-purchase tickets into a prize drawing, and the strategy seems to be very successful. Let your guests know that everyone who purchases by “x” date will be entered to win a t-shirt or a prize package (maybe upgraded seats, a food & beverage bundle or backstage passes) to encourage early bird ticket sales. The cooler the prize, the more incentive you give guests to purchase early.