Experience upgraded seats at sports events. You know when you go to a stadium event and see premium seats closer to the action with no one sitting in them, Experience technology allows you the opportunity to purchase a ticket upgrade for an extra fee and occupy one of those choice seats. You can now purchase seat upgrades five rows from the action at NBA, MLS, MLB, NHL, and NLL games by using Experience and your smartphone. The Sports Techie blog spoke to Experience Fan Ambassador, Eric Thelen, about their seat upgrade technology, diverse user base, and startup sports business goals.
Experience web site: http://www.findexp.com/.
You have to use a smartphone to use Experience technology. For now the Experience environment is strictly web based which means there is no need for their corporate clients to integrate with any tricky API codes in order to use their services. Smartphones usually have access to the Internet so connecting with fans via the web is not an issue. The software was created to be simple to use with a mobile device and it is.
Many stadiums do not have the necessary bandwidth for reliable connections required by native apps so Experience does not have one built yet. Constructing a native app is a part of their next phase of development when phones are faster and stadium bandwidth has increased. Text messaging is another of the key tech components for B2C communication.
The Los Angeles Clippers in the NBA and LA Galaxy of the MLS were the two earliest powered by Experience adopters. The Atlanta Braves are their first MLB user. The University of Tennessee from the SEC and USC in the Pac-12 are NCAA football and basketball customers. Six NBA teams including the Hawks are on board. Look for an Experience company announcement shortly regarding additional NBA team clients. Their product is not limited to sports alone; other vertical markets like entertainment and music are good fits.
I began an iPhone demo by filling out some online criteria such as ‘Why Are You At The Game.’ You select from five categories such as Cheer or Family. This initial data capture helps Experience tailor your fun and takes very little time to finish. If you want to be in the Blue Moon section at the Suns games or are on a special Date, Experience wants to know this information because it helps them assign the right ticket opportunity to you. The rest of the demo was quick and easy. A virtual perspective of seat location is viewable via pictures and 2D diagrams of the floor plan.
The cost for a ticket upgrades ranges from $20 to $50. Perks like Club access with free food and drink are often included in an upgrade purchase price. Eric explained that ticket upgrades are released to Experience by the team. Season ticket holders are another major source for tickets. Some games they might get 12 tickets like the Miami Heat at LA Clippers game that sold out in 2 minutes, while other ticket allotments have been as high as 50 and above. At an NBA game, seat upgrade options might include, Behind the Glass, Center Court, Corner Court, or Court Side.
Before a game starts there is a countdown clock that notifies you via text. In the venue you will receive a reminder to open your browser. Their ticketing system recognizes season ticket holders and will at times offer them the first upgrade opportunity before the public gets their chance to buy. Sometimes the seats are strung together other times its just one prime ticket by itself. Large group requests can be difficult to fulfill because there are not enough side by side tickets.
According to Eric, “Every team, city and fan base is unique, it was revealing how LA Galaxy fans paid extra money to move to cheaper general admission seating in the Home Depot Center’s end zone to be more a part of the fan experience of chanting and drinking.”
The Clippers placed Experience inside their own native app as a fresh and unique service for their fans to try out and it has caught on. The Phoenix Suns did the same in their team app environment in addition to running jumbotron messages, including information in programs, sharing the new service via their social networks, and sending e-mails to existing season ticket holders.
Eric shared the story of a fans recent email correspondence after a seat upgrade from section 322 to 105 at a Clippers vs. Hornets game. This happy fan was able to witness high flying, rim wrecking, Blake Griffin dunks from section 105, seat 5, after his upgrade. Experience sports technology truly provides a novel service for fans.
The value a team places on tickets varies month-to-month and game-to-game which effects the Experience pricing structure. Monday tickets to a losing team’s game are much tougher ticket sales then a LeBron James and Miami Heat Saturday night divisional holiday matchup that creates huge demand making it tough to find an entry ticket no less an upgrade.
Optimal prices are calculated with algorithms that adjust pricing based on ticket sales. “There is always a curve at the beginning,” said Eric. “After that, dynamic ticket pricing goes into effect.” Hot tickets that sell quickly are recognized by the system which raises ticket prices but if tickets do not sell you will see an immediate drop in pricing options.
Major credit cards are required for payment. Once the payment is accepted a Staff Validate button at the bottom of your smartphone screen ensures your admittance to the new seat. “It is a mobile paper ticket to the ushers,” said Eric.
It is obvious that a good amount of market research, financial modeling and testing has gone into positioning Experience as a sound sports business venture and product. Their immediate goals are to increase their user base and build up the back end. They have sound investors, no exit strategy and are in it for the long haul. With a company focus of outsider technology I feel they are on the right track.
Analytics have already shed the light that males are their key demographic. They plan to include Twitter and Facebook social properties in a later version of their software. Eric noted that according to social media data men do not post about an event as being endearing as often as women do for the most part. Men remember a close game down to the wire forever but they might not Live tweet about it and download a video.
One untapped resource for sourcing tickets is Corporations. Sometimes at a lesser bowl game or a March Madness game on a Saturday or Sunday after a couple teams have been eliminated there might be major sections of empty seats that are owned by Corporations. Convincing these Corporations to sell their empty seats as a ticket upgrade might just be doable using Experience. I asked Eric what Ticketmaster thinks about Experience and he responded, “They are aware of us.”
Their Solution is easily scalable. Offering further incentives thru premium seating, promotions, concessions, and pre-game tailgates, are additional business development opportunities for the near future. It is impressive they created an ad free layout.
Experience: [email protected]
Eric Gerhard Thelen – Admiral of Fan Experience
Sports Techie, I for one have upgraded myself at plenty of sports events and venues to get better views and have even been kicked out of those seats because I did not actually have a real ticket. So have many of you. It really is a no-brainer if you can afford the ticket upgrade to use Experience because they do get you better viewing lanes and ‘Enhance The Fan Experience.’
Sitting closer at an SEC football game or Pac-12 basketball game, or finding a space in a rowdy GA section is what Experience does for the fan. For the venue you can fill up the lower bowls or loud GA sections as a home field competitive edge while giving your fans a better time and viewing option. If you are a sports business, season ticket holder, or fan, I recommend you give Experience a shot to ‘Maximize the Fun.’
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