"Live experiences are valued again"

For the seventh time, the Swiss ticketing market leader Ticketcorner, together with ESB, invites to the 360° Entertainment Forum - the big annual meeting of the event industry. Before the congress starts on March 28 in Andermatt, we spoke with Ticketcorner CEO Oliver Niedermann - about current developments in the industry and Ticketcorner's future plans.

Werbewoche.ch: Oliver Niedermann, what is the current mood in the Swiss event industry?

Oliver Niedermann: We are very pleased that live experiences are once again as valued as they were before the pandemic. People are once again keen to experience events live and on site. The fear that audiences would become accustomed to digital experiences and want to experience everything digitally if possible was unfounded. "Hybrid" events are also now much less in demand again. True, they were a good transitional solution when capacities were small. But now people want to experience live events in the fan crowd again.

Is there even a pent-up demand, so that there is a push now, that more people are coming now?

That's exactly how it is! In 2022, there were more events than ever before. Of course, also because postponed events had accumulated due to the Corona crisis. But actually the buyer behavior is back at the level of the record year 2019.

This means that there is probably more going on now in the summer and fall.

We hope so very much. We are actually convinced of that, and we also see that everything is being done on the part of the organizers to keep people coming back. And we also see that the industry has remained relatively robust. There were only a few organizers who gave up. Government aid has certainly had a stabilizing effect. The proof that a sustainable rescue could also take place is perhaps only now happening. This, too, has contributed to the fact that one can now fall back on a full portfolio again.

Specifically, what are your forecasts for the summer?

If we extrapolate the sales we have now, it will be a good summer. The festivals are also already very well booked. 

Also in the sports sector?

The sports area was the first to offer outdoor and open sports events. We are convinced that this will continue. Also with the festivals.

What do you think the industry needs to do to ensure that it continues to do well in the long term?

Staying innovative, also pushing new formats, implementing new ideas. The current megasellers are mostly well-known artists who have been on the road for years.

... and which will no longer be there at some point.

Exactly. It's important not just to rely on these internationally touring stars - they're exciting, all right. But we also need our own developments and innovative approaches and new formats from our country itself. This also offers a lot of potential for marketing around the event, since the commercial rights lie with the organizer.

Do ticket buyers behave differently today than they did before the pandemic?

Buying behavior is more difficult to predict today. It happens that people book very intensively very early on - which gives the impression that the event will sell out quickly. For some events, buyers are active from day one - for others, there is much more of a wait-and-see approach. Many look first: What are the reviews like? Or they judge by word-of-mouth information. Only then does the sale get going. That makes it a bit more difficult. At the moment, consumers tend to go for the familiar and the tried-and-true, and are a little less adventurous when it comes to in-house productions - for now! We hope that this will change soon. 

Why is that?

It's hard to say, when you go to an event again now, you first want to see blockbusters again. First of all, you want to see the big things again - and then, in a second step, you go back to discover new things. As Ticketcorner with a broad national and international overview of ticket sales, we can advise event organizers well here and often know the trends somewhat in advance.

Our world is also changing in other areas. Keyword digitalization - you've already said elsewhere that Ticketcorner is relying heavily on this.

As in many sectors and industries, digitization is also a key issue for us. In a nutshell, we want to offer ticket buyers a purely digital journey - from event announcement and booking to admission or follow-up. This leads to an exciting experience for the customer himself and is correspondingly exciting for the event organizer - and also for us as a ticketing provider.

The advantages?

First of all, there are enormous efficiency gains. Media disruptions are eliminated. And above all, you can involve the customer much more closely in what you want, offer them an entertainment experience. Up to now, we have always focused on the purchase transaction and the event itself. But if we now manage to pick them up digitally in the run-up to the event, with additional information, with background information, then that will be extremely exciting.

What are the most important steps in this customer journey?

It starts very early - already when a fan is interested in an artist. Then you give him information about the background, about the tour. That can be very early, even before the tickets for the event go on sale. Later, he sees and reads something about the artist. Then the concert goes on sale. From that point on, we have to offer him the ticket as efficiently as possible. Now there is information about the event: when will it take place and in what form? Are there any postponements? What does the line-up look like? Is there possibly a setlist, what does the artist play?  how were other tours? In principle, there is an infinite amount of information. Once we have identified the customer, they can interact with us. I think even after the event, there are many opportunities for personalized pictures or thank-you greetings. But also e-commerce opportunities by selling merchandising or offering additional themes - warming the customer up again, so to speak, and making them aware of upcoming events.

But digitization also brings new challenges - for example, it makes it easier for other providers to offer ticketing solutions that are even free of charge. How can Ticketcorner continue to hold its own in this environment?

The free providers focus on the very small events and finance themselves differently. As an organizer, you have to accept third-party advertising on the tickets, but that's definitely an option. What's important for us is that we can offer a stable system that can cope with a larger rush. And that we can offer much more in terms of marketing. We see ourselves as the organizer's partner in selling as many tickets as possible. We have over a million customers - and can even look down to the individual consumer to see what interests him, because we know his affinities. So we can inform and address them accordingly. Here, too, digitization offers us an enormous number of opportunities.

So Ticketcorner is strong in CRM (Customer Relationship Management)?

Exactly, that's why we can create a comprehensive profile of the buyers. When an event goes on sale, we know who might be interested and, for example, how far that person would travel for it. And very importantly, we also reach completely new potential buyers who may not have known about the event or the artist at all. For the individual customer, this means that he or she is not approached with generic advertising, but receives specific, tailored information. And of course, this is then clearly measurable. As soon as we see that something has actually triggered an action. That's when he has booked - or at least read the article. That in turn helps us to profile the customer accordingly. 

Ticketcorner is itself active in the field of digital ticketing for small event organizers, with "Ticketcorner.Light"? What strategy are you pursuing here?

So far, we have served the premium segment well. Now, however, we are also experiencing a great deal of demand from smaller event organizers. This is true for the entire sector, be it art and culture, entertainment, but also sports - and also for the entire leisure market, where people want additional marketing services in addition to the actual ticketing. That's why we launched "Ticketcorner.Light," a true self-service tool. I believe that today - and this is also an important element of digitization - our tool enables even a small organizer to put together his own ticket very easily: By defining a hall plan and different price categories himself, by combining catering and tickets. And that he can set it all up independently and simply - with advice and marketing from us, if he wants - and then put it on sale himself accordingly.

Possibly, these are the big organizer customers of the future.

That's why it's important for us to be in contact. As soon as the requirements become higher, as soon as the halls become larger or the rate structures become more complex, they can grow with us.

Will artificial intelligence and other digital developments increasingly play a role in ticketing as well?

Yes, we are still using a physical card carrier for ski ticketing at the moment. In the long term, we'll have to discuss whether we still need one - or whether we won't be able to access it directly with a mobile ticket in the future. With Ticketcorner.Pass, we have now launched a purely digital ticketing solution. This gives you access directly with your cell phone and completely eliminates the need for a physical ticket, which is then also personalized accordingly - and thanks to personalization can also prevent the black market accordingly.

Topic black market - something is happening! Viagogo was recently sued in Austria. What are the developments here, what measures have been taken?

For end consumers, secondary marketing platforms such as Viagogo cause extremely negative experiences, which in the worst case even fall back on the organizer. This is because it is not always apparent that the organizer has nothing to do with such business practices. Companies like Viagogo have a clear strategy. They invest a lot in search engines and try to create trust there through a good ranking. Circus Knie, one of our big clients, has now won a lawsuit, which has meant that secondary market platforms have to behave in a fundamentally compliant manner. We have supported Knie in this. That was very important to us.

Ticketcorner itself also offers the possibility of reselling purchased tickets with "fanSALE". 

If someone falls ill or is unable to attend an event for an unexpected reason, Ticketcorner offers fanSale as a way to put the tickets back on the market at the regular price and sell them again. In this fair way, we have ensured for both the organizer and the buyer that the seats are sold out and the seller does not have to let his tickets expire unused.

Another successful new platform from Ticketcorner is "starzone" - launched just under a year ago and just recognized at the Sponsoring Award. What is the idea and the recipe for success?

starzone" is actually a revolution in the entertainment market. We've managed to bundle many of the leading promoters, the leading festivals, and the major halls and venues into one offer and offer this to partners like Sunrise, Raiffeisen, and Mobiliar - and in turn offer their customers all the tickets and all the experience benefits from a single source for the first time. Previously, everyone approached advertisers and sponsors individually; now everything comes from a single source. The organizers are now convinced of the added value. They are also convinced that they can reach new customer segments. In the meantime, "starzone" has established itself, is a great success - and remains exciting. The big partners gain access to completely new customer segments and can thus make more intensive contact with them, can make their brand tangible. At the same time, they help the event organizers to sell a lot of additional tickets via this new channel.

...and ticket buyers benefit from attractive additional services.

Exactly! The additional advantage is either that they can book all exclusive events two days before the regular sales start, that they get the tickets guaranteed or - according to the motto "Everyone is a VIP" - that they also have access to the VIP box with the normal ticket. By giving them a free upgrade.

Another future topic in ticketing is Dynamic pricing, as already practiced by Ticketcorner in the ski business. Will it also be increasingly used for events in the future?

We are convinced that dynamic pricing is justified in many industries. That's why we also believe it will find its way into entertainment. There are currently many negative examples where customers' willingness to pay is exploited to the maximum and ticket prices then rise immeasurably. However, that is by no means our approach. Rather, it's about giving the organizer the opportunity to better sell underutilized capacity on less attractive days - for example, during the week, afternoon performances or similar - depending on demand behavior. And we do this with lower prices, which are then only raised again when demand increases.

Is this the way to counteract the booking behavior that has become more short-term - as already mentioned?

As a rule, prices are set favorably early on in order to also achieve early booking. Early bird" pricing has been around for a long time. We now want to make it even more flexible. This is also the main approach in snow sports: the ticket never gets cheaper than now. It pays to book early. So that you are no longer dependent on any weather caprices or any customer preferences on the part of the organizer, who should also commit early - and receive a better price for it. As Ticketcorner, we want to be actively involved in this. We know our customers and the pricing very well. So we can use the channels and experience that are needed to set the price optimally.

You have now been CEO of Ticketcorner for just over half a year - what do you like most about this job so far? 

That's incredibly exciting for me. Ticketing in general and Ticketcorner as the market leader offers an enormous number of opportunities. In which segment can you still grow? Where can you generate additional business? The big challenge here is to find the focus and then tackle certain topics holistically. For example, we are now simultaneously building up a new offering with tourism destinations. We are leaders in the entertainment and sports markets and are actually an eCommerce digital company at heart. And per se, so almost every industry has the opportunity to offer exciting opportunities with tickets and access solutions for every Swiss. And that also applies to tourism destinations.

That sounds interesting. Tell us more about it.

The trend is for tourism destinations to increasingly market themselves. And, if possible, to bundle all the service providers that one has in a tourism destination on one platform: These are hotels, gastronomy, mountain railroads, tickets and events. Guests can then purchase a wide range of services with just one click in a shopping cart. We want to play our part as a partner to the destinations so that they can offer this to their guests.

How far along is this new offering?

We are now with  Arosa Lenzerheide is involved in a pilot project where such topics are to be implemented. Ticketcorner has been offering leisure activities for some time now, but this is really about entire destinations. People book through the destination store to the individual service providers. A digital offering that also helps to bring the destination's brand to the fore. 

Now the 360° entertainment event is coming up - this year on March 28 and 29 in Andermatt.  What are you looking forward to?

I am very happy to meet with the exponents of the industry and discuss current topics and trends. Since the industry is almost fully represented, one gets a very good overview of the market. Registration levels are at record levels. It

What is the focus this year?

The conference is deliberately broad in scope. First of all, we are interested in what exactly the booking and usage behavior of consumers looks like after Corona. What we have known anecdotally up to now has now been scientifically proven for the first time from the perspective of market research. We can show this - and for the first time, it gives event organizers new insights for their own pricing and buying behavior. We also analyze trends in digitization, draw inspiration from innovations in venues and locations, and take a closer look at the musical market, which has been reinventing itself again and again for decades.

About the person

Oliver Niedermann (*1972) has been CEO of Ticketcorner since 2022. Previously, as Head of Marketing at Raiffeisen Switzerland, he was responsible for the bank's marketing and sponsoring activities as well as brand management. After graduating from the University of St. Gallen and working as a consultant for Andersen Business Consulting and PricewaterhouseCoopers, Oliver held management positions in sports marketing and rights sales for major national and international events for many years.

About Ticketcorner

Ticketcorner is a national provider in the ticketing sector and handles ticket sales for over 10 million tickets and 15,000 events per year. In addition to events in the entertainment, culture and sports sectors, this also includes the ski ticketing offering for around 60 ski resorts. The ticketing platform has a highly frequented website, a mobile app and around 130 advance booking offices throughout Switzerland.

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