Marketing: It’s Not Personal

Dec 5, 2019

Bret Rachlin, Chief Revenue Officer @KPItarget

Score! I just secured tickets to a Dodgers game while traveling to Los Angeles with my daughter in September. With myriad ticketing options, it’s often easy to buy tickets for sports and entertainment experiences just before they happen. Attending cool events in different cities at the spur of the moment really enhances the travel experience.

Three popular secondary ticketing services include StubHub, SeatGeek and Gametime. All of them do an effective job of providing a variety of seating options for sports, concerts and other events. They also do a pretty good job of marketing, primarily through emails and app notifications about upcoming events. Additionally, they proactively sell the event experience and highlight what you might be missing if you don’t go, creating urgency.


However, when these services attempt to personalize their communications, they struggle to be relevant, especially if you’re a customer who travels from your home city to attend events. They often notify me of future events in cities where I’ve traveled previously, yet have no trips planned to those destinations. These communications are irrelevant and annoying, but they are also unnecessary. 

While they want to market to me in a personal way, the promotions they send of Los Angeles events in November when I wouldn’t be there don’t work. Of course, this is completely avoidable. They could simply ask me what my preferred city is for buying event tickets, starting with a simple personalized email dedicated to this single question, with a strong call to action button to answer. Subsequently, the option to switch preferred city could be at the top and bottom of each following email, allowing users to provide this information in any email they may open. Although they do market many Atlanta events to me, they don’t seem to understand that I’m no longer interested in Los Angeles events, at least not until I travel there again in the future. 

Now here’s an opportunity for these services to add significant value. Why not ask about future travel plans? Excited about upcoming trips, users are often eager to provide this information and will be interested in seeing events in the city they’ll soon be visiting. It’s up to each customer to participate, but if they do, ticketing companies will know about where customers are headed and when and can send relevant event information, giving them the opportunity to win more business. This interactive customer experience is not only relevant, but also valuable.

Artificial Intelligence

While I don’t have specifics about how these services utilize artificial intelligence (AI), I suspect they’ve incorporated it into their overall efforts. It’s likely that AI triggers the communications that I receive about events in different cities. Since traveling to Los Angeles and Buffalo over the past few months, I receive information on events in those cities often. 

This is why a blended approach of AI and human intervention is needed to achieve the optimal level of personalization. If team members of these services develop ways to interact with customers to find out their preferences, then the data that AI analyzes will be more accurate, yielding more personalized (and relevant) communications. The idea that AI will just take it from here is just not practical yet. 

What Could Make Personalization Better?

This a tough question and there aren’t any easy answers despite what the abundance of content on this topic may be telling you. Much of the challenge lies in the fact that what’s personal for me is different than what’s personal for you. I may be willing to provide more data about myself than you to have a more personalized experience. 

Additionally, it’s important to understand what each set of data is telling you. Don’t assume that the customer experience is flawless because customers continue to buy. There may not be better options available yet that will take customers away. For example, I continue to buy from StubHub, SeatGeek and Gametime despite their flaws with irrelevant communications. If one of them can develop more effective personalization techniques, then it will likely earn more of my business.

Overall, to make personalization better, it’s critical that technology, specifically AI and predictive analytics, work alongside humans more effectively. Ask your customers what they want and build their profiles incrementally. Yes, this will take time, and clearly some people will provide more information than others, but isn’t that better in the long run? Take a long-term view of your customer relationships and earn the right to personalize communications to those who want it. Thinking short term will only lead to frustration for both you and your customers.

How would you implement a practical personalization program? Please contact Bret Rachlin to discuss: