When COVID-19 first forced the events industry to pivot away from physical events to digital or virtual events, event organizers and planners understandably felt pinched. Options for planning an event were limited and every single day new information about the virus, including new health and safety recommendations, forced many to amend plans on the fly.
While it may have been hard for planners to find footing initially, the months that followed the coronavirus’ arrival in the United States have shown just how flexible online events can be!
A virtual event creates access to a global audience, increases event revenues, expands content opportunities, and allows event hosts to create a more personalized event experience.
But this flexibility is not limited to hosting the event and it can also be extended to virtual event ticketing.
To help you create a ticketing strategy that best suits your upcoming virtual event, we’ve put together this article on ticketing strategies to use for digital events.
What Virtual Event Attendees Are Looking For
Simply put, virtual event attendees are looking for options.
In general, more and more people are finding themselves living on a much tighter budget than usual. Perhaps they have been laid off or furloughed, have suddenly switched from a dual-income household to a single-income household, or perhaps they have lost their income completely. We are living in unusual and unprecedented times and your ticketing strategy must reflect and accommodate these changes.
As always, continue to provide the appropriate content quality for the price of admission. However, you’ll want to provide greater flexibility in what people are required to pay.
Of course, this does not mean that event brands should price their tickets in a way that forces the event to take sweeping losses. Instead, be mindful and empathetic to what your audience may be facing and adjust your strategies accordingly.
How to Maximize Sales with Ticket Tiers
Creating ticket tiers or ticket types increases the likelihood of making a ticket sale.
For starters, consider some of the traditional ticketing tiers you may have used in the past. Things like early bird and VIP tickets are still popular items that can motivate your target audience to make a purchase.
Here’s a closer look at traditional ticket tiers and how they translate to a digital event and remote audience:
- Early Bird Tickets: Early bird tickets create a sense of urgency. They are offered at a discounted rate and for a limited period of time. Any prospective attendee looking for a deal is likely to grab early bird tickets rather than wait for the higher-priced, general admission tickets. Market these tickets on a range of channels. Send email invitations to past attendees and promote these tickets on social media to make sure your supporters and past attendees can ream this reward.
- General Admission: General admission tickets are priced somewhere between the discounted early bird tickets and VIP tickets. This tier grants access to the event as a whole. You may wish to break this tier down further by including full event passes, single day passes, or single session passes depending on your event structure. These different access levels can allow you to provide even more flexibility in your pricing model by allowing attendees to choose which elements they most want to participate in.
- VIP Tickets: VIP tickets are limited in number and cost slightly more than early bird or general admission tickets. But unlike the other tiers, VIP tickets offer exclusive access to event content or presenters. With an online event, you can offer access to a virtual VIP lounge or host VIP networking sessions or fireside chats with keynote speakers. The particular perks of VIP access will depend on the specifics of your event but if it is enticing enough, attendees will shell out extra money for the privilege.
- Last Minute: Interestingly, virtual events see more last-minute sales than live events. To capitalize on this phenomenon, remove your general admission tier and institute a “last minute” one, priced at a slightly higher price point, and released only a few days before the event is set to start. But if you do this, be sure to be transparent in your ticket descriptions so everyone knows that the price increases the closer you get to the event.
Providing these ticketing options will become an important part of your event promotion. Make sure that your target audience is aware of your ticket types so they don’t feel shut out of the event before it even gets started.
You want your audience to know that this event is for them, and letting them decide their level of access and their price point will put them in control. With ticketing options, a ticket buyer will feel empowered in the decision-making process.
Considerations for Pricing Your Virtual Event
When it comes to ticket pricing for a virtual event, you may be tempted to drastically reduce the price compared to a live event.
Think about it. Virtual events cost less to produce and that savings can be passed along to the ticket buyer. BUT, it is important to remember that you are still proving a valuable product and if you drop your prices too low, the perceived value of that product also drops.
If your audience does not perceive value in your online event, they will not buy tickets and they will not attend.
There is a fine line between a great deal and too cheap. One way you can mitigate this issue is to offer free tickets or a “pay what you can” option.
Free tickets are always appealing— who doesn’t like free?—and when offered alongside regular ticketing options, the event retains its value while also becoming more accessible.
A free option can become even more important now and for future events as it allows attendees facing increasing financial hardships the opportunity to participate.
Providing free tickets does not mean that you will be stuck taking a loss. These tickets can be underwritten by your event sponsors.
Virtual events provide a wealth of attendee data. This data can be used by sponsors to more effectively target their audience and capture more qualified leads. In this scenario, for free access to the event, attendees would provide additional data to sponsors. Because this additional data is so valuable, you are then able to make up the difference by upping the price on your sponsorship packages.
You can either explicitly offer free tickets and fill them in on the information exchange on your ticketing landing page or event website, or you can simply offer a nominal registration fee and provide ticket buyers with the opportunity to waive that fee in exchange for additional information.
Pay What You Can
When you offer “pay what you can” solutions or provide a suggested ticket price, more often than not, attendees will pay what you are asking.
Most people will recognize the value of your event, appreciate your consideration for their potential hardships, and want to contribute something for their access. Set a reasonable suggestion for how much people could pay, and they likely will.
This type of ticketing works best for access to particular event sessions. So, for example, if you are offering access to a keynote address, a panel discussion, or performance, you can include this option.
Whatever ticket tiers and options you offer, make sure the ticket descriptions are crystal clear. These descriptions are another way an event planner can market to a target audience. The language and tone should reflect the event brand while providing as many details as possible. The more you can do to ground the virtual event and ticket price in an actual real-world exchange will increase event ticket sales.
If appropriate for your event, consider being playful in your descriptions. Instead of a pay what you can, name it something else. For example, if you are offering “pay what you can” access to an exclusive musical performance or a virtual cocktail hour, set a price and call it “buy [the performer] a drink” or something similar. Again, if you can tie your recommended price to something in the real world, people will be more likely to pay it.
Choose the Right Ticketing Platform
Depending on the nature of your virtual event, it is likely that you are using a virtual event platform. Try to find a comprehensive platform, like Accelevents, that includes registration and ticketing tools in addition to virtual event hosting features.
Each platform you explore is likely to have different features that can benefit you in different ways.
Aside from robust virtual event capabilities, your event platform should:
- Allow ticket tiers
- Streamline event registration and improve data capture capabilities
- Integrate with marketing platforms like social media channels and email campaign managers
- Enable tiered ticketing
- Offer donation options at registration
- Provide in-depth analytics
Selling tickets for your virtual event does not need to be complicated and, in fact, you can employ strategies similar to those that you use for a physical event.
Given that the event industry, and the world in general, is facing a strange new normal, providing your prospective buyers and attendees with purchase options is more effective now than ever.
By providing value for your ticket price, offering free options, and choosing the right events platform, you can sell out your virtual event and keep everyone happy in the process!