Live-event ticketing platform SeatGeek Inc. has begun giving buyers the option to return their tickets—for any reason—and get a credit toward another event.
Its new feature, called SeatGeek Swaps, gives buyers who return their tickets at least 72 hours before any event a promotional credit equal to the purchase price and any fees paid.
SeatGeek said it is offering the alternative as the pandemic has pushed all manner of purchases—not just tickets—online, and introduced new uncertainty into planning nights out.
“When you look at how people use their phones, and what they expect of the product, people expect more flexibility and expect things to be on-demand, expect to not be locked into something for the long term,” said Jack Groetzinger, a co-founder and the chief executive of SeatGeek.
The new feature could have trickle-down effects across the ticketing and reselling industry, analysts said. Currently, many ticket sellers and marketplaces offer refunds only under specific circumstances, like canceled events, and sell ticket insurance that covers certain changes in plans.
Online sales of event tickets in the U.S., including sales and resales, is expected to increase 4.7% between now and 2026 to $7.9 billion, according to IBISWorld, a research firm.
Competition will continue to increase, said Claire O’Connor, senior analyst and team lead at IBISWorld. A service like SeatGeek Swaps could sway customers on their choice of ticket provider, Ms. O’Connor said.
“You can’t really predict what’s going on at the time of the concert three months down the line,” she added.
Sellers on the platform receive payment for their tickets even if buyers return them, the company said. SeatGeek will put the returned tickets back up for sale.
Ticket brokers and fans, who comprise the vast majority of sellers on the platform, have been automatically added to the swaps program.
But the swaps program might not work smoothly for all venues. SeatGeek is consulting with those that sell season tickets, for instance, to see how the feature could work for them, according to the company. The considerations of venues also differ from those of individuals—for example, venues need to make sure ticket holders show up to buy things like drinks and snacks.
SeatGeek decided to issue credits for returns instead of cash back to avoid potential fraud issues, company executives said. Credits also keep consumers and their money within SeatGeek.
Many businesses in the industry are looking for new services to encourage repeat purchases, as well as to differentiate themselves from each other, said Brandon Purcell, vice president and principal analyst at market research firm, Forrester Research Inc.
“In many industries like financial services and tickets, the actual products and services are becoming increasingly commoditized,” Mr. Purcell said.
“For SeatGeek, this is an opportunity to do that and give people the opportunity to effectively cancel their plans,” he added.
Vendors like Ticketmaster offer the ability to resell tickets if a purchaser can’t make an event, and in some circumstances, a refund, depending on what the event operator approves. Ticketmaster offers insurance as a backup, ranging from 5% to 10% of the ticket price.
For canceled or rescheduled events, Live Nation provides a full refund. And if a person tests positive for Covid-19 at least 72 hours before an event, they can also get a refund.
“Live Nation has been committed to leading with fan-friendly policies, and was the first to offer cash refunds during the pandemic,” a company spokeswoman said in an email. “We want fans to have a great experience from purchase to lights out, and we continue to offer refund options as entry requirements to shows evolve.”
A service like SeatGeek Swaps offers consumers greater freedom in their choices that other platforms don’t have and which may end up encouraging buyers to use SeatGeek over others, said Paul Hardart, director of the entertainment, media and technology program at New York University’s Stern School of Business.
“For the customer, it gives them some optionality that they didn’t have before,” Mr. Hardart said. “A lot of that is perceived value, but it is real. You have that choice to get out of it and that might encourage people. Especially during Covid, a lot of people are hesitant to commit to anything too far in advance.”
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