July 1, 2010, 3:57 PM

MLB teams step up to the mobile ticketing plate

13 major league baseball teams let fans purchase seats using mobile devices.

Lead Photo

With m-commerce picking up steam, concert halls and sports teams want in on the action (and sales). Thirteen major league baseball teams including the Chicago Cubs, the Boston Red Sox and the Oakland A’s, recently began allowing fans to purchase seats using such hand-held devices as the BlackBerry or iPhone.

The teams, which all operate mobile sites on technology provided by Tickets.com Inc., decided to begin offering ticket purchasing on their sites within the past year to take advantage of strong growth in traffic, says Sheri Fink, head of e-commerce and strategic alliances at Tickets.com.

Steve Fanelli, executive director of ticket sales for the Oakland A’s, says his team sends about 1,000 bar-coded tickets for each game to fans’ mobile phones, though so far only a few hundred of those tickets are also purchased on a phone, with most of the rest bought through a PC. When a fan arrives at the ballpark with a mobile phone ticket, a gate keeper scans the bar code on his mobile phone screen.

Fanelli adds that, even though he expects mobile commerce ticket sales to grow slowly, it holds a lot of long-term promise. “It’s not huge right now, and it’s certainly not taking over as the dominant channel to purchase tickets,” he says. “Most people still prefer to go to a regular PC or use cash.”

However, he believes it’s important to offer the option, pointing out that when baseball clubs first began selling tickets over the web it took several years before customers got comfortable with that method.

Before the A’s and the other teams began offering mobile ticket sales, Tickets.com  had already been providing each team with its own mobile web site through the company’s branded mobile web site technology, ProVenueMobile, developed in partnership with Usablenet Inc., an m-commerce technology vendor. Usablenet translates the information sent to and from the mobile devices.     

Several years ago, the teams began offering game schedules, player statistics and other bits of information on their mobile sites, and many eventually added the more advanced features offered by Tickets.com, such as streaming video. But in the past year, traffic on the teams’ mobile sites doubled. That’s when the teams decided to let fans purchase tickets via the mobile sites, Fink says.

Baseball fans do not need to download an app onto their mobile device to buy tickets, Fink adds. They just get on their team’s mobile site, even if it’s a few minutes before game time, register an account, select the seats they want and pay with a credit card. They then receive a ticket on the mobile device in the form of a bar code.

All major league teams already used bar code scanners for traditional paper tickets, and making them usable for mobile devices required only minor upgrades, Fanelli says. He declined to provide costs related to developing the mobile sites, noting that each team has different contractual terms with Tickets.com to provide a variety of services, with the mobile option being just a small part.

Fanelli says the A’s have pushed mobile technology harder than most teams, and began experimenting with sending bar-coded tickets to mobile devices as early as 2006, although it was not until this April that customers could complete a purchase.

He adds that he believes as mobile devices like Apple Inc.’s iPhones and those that run on Google Inc.’s Android operating system get less cumbersome and more powerful, purchasing tickets via a mobile device will eventually become as standard as web-ticketing is now.



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