Have you ever purchased tickets online and thought you’re getting a great deal… until the last second, when several fees get added on and suddenly you’re spending a lot more than you realized? After conducting “years of consumer research” that showed “fans hate nothing more than to see their final ticket price jacked up” when they’re prompted to pay for their purchases, StubHub decided to address this concern. Instead of adding fees at the end of the purchase transaction, ticket prices listed on StubHub now include all fees so the price you see at the outset is the total price you’ll pay.

One would think that by removing one of the most frustrating parts of the purchase, StubHub’s customers’ satisfaction would increase, resulting in an increase in sales. Instead, StubHub has seen a significant drop in sales from which they are now trying to recover. Does this mean the market research was wrong? Can we trust anything we learn from market research?

Market research at its core is a complicated task. We would like people to tell us exactly what motivates them to make a purchase and what would cause them to walk away, but the decision-making process is much more complex than that. That’s why it is important to distinguish between “talk” and “walk” issues. When fans report dissatisfaction with various aspects of their experience at a game, only some of these aspects may have a real impact on whether they come to another game. The factors that have an effect on actual behavior are the “walk” issues and are most crucial to address. If we don’t work to improve them, we run a real risk that fans will stop purchasing tickets and attending games.

If only certain factors affect a fans’ purchase or attendance decisions, should we ignore their dissatisfaction with other areas of the experience? Turnkey says no. While we may not be able to tie these other factors directly to an increase in sales or attendance, they can offer opportunities to impress customers and exceed their expectations, which can be beneficial in the long run. For example, imagine holding season tickets for your favorite sports team. Each time you attend, the usher in your section greets you by name and asks how you are. Would you stop attending games if the usher ignored you? Probably not. But when your team hits a rough patch and you start to question whether you want to continue watching their games, that usher who made you feel special may make the difference between whether you decide to renew your season tickets or not.

StubHub may have overestimated the impact of fans’ frustrations with hidden fees in the ticket buying process. However, in the long run, fans may begin to appreciate the transparency and simplicity of purchasing a ticket through StubHub as compared to other ticketing sites and become more loyal to StubHub as a result.

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