How data & marketing collaboration is powering personalization at SeatGeek

At CommerceNext 2023, Simon Data CEO and Co-Founder Jason Davis hosted a fireside chat with Steven Mastrocola, Director of CRM at SeatGeek, where they discussed the transformative power of collaboration between data and marketing teams. Read on for takeaways from the conversation, or click here to watch the full video interview.

SeatGeek, the premier live event ticketing company, has made personalization a core part of its CRM strategy. “When you think about live events,” said Mastrocola, “it’s somewhat complicated to determine who likes Taylor Swift, who likes the New York Yankees, who goes to a whole slew of football games..and so on” 

The key to personalizing the SeatGeek experience lay in untangling this complexity. To do so, SeatGeek’s CRM team joined forces with their data team to develop a point system that assigned scores based on user engagement with various sports teams and events. 

“Higher level engagement gets you more points, lower-level engagement gets you fewer points…” said Mastrocola, expanding further:

“If you go on to SeatGeek and you track the New York Mets, we might give you 1000 points for the Mets. If you purchased the New York Knicks, we might give you 500 points for the New York Knicks. If you click on the New York Yankees, we might give you 100 points to the New York Yankees. And at the end of the day, we can add up all those engagements and give each user a score for each team which then allows us to say, ‘Hey, this person’s favorite sports team is the New York Mets.'”

These scores enabled SeatGeek’s CRM team to use platforms like Simon Data and their downstream marketing channels with precision, allowing for targeted campaigns with dynamic content specific to users’ team preferences. The seamless data integration enabled the team to personalize messages and drive more ticket sales.

It’s a two-way street: The secret to forging effective data and marketing collaboration

Steven emphasized the essence of open communication and a shared purpose to bridge the divide between marketing and data teams. Regular meetings and cross-team training are pivotal in nurturing a collaborative culture and a shared understanding that neither team should operate as simple order-takers.

“I think a relationship with the data team is just like any relationship with a coworker… It’s a two-way street. It’s not just the data team serving up info for my team to use…There’s stuff my team should be doing to help them as well.”

How data and marketing collaboration solved incrementality and attribution challenges – at the same time

A great example of this symbiotic relationship came in the form of an initiative to measure the incrementality of SeatGeek’s CRM marketing using a holdout test – a type of experiment that withholds a segment of users from specific CRM programs to assess the impact of those campaigns on user behavior.

“We worked collaboratively with the data team to design the test together, with my team owning the operational execution of it and the data team owning the actual analysis and reporting,” said Mastrocola.

The holdout test allowed SeatGeek to accurately measure the effectiveness of its CRM marketing efforts. It provided valuable insights into the incremental value of their marketing campaigns, something that was impossible to achieve through traditional campaign reporting alone. 

But the test results also had a broader impact on the data team, which, for some time, had been trying to pitch a new attribution model. The numbers that came back from the incrementality test matched what would have been in the new attribution model – and demonstrated the flaws in the old one. The results ultimately helped the data team make the case to the rest of the company to use the newer attribution model. 

How data and marketing collaboration revived a price drop campaign

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, SeatGeek had a high performing price drop campaign that operated similarly to an abandoned browse campaign: if a user viewed a specific event page and the price dropped after viewing, the brand could send a message alerting the user of the price change.

When COVID-19 hit, there weren’t any live events to market, so the team turned the experience off. As the world began to re-open, the team went to turn this campaign back on and couldn’t. “This email just did not work – no matter what our product team did…it would not send.”

Around the same time, Mastrocola worked with the data team to implement Simon Data as their new Customer Data Platform. Thanks in part due to the tight relationship between the two groups, the data team knew how effective the old campaign was – and knew the problem needed to be solved quickly. 

With Simon Data in place, the data team could pass the raw price drop events for every single event, as well as user engagement data. With that information available in Simon, Steven’s team could go in and construct the segment however they saw fit and begin deploying messages almost immediately. 

Steven had been going back and forth with the product team for two months to repair the old price drop campaign. And in two days, the data team had it live in Simon Data – better than ever.

“Instead of having a product trigger the email without any input from us – we can now choose the events, we can test the events, and we can test the thresholds: a 10% price drop versus 25% and so on.” 

Ultimately, the quick fix was possible because both teams understood how their respective infrastructures worked.

“I think it’s very much about having those open lines of communication, sharing priorities, and making sure you know how each others systems work.”

Speed and efficiency: critical drivers of success in data-driven marketing

Understanding the drivers of success at SeatGeek requires a quick tour of their underlying data and marketing architecture.

Redshift is SeatGeek’s data warehouse, which sits at the center of everything. Both Simon and Iterable – SeatGeek’s cross-channel marketing platform – integrate bi-directionally with the data warehouse, meaning they can receive data from RedShift and send data back into it. For reporting, Looker sits on top of the entire stack, enabling Steven and his team to view campaign performance holistically and by segment.

For example, Steven can evaluate a personalized message’s performance, like an email with dynamic content based on the users’ favorite MLB team. Using data from Simon, he can see the click rate for someone who got an email featuring The Mets versus the click rate for someone receiving an email featuring the Yankees. He can also see what they purchased and any other downstream events or metrics.

SeatGeek’s data-driven marketing success is a testament to the importance of speed and efficiency in campaign execution. Steven emphasized the need to remove friction from workflows and streamline processes, ensuring that his marketing team could quickly solve problems, optimize campaigns, and keep iterating to drive growth. 

“If something is hard, if it requires going to IT… then I think you have a problem,” said Jason, underscoring the significance of swift and seamless workflows.

Adding to that, Steven remarked on his team’s change from relying on batch data uploads to a more streamlined process that came with their CDP investment.

“It’s one of those situations where it works until it doesn’t,” he said. “We were very much in a world where we used to upload CSVs of users to our ESP, so we’d be uploading massive files…I can literally tell you when you can no longer open an Excel file, it’s at 800,000 lines – that’s when the Excel file breaks.” 

For SeatGeek, the long wait times required for data to upload became a non-starter. “When the team’s sitting there waiting for users to upload or download from SQL…it’s just an inefficient use of time.” 

Moving to Simon Data was a no-brainer for both the data and marketing teams at SeatGeek. “It’s about being able to quickly solve and optimize and keep growing, versus just settling for what’s already going out the door,” said Steven. 

With Simon Data implemented, the CRM team could also centralize all of their SEM, paid social, and our brand channels within the CDP through the platform’s direct integration with LiveRamp. This means they can seamlessly send audiences to those channels from within a single platform and optimize the delivery of those ads to specific audience segments. 

“Simon has allowed us to look at users holistically,” said Steven. “We’ve been creating…value segments where we look at users in specific cohorts-like ‘frequent purchasers’ versus ‘lapsed users’ versus someone that has never purchased. With Simon, data and marketing teams are all talking the same language and using the same data to identify these segments. So when we run a test or campaign, we can say, ‘Hey, this person should be part of our SEM audience, but not paid social’ or vice versa.”

SeatGeek’s story is a remarkable case study of the transformative power of collaboration between data and marketing teams. Through shared goals, effective communication, streamlined processes, and good technology investments, SeatGeek has harnessed the power of personalization to revolutionize the ticketing industry. The teams’ success is a powerful inspiration for other businesses seeking to unleash the true potential of their data and marketing. Of course, this is just a small sample of the insightful examples and case studies shared over the course of the conversation. Click here to watch the full recording.

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