Analysis of lead time patterns can be highly valuable as it may reveal insights into when to best push sales and campaigns, the right time to have prominent placement on the website and the perfect moment to communicate through owned channels.
All marketers and ticket sellers should consider looking at the lead time curves for specific event categories, seasons and demographics. For example, it may be the same lead time pattern for all, and if it’s not, you should plan accordingly.
If we start by digging into what a typical lead time pattern is for a pre-COVID venue, it would look something like the image below. Sales would build week-for-week, with the peak coming at the week of the event (obviously very different for high-demand shows, but we’ll put those to the side for now.). Some categories have more planners (opera, classical, musicals) and some are typically selling closer to the event (comedy shows, sports).
Recently, we started seeing a different pattern. Rather than seeing a steady increase in sales, the pattern now has ‘valleys’. Meaning that currently people are buying tickets for things that are happening in the coming weeks, or happening 6-9 months from now.
We are calling it the “Valley of Uncertainty” (we know it sounds a bit dramatic, but data people like a bit of drama too).
The hypothesis is that people feel quite confident buying tickets for events that are happening within the next week to three weeks, and are also relatively optimistic about events happening in 6-9 months time – however, the months in between feel a bit uncertain (hence the clever name). It’s the “let’s wait and see” period.
What this means for you
If you are working in sales or marketing, you should take notice and action. This phenomenon should have a strong influence on your marketing strategy and you should probably avoid putting time and money into promoting during the “uncertain” period. Instead, shift your communications to what’s happening here and now, and maybe try to push the (bigger) events that are happening in 6-12 months time.
And if you want to push sales for the events that are in the uncertainty period, you should probably address the uncertainty, ensuring buyers that there are plans in place for rescheduling or compensation in case the event can’t be set up as planned.
We expect that this will be the pattern through this winter in the northern hemisphere, as the southern hemisphere will most likely see different patterns moving into their summer. Unless something dramatically changes, make sure that you are monitoring your lead time patterns, so you are spending time and money right by pushing the right events, at the right time.