StubHub app downloads spike 50-75pc with long-tail keywords
May 22, 2014
Parag Vaish is head of mobile at StubHub, San Francisco
EBay-owned StubHub is using a number of different tactics to drive awareness of its mobile application, including app store optimization tests targeting long-tail keywords that appear to be driving downloads.
StubHub’s mobile app plays a key role not only in driving last-minute ticket sales, but also in helping the company better understand what types of events and content users potentially may be interested in weeks or months leading up to sports games and concerts. As a result of beginning the app store keyword tests in August, StubHub claims that it is seeing a 50-75 percent increase in daily downloads as of March 31.
“It’s basically looking at more long-tail keywords rather than the mainstream keywords,” said Parag Vaish, head of mobile at StubHub, San Francisco.
“So, [it is thinking about,] ‘what do we want to be known for rather than what does the world know us for?’” he said. “There’s a dozen, maybe two dozen, types of things we do to position ourselves better without that material marketing spend. I’m trying to keep us as lean as possible in this category, and it’s working.”
In the below Q&A, Mr. Vaish dishes on the ticket company’s new responsive site that is launching soon, opportunities around beacons for in-stadium engagement and how social media feedback is fueling upcoming initiatives.
What is StubHub doing within app stores to boost downloads?
We’re putting a lot of effort towards figuring out how to best position our apps in their respective app stores so we can pick up the most amounts of organic traffic coming to the right keywords.
Having been in marketing for almost 15 years now, there’s many things that are counterintuitive to how you think about app store optimization, so all of the traditional beliefs around how you would compose your position and your app in the app store are not all obvious and standard operating procedure.
One example of that is when you think about StubHub and what keywords matter, then you quickly go to words like NHL, NBA, NFL, NCAA — all these things that if somebody was looking for something, then we would like to be the top of the list.
Those are absolutely the wrong keywords for us to be using. It’s so counterintuitive to traditional marketing mindset that I’m spending a lot of time with our team understanding those things.
What I’m finding is that if we were getting 5,000 downloads per day naturally without doing any material marketing efforts, having done some of this app store optimization, we’re now getting between 50 - 75 percent more than that per day. Call it going from 5,000 to 8,000 just by simply being smart about how we position ourself in the app store. That’s been a game changer in how I talk to a marketing group on how we think about positioning our app and what we do on a regular basis.
Can you tell me more about StubHub’s recent push into mobile ticketing and what the decision was behind getting into this space now?
The biggest thing that we’ve done in the past three months is launch mobile ticketing for Major League Baseball for about 22 teams. There’s [also] an entertainment group called AEG [that we are working with].
In those two instances, we’ve launched mobile ticket so you can buy last-minute, you can walk into the venue with the tickets on your phone, no printing necessary. Honestly, while that’s expected amongst the general ticket audience, it’s not the norm in the entertainment space, primarily because the venues don’t all have the hardware to do the scanning. It’s still early days in mobile ticketing.
It’s working really well, people love it, [and] we’ve actually extended the sale time of our tickets into the game time. So if a game is starting at 7 p.m., tickets are available until 7:30. As the event gets closer, and even after the event starts, the prices will plummet, giving better deals to customers, which is what we’re all about. We do have plans to roll that out for the rest of the leagues, too.
A StubHub mobile ticket
What about other types of in-stadium engagement such as beacons or Wi-Fi?
We’re not a venue owner, so we don’t have physical rights to go and install anything at these venues.
Having said that, we did purchase the naming rights to a venue in Los Angeles — the StubHub Center — it’s where the LA Galaxy play and there’s also a bunch of concerts that go through there. By simply having the naming rights, we have a different level of conversation with the venue owner about what we can and can’t do. We have purchased beacons, we are building something within the beacon ecosystem to be able to deploy it there and learn what it can do for us.
We could do some geofencing stuff to surface a mobile ticket when you’re in the geo of a venue. There are some marketing things we’re doing on re-targeting people who have been to a sporting event.
In particular to baseball, you have a higher propensity to go to another game in the season versus the other leagues. With Major League Baseball, you have 82 home games and it’s a lower price point, so you’re potentially likely to go back. If you have the StubHub app and you’ve been to a Mets game, we might re-target you on some of the ad networks that are out there in the future months.
StubHub was one of the first marketers to use Apple’s Passbook in 2012. How is that going?
It’s going really well in the sense that customers like mobile tickets. The problem with it honestly is that we don’t have mobile tickets across all sporting events and concerts, so I can’t plausibly go out with a marketing message that says, “StubHub has mobile tickets.”
Consumers won’t know that we’ve got a partnership with Major League Baseball and therefore that’s why we’re integrated. We’re working really hard right now to make sure that we can do mobile ticketing across NBA, NFL and NHL when those seasons start.
We love having our tickets in Passbook, they look glorious. The issue is that because we’re not a full-scale, across all event mobile ticket provider, Apple can’t feature us or promote us as “StubHub in Passbook for everything.”
Another mobile ticket
A lot of what we are talking about is app-based. What about the mobile Web?
What we’re doing on the mobile Web front is a unified, responsive Web design of our mobile Web product, which means that we’re revamping our desktop product in conjunction with that. The experience you have on desktop will be very similar to the experience on tablet and remarkably similar to the experience on the mobile Web.
We’re building that right now. You’ll start to see the first signs of it coming out in about a month or so. If you were to go to the mobile Web today versus six months ago, you’d start to see some visual differences. This year within the next three months is the window that we’ll be making a transition towards that responsive design unified across all platforms.
What it does for us primarily is allow for the feature set to be uniformed across all platforms for sellers, buyers and all the stuff we have around rewards. Prior to deciding this, we had three different platforms — mobile Web, desktop and app — and we didn’t have feature parity. The experiences were built by separate teams so they looked different.
You have been using social media platform Yabbly to field questions on Twitter about mobile ticketing and StubHub’s mobile efforts recently. Have those discussions impacted any decisions on StubHub’s mobile marketing efforts?
It does. There’s a gentleman who asked me a question about the idea that people leave games early. You’ve paid for that asset for the rights to watch the team for however long the game goes on and now you’re choosing to walk away from it.
Do you have the right and the technical means to be able to sell that asset to somebody else? That’s essentially what this person was purposing in their question. That’s an interesting question. How would we do that?
In my answer, I said in the event that the person is already in the venue, then yes, we can enable the sale of that ticket because the person can just sit in that more desirable location and they can pay [an extra] $15 for it. But if they’re not yet in the venue, I don’t think we can possibly give them access to get into the venue with a ticket that’s already been used before. That question poses me to start thinking about how do I fulfill on something like that? Is it even worth it? I’d never thought about that as an opportunity, [but] it got me thinking.
Lauren Johnson is associate reporter on Mobile Marketer, New York
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