ReplyBuy combines text messaging and ticket purchasing in new technology.

Remember that part in “Back to the Future 2” when Marty McFly bought tickets to a Brooklyn Nets game just by texting the word “buy,” and then they showed up on his phone? OK, so it may not have been one of those futuristic movie technologies, but with ReplyBuy, it’s a present-day service. Attempting to reduce the friction of mobile ticket purchasing, ReplyBuy converges the world of ticketing with text messaging, while closing the gap in mobile purchasing conversions from the virtual shopping cart to the event’s door.

“Shopping cart abandonment is massive on mobile,” said Josh Manley, ReplyBuy CEO. “So it’s streamlining something that’s traditionally challenging. Most people don’t have the attention span to do it, so they’ll start the process and then say, I’ll go back to this later and just do it on my laptop. But from the time you receive the message in a quick text with ReplyBuy to the time you receive your tickets could be a matter of seconds.”

Integrating their technology with Ticketmaster’s Archtics, venues, teams and events are able to create campaigns, specifying the number of tickets and their prices, which send texts to their fans, offering tickets to a certain event. The campaign’s conversions and metrics are all captured on an admin site and can be tracked for future campaigns. If the fan receives the text and is interested, they simply text back with the number of tickets they want, and the tickets are sent directly to their mobile device and emailed to them as well.

“We’re not changing the way they buy,” said Manley. “It’s a new technology, but the buying mechanism is what they do on a day-to-day basis. The people who aren’t using ReplyBuy already know how to use ReplyBuy. It’s the built-in app that comes preinstalled on every phone.”

ReplyBuy is currently partnered with 12-15 professional and collegiate sports teams, including the Los Angeles Clippers, Washington Wizards, Brooklyn Nets and Arizona Coyotes. Word of ReplyBuy got out largely through word of mouth between the NBA teams after they first partnered with the Detroit Pistons at the beginning of the fourth quarter last year.

“We’ve built an entire system around delivering available tickets to consumers who are engaged in using the platform,” said Manley. “We kind of sit in the middle between the client and the fans. We’re a platform they can use to drive additional sales and create awareness and extend a new capability to their fans.”

Since they are partnered with Ticketmaster, ReplyBuy technology does not require any new installation or customized equipment. Teams are only responsible for getting their fans to create ReplyBuy accounts where they enter their payment information using PayPal or a credit card, which is kept on file. This “one and done” process streamlines future transactions.

With email’s reduced open rates and Facebook’s ever-changing algorithm, Manley feels texting is the only sure-fire way to reach your fans in a way they are sure to see.

“We’re using text because we have Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, and push notifications through apps and texting is still the highest form of engagement with 97 percent of text messages being read within the first few minutes of being received,” said Manley. “People are already used to communicating through text and that’s how they receive the alerts through ReplyBuy.”

Detroit Pistons Sign On

As the first team to partner with ReplyBuy, the Detroit Pistons currently have around 4,000 users after actively pushing the platform to their fans for about two months.

“We partnered with them at the beginning of our season this year really to fill a strategic void we had in our marketing mix,” said Mike Donnay, vice president of Brand Networks for the Pistons, “which was how do we best utilize mobile, knowing that the majority of our fans use mobile devices to search for ticketing inventory. We knew there was a gap there in terms of having them transact on their mobile devices.”

Since then, Donnay said now that they are having success with ReplyBuy, they are beginning to put more marketing initiatives into driving up the number of users.

“I’d love to see the number reach 10,000 by the end of the season,” said Donnay. “I think that’s a realistic goal.”

The Pistons have launched 10 campaigns since the beginning of the season. The first four were a little slow as people adjusted to the new technology, but they’ve seen a significant lift in the number of tickets and revenue they are able to drive through the platform.

“They really broke down all the different barriers that our fans had when trying to buy a ticket on a mobile device,” said Donnay. “They simply had to put their information on file with ReplyBuy and reply to a text message and tickets are instantly delivered to their smartphone with the Ticketmaster barcode.”

To introduce the new service to fans, they held giveaways of signed jerseys that fans had to create a ReplyBuy profile to be able to win. They don’t run a campaign for every Pistons game but work with the director of ticketing to identify games that have remnant inventory that can be moved quickly. The most successful campaigns are usually launched 48 hours prior to an event and often include a $10 discount off the face value of the ticket, so users are getting more value beyond the convenience.

“The majority of sports teams are affiliated with Ticketmaster and because ReplyBuy is integrated with them,” said Donnay, “it really does make it turnkey to teams to flip a switch and get going with the platform. There’s not a ton of training required, and there’s not a ton of overhead required from a box office and ticket sales perspective.”

Collegiate Involvement

Kim Dulde, associate athletic director, Marketing and Sales for the Marquette University Athletics Department, said that Marquette signed on with ReplyBuy in December as one of its only collegiate teams. Dulde ran their first campaign for a men’s basketball game on Dec. 19, selling a successful 72 tickets. Currently, they have almost 1,100 subscribers and hope to expand from there.

“The biggest challenge is getting people signed up for the service,” said Dulde. “The more people you have signed on, obviously the better chance you have at selling tickets.”

The main way they introduced the new service to fans was through emails to their database group, then through social media and in-game graphics and announcements. If the people receiving the email already had a Ticketmaster account, all they had to do was confirm their email address and enter a mobile number. Dulde said they soon hope to send staff out on the concourse during games to actively sign people up. Before ReplyBuy, Marquette Athletics communicated ticket offers, deals and onsales with its fan base mostly through emails. 

“I think emails have started getting to the point where people get so many of them that they're becoming immune to it, and they don’t read them as much as they used to,” said Dulde. “We’re finding click-through rates and open rates are lower than they were five years ago, so this seemed like a nice alternative for us to get in front of our customers about certain games and communicating with them if they’re not reading the emails.”

Dulde sees this as a quick and easy, paperless solution to mobile ticketing. With ReplyBuy taking care of all the back of house systems, it becomes more of a marketing and educating job on Dulde’s end. Eventually, she hopes to see it expand to season ticket renewals and other ticketing areas.

Interviewed for this article: Mike Donnay, (248) 377-0100; Josh Manley, (480) 339-2295; Kim Dulde, (414) 288-4851