SBJ/March 7-13, 2011/Facilities

ISC adds PayPal option for website ticket sales

International Speedway Corp. this week will become the first motorsports operator to allow fans to use PayPal to buy tickets.

The company is incorporating a new feature into its track websites that enables fans to buy tickets using eBay’s online payment company. It also is adding an instant-messaging feature that allows fans to chat online with an ISC customer service representative.

Both elements are part of an effort by ISC to make ticket buying more flexible and easy for customers. ISC owns 12 tracks that host Sprint Cup Series races.

“We found the complexity around the [ticket] offerings we have for new fans is much more difficult than if you’re buying tickets for a baseball, basketball or football game,” said Craig Neeb, ISC’s chief information officer. “We wanted to add the ability via chat to reach one of our customer service agents to help with transactions.”

The partnership with PayPal was developed over the last 60 days. The idea for working with the company came from ISC Chief Executive Lesa France Kennedy, who used the service last year for some online holiday shopping. She asked the ISC staff if the service could be used to buy race tickets. ISC was able to integrate PayPal into its purchase process relatively quickly because it’s one of the few sports enterprises that still manages its own ticket sales rather than relying on Ticketmaster or another outside party.

Fans who visit ISC track sites as of next week will see PayPal as a payment option alongside Visa, MasterCard and other payment offerings. PayPal allows customers to make secure money transfers through the Internet from their bank account or credit card. It doesn’t cost the user anything to use the service, but PayPal will receive a small percentage of the ticket sale from ISC.

ISC also rolled out a pilot live chat program on its ticket sales site ahead of the Daytona 500.
“It was easily integrated on our end,” Neeb said. “There’s back-of-the-house things you have to do from an accounting method, but there’s nothing different from any other pay mechanism we offer.”

ISC first rolled out a pilot, chat program on its ticket sales site ahead of the Daytona 500. It offered live chats with visitors starting Feb. 1 and completed 1,500 chats over the course of the month. It converted more than 10 percent of those sales immediately.

Neeb said he expects the chat function to help ISC convert more visitors into ticket buyers. He also anticipates that the company will be able to improve its site and ticket offerings by analyzing the questions visitors ask. “It’s another avenue to get consumer insight,” Neeb said.

Though ISC has managed its own ticket operations for years, Neeb said the company has begun talking with ticket providers about taking over ticket operations in the future. Ticketmaster and Outbox Enterprises, a joint venture launched by AEG, are two of the biggest ticket providers. Neeb said that ISC is more comfortable with the idea of partnering with one of those companies today because they offer more control over communication with ticket buyers and information about ticket buyers.

“What we’ve seen in the last 10 years we’ve been on our own system is a transformation in a lot of the ticket providers’ new technology,” Neeb said. “If there is a partner who can offer the same base level service we’re providing today, we’re up for looking at that. It’s a change in that we’ll have a partner, but not in terms of who owns the customer or how the customer is treated.”

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