Back before the internet came into existence, die-hard sports fans would “camp out” for play-off tickets, often roughing it in the cold weather to ensure their pursuit is successful. Aussie startup CheckinLine takes this experience online; fans can now ‘check in’ to a virtual queue to retain their priority spot for tickets and giveaways.
Launched in beta at the start of the year, CheckinLine is set to become the “fairest online queuing system in the world – one that leverages, manages and monetises demand”.
The idea was borne from frustration six years ago, when Australian entrepreneurs Ben and Jonathan Flavel attempted to purchase tickets to a popular event online and endured twelve hours of website crashes. This meant that every time the site crashed, they’d have to the back of the queue.
Like with many other entrepreneurs, the frustration became inspiration. The duo wanted to replicate that fair offline queuing process online.
“When something popular goes on sale, the ticket site goes crazy. The constant crashes makes the whole process unfair,” says Ben Flavel, Co-Founder of CheckinLine.
“We thought about it more and we wanted to create a system that not only functions seamlessly, but provides an incentive for customers to give away something in return for tickets. This way, we’re also helping organisations by giving them a platform to retrieve rich, opinion-based information from customers.”
Mr Flavel explains that sports teams are constantly trying to find new ways to use technology to evaluate their fan-base; and in the age of low-cost digital technology, face-to-face focus groups and paper surveys are no longer feasible options.
With CheckinLine, companies can sell tickets to fans waiting in line, in exchange for “check-ins” where customers check in once a day to answer questions about their opinions and tastes.
“The technology works by gamifying the ticket-buying experience. And the longer the fans stay in line to respond to questions the greater their reward. It’s a new way to collect data, focusing on subjective questions and incentivising customers to give up that information,” says Mr Flavel.
From that information, a composite picture of consumers’ backgrounds and interests can be built and used by the venue to create more cohesive and effective marketing campaigns.
So how does it work exactly? Users register their place “in line”, and they “check-in” periodically to advance their priority status. Users can see their place in the queue and schedule their own check-ins; each check-in takes five minutes and equates to one opinion. Those who check in on time (for example, every 24 hours) are ranked ahead of others, and those who miss the time fall back in the queue. Users are therefore ranked in priority based on how often and how diligently they’ve completed the check-in process.
This process creates a captive audience over the assigned period of time, allowing brands to tune into what their die-hard fans are saying about them.
Mr Flavel says CheckinLine is practically the opposite of Groupon – rather than offering a discounted item, it amps up the demand for that item.
CheckinLine is targeting the collegiate sports market in the US, who need a streamlined outlet to evaluate their fan bases better, while offering discounted tickets to games.
Why not Australia? Mr Flavel says Australia’s ticketing industry is very different to the US. National sports organisations here don’t run their own ticketing systems or own assets like football stadiums.
“We conducted trials both here and in the US, which was mainly about generating case studies to help market the platform and improve the concept. But in that process we found that our product fits well with the US college sports market,” he adds.
“There’s a very limited way in which we can use the platform with a sporting body here; whereas in the US, not only are there about 600 more targets, they also own their own stadiums and manage their own ticketing processes. So there’s a lot more value we can offer to the US market,” he adds.
Another difference he noticed was that Australians tend to be a little more conservative when it comes to embracing new concepts.
“They don’t want to take as many risks here; whereas in the US, it’s a highly competitive market and they’re always looking for new ways to use technology,” says Mr Flavel.
The CheckinLine app costs $3,000 for the basic version, and up to $5,000 for a customisable, premium version. If companies regularly spend $5,000 on Facebook competitions to generate ‘likes’, then CheckinLine is a more cost-effective alternative.
But they plan on making money primarily from fan profiling and insights.
“When we conduct a CheckinLine competition, we’re bringing in a big number of fans onto our platform. We gather all the data from the check-ins, and deliver the information to the companies. We plan on monetising these check-ins in many different ways, and I think we can do it successfully because we’re automating the insights. We’ll be establishing our business model in the upcoming months,” says Mr Flavel.
Thus far, they’ve spent around $200,000 on the business, excluding sweat equity. Raising investment capital may be an option in the future, as well as contract opportunities with major sporting bodies in the US.
They also have their eyes set on the UK and South American markets where the sporting industry thrives.
Mr Flavel’s words of wisdom to other startup founders are, “the challenges you face, the struggles you go through are needed. They’re an important part of the journey.”
He adds that if they had raised significant capital at the beginning, they wouldn’t have been able to explore different spending avenues.
“With our own money, we were able to hone in on how best to spend our money, and test the platform properly. The struggles we went through are an important part of our makeup, an important part of our company DNA,” says Mr Flavel.
For more information on CheckinLine, visit www.checkinline.com.