We speak to Seat Unique co-founder Phillipa Hicks about the premium ticketing marketplace’s progress so far, the future of the hospitality space and her Great British Bake Off aspirations…
While mass-market ticketing has been transformed by a digital revolution, premium ticketing and hospitality has often been overlooked. Searching and buying packages largely remains confusing, time-consuming and inefficient.
Enter Seat Unique. The operator was founded in 2018 as an online marketplace where fans can buy official hospitality packages and premium tickets to live sports, music and cultural events.
The start-up’s prestigious partners include Wales Rugby, Hampshire Cricket and Durham Cricket. These partners can exclusively exhibit premium hospitality packages and premium tickets through Seat Unique’s website, creating a safe and secure online space in which customers are guaranteed access to the best packages at the best possible price.
Seat Unique also offers rightsholders white label software for selling hospitality and premium tickets dynamically, meaning they have full control over matters such as package details and pricing.
The company was co-founded by Robin Sherry and Phillipa Hicks, and as well as a strong operational team, its board includes former England Rugby coach Sir Clive Woodward and Richard Flint, the former CEO of Sky Bet. Sam Warburton, the former Wales and Lions rugby captain, is a Brand Ambassador for Seat Unique.
At just 29 years old, Hicks is a young and ambitious Head of Product who is at the heart of Seat Unique’s upwards trajectory in the events sector. She began her career in financial services marketing before moving into sport and music event marketing, and it was here that she became aware of the gaps in premium tickets and hospitality for both rightsholders and fans.
We spoke to Hicks about Seat Unique’s progress so far and the future of the premium ticketing space. We also found out a little more about her culinary aspirations as a Great British Bake Off contestant!
“Being a part of Seat Unique is very exciting and we have a fantastic opportunity to help so many clubs and fans,” she said. “We are a fast-growing tech start-up in an industry that is shouting out for digital transformation and what better role to have than Head of Product.”
Tell us about your job and being part of Seat Unique?
PH: My role is exciting and meaningful. Head of Product is a fast-paced role and can be challenging but I enjoy finding solutions to these challenges and pushing myself.
Receiving positive feedback from our partners and customers gives me a real buzz. It’s always nice knowing your hard work is paying off, in particular from our partners on how much of a positive impact the Seat Unique platform is having on their businesses in terms of digitalisation and improving conversion rates, then on the customer side, how easy the product is to use.
Tell us about a typical day for you as Head of Product?
PH: My day starts with an 8am standup meeting where the team aligns on the sprint delivery (the work done on previous day, upcoming tasks for the new day, blockers etc.). This can lead on to me resolving specific technical issues, clarification and prioritisations. My time is then spent on reviewing features ready for testing and making sure all is done as per the spec provided before moving onto managing and developing our product roadmap, looking at long term versus short term goals, quick wins and ensuring all is in line with strategic goals.
Part of my day is spent communicating with stakeholders so they are up to date on product developments and to get feedback on how things are going and what can be improved.
I finish my day by updating the product backlog so that all is prioritised correctly and up to date for when our developers start work the following morning. We follow agile principals to ensure we get all new features and updates live for our customer relatively quickly.
What do you consider Seat Unique’s strengths and what can it bring to partners that they can’t get elsewhere?
PH: Our partners’ conversion rate is high. Our partners are great at driving traffic to their websites however a lot do not have an online store for selling hospitality and for those that do, they have a great opportunity to improve their buyer flows and conversion rates. Selling online allows you to track data touchpoints and improve conversion rates by creating a more tailored experience. There are benefits for the customer journey as well as usability and transparency.
How can rights-holders and clubs improve conversion?
PH: I strongly believe data is invaluable when it comes to improving online conversion. This is something that we take very seriously at Seat Unique and influences our product roadmap. We could all make assumptions on how to improve conversion rates but you need the data to see how your customers are behaving with your site.
Mobile is huge and something we have focused on from the beginning. Users want to be able to buy in three clicks or pay using their thumb so you need to make sure this is possible. Over 65% of traffic to our site is on mobile so when it comes to developing our product, we start with mobile then optimise for desktop and tablet. A lot of clubs and venues don’t have optimised websites so are quickly getting left behind.
Just by looking at our website and how easy it is to buy, you can see the value we add.
What do you consider Seat Unique’s biggest achievement to date?
PH: Our white label hospitality product has been a great achievement. We have been blown away by the feedback from both partners and fans. We are delighted with how little friction there is in the buy flow and how it is growing our partners’ sales numbers.
As we look to reopen in the coming months, who would benefit from speaking to or working with Seat Unique?
PH: COVID has accelerated digital transformation across the industry. A lot of our partners have lost their sales teams over the past 15 months due to the pandemic which has made them realise their need to invest in technology quicker than they were to make sure they don’t get left behind.
You are still in your 20s and a female in a tech space often seen as dominated by men. Have you found barriers due to gender and age?
PH: I would say women are under-represented in tech let alone tech and sport together. There have been challenges at times due to my age however, this doesn’t bother me, it makes me want to succeed even more.
If I was to give advice, my first piece would be if you have a good idea then discuss it with people you trust and respect. It is always good talking your ideas through with people that you trust to give their honest opinion. My second piece would be the importance of a good team that you trust, this is vital. I am very fortunate to have a fantastic team behind me and our CTO, Murray Rowan who is extremely experienced within the tech space (Yahoo, LoveCraft) has been fantastic.
Your working life sounds fulfilling and extremely busy. What do you do to unwind away from work?
PH: I love spending time with my family and friends. I am really into fitness and go to the gym 4-5 times per week. I’ve skied since I was five, love paddleboarding whenever the weather is nice enough and enjoy getting out in the fresh air.
I’m a massive foodie, love eating, cooking and going out to restaurants. I have always loved baking, but things got a bit more serious when my sister asked me to make her wedding cake five years ago. Last year I decided to put my bakes on my Instagram page ‘Pips’ Pantry’ and the rest is history…! I have applied for the Great British Bake Off three times, of which I have got through to the second round twice, but unfortunately never made it to the live shows. I will keep applying in the hope to make an appearance one day.