By Paul Sherratt of Solutions for Sport
More than half of us in the UK own a smartphone and over 6.5 million regularly use them to access retail stores. And these figures are set for explosive growth in the near future.
Mobile devices will continue to drive shopper behaviour, as consumers use them to price check, access product placement, view recommendations and explore social media to inform their purchase decisions.
Apps now create interactive store experiences for users, which can be replicated for stadium, event and merchandise stores, providing businesses with the opportunity to sell products to an engaged audience not only after an event has taken place, but before and during it as well.
The increased use of smartphones and apps is giving sports venues reams of valuable data about the way fans move around, the things they buy and the content they want to watch.
For example, during this year’s Super Bowl data analytics helped improve the fan experience and drive up sales of drinks and merchandise.
Tech firm VenueNext developed an app on behalf of the NFL and nearly half the 71,000 crowd used it on the day to make purchases and access game statistics.
John Paul, VenueNext’s chief executive, says: “By offering an in-seat beverages delivery utility, orders increased 67 per cent during the Super Bowl. Delivery times averaged less than 10 minutes.”
A team of 200 ushers delivered the drinks and fed back data to the app about, for example, how long the queues for the toilets were and where the quickest place to buy a hot dog was during the event.
“We also implemented express pick-up of merchandise after ordering online via your mobile,” Paul says. “We ran out of inventory because it was so popular - we could’ve sold five times more than we did.”
Imagine this type of technology being adopted by cricket? Having drinks delivered to your seat would be popular, as would the ability to collect an item of merchandise without having to queue at the in-venue shop.
Likewise, if a fan used a location-based app, a football club could recognise that fan was at a particular game and target them with appropriate sales and marketing messages.
How is this likely to impact sports retail? There’s no doubt in-venue retailers can take advantage of this connective technology, but why can’t a high street or online retailer get involved too?
One of the fastest growing areas of research in this area is social media analysis. By monitoring the core social media channels, the topics that are being discussed and those users that are discussing them, users can be directed to associated content and/or sales opportunities.
During this year’s Wimbledon championship, armed with IBM’s social media analysis, your team could have been able to entice people chatting about their country’s performance in Euro 2016 towards Wimbledon content about a tennis player of the same nationality and ultimately towards relevant Wimbledon merchandise.
Take this approach to its logical conclusion and one can imagine online or traditional retailers driving a social media analysis strategy that pushes users to certain offers. Tweeting about Lionel Messi? Then why not check out his new boots either by visiting the website or in-store, perhaps providing a special offer.
Innovative retailers should view mobile technology not just as another opportunity to increase retail sales, but as a personal gateway to fans that can provide a more varied and richer experience.
How can brands get involved? Let’s consider sporting goods with integrated connectivity. The growth of sensors in wristbands or the sensor inside a running shoe or tennis racquet is producing endless data for athletes.
This is used to monitor performance, but can also push consumers to particular products or services that reflect their individual requirements. Perhaps they will be pushed to make these additional purchases through selected and connected dealers, who are key partners in a particular brand development programme.
Under Armour is investing heavily in this area and sees this type of user experience as a very real future.
What is clear is that connectivity in and around the sporting world will enhance the consumer experience on multiple levels as big data is used increasingly to establish the requirements of individuals based on where they are, what they’re doing and what they like.