Digital trends in the sports and entertainment industry: Customer experience drives investments

Two athletes laugh over a phone

Customer journeys, 360-degree views of customer analytics, customer data platforms, and intelligent workflow automation enable companies to deliver highly personalized, real-time services in the sports and entertainment industries.

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The latest study from 2022, which focuses on the connected customer experience, found that 88% of customers say the experience a company provides is just as important as its product or services – up from 80% in 2020 To improve the customer experience, start with the employee experience. Research shows that improving the employee experience translates into a better customer experience and increased sales. In fact, companies are leaving money on the table. Breaking down silos between employee experience and customer experience can lead to a tremendous opportunity for revenue growth of up to 50% or more.

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The customer experience is also rapidly shifting to a digital-first engagement model that is highly personalized and real-time. Digital channels continue to dominate customer engagement, but as public health restrictions ease, it will be important for businesses to marry new forms of customer engagement with established ones. 73% of customers expect companies to understand their individual needs and expectations. And 68% of customers have bought products in new ways in the last two years.

A 2022 State of Marketing Report finds that improving the use of tools and technology is the top priority for markers. CRM is a leading tool for powerful marketers. While customer relationship management (CRM) systems are particularly popular, marketers use a mix of tools to build relationships throughout the customer lifecycle. 89% of B2B and B2B2C marketers use account-based marketing platforms that help teams orchestrate targeted campaigns with their sales and service peers.

The study also finds that CMOs cite customer preferences and expectations as the most important influence on digital strategy. Where customers lead, marketers follow, and marketers are increasingly experimenting with new digital channels to reach them. Video continues to play an important role as both a channel and a tactic, with pre-produced video and live stream video both rising to the top of the marketing mix.

Delivering hyper-personalized, real-time experiences is a differentiator for all industries, including sports and entertainment. So how are these industries using technology to improve the customer experience?

Jason Lumsden is the former IT Director of the Boston Red Sox and currently Vice President at Verndale, a Boston-based customer experience agency founded specifically to help marketing and technology leaders connect the dots of the customer journey. I asked Lumsden to share customer experience trends in the sports and entertainment industry.

Q: What has changed in the esports industry in terms of delivering a better customer experience?

Jason Lumsden: It wasn’t long ago that professional sports teams didn’t have to try to sell tickets. They didn’t need fancy customer experience platforms. They didn’t worry about collecting data about purchases. There was no analysis or modeling of customer/fan behavior, and the teams had limited technology budgets because the fans were coming anyway. That has changed, and sports and entertainment venues are competing with everyone else for a slice of the customer’s wallet. It’s not enough to have a competitive team or a die-hard fan base. We see empty seats in stadiums in places with even the most passionate fan bases.

And this is not just a sporting problem. Concerts, horse racing, festivals, conferences, and even new ventures like e-gaming are all competing in this new world of remote work and digitization. The positive side for many sports teams is that customer retention is usually strong. They usually already have a following that wants to connect with them, so the challenge is getting the right product to the right customer at the right time. We’re working with Major League Baseball to really build on that loyalty and provide a better customer experience so fans can focus on cheering on their favorite team and supporting the product on and off the field.

What is the role of analytics and data in improving the customer experience?

JL: Venues need a way to efficiently and effectively engage with customers to win their hearts, minds and dollars. They need to literally and figuratively motivate their customers to get involved. This starts with finding easier ways to manage ticket sales and corporate sponsorships, fill seats, attract new fans, and customize the fan journey before, during, and after events. With the right technologies, you can enable a 360-degree view of customer engagement with you, giving you the insights you need to personalize the customer journey and drive better outcomes. Venues look at this more from a corporate perspective. Maximize engagement with sponsors or fans across their entities without complicating the employee experience. We’re helping some of the largest franchises rethink the way they interact with, manage and monetize their products.

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Enter a robust CRM platform where you can connect your sales and marketing teams while automating the fan journey. You want to work with a scalable platform that simplifies your use of technology. You can eliminate manual processes and automate workflows, view campaigns holistically and manage communications, leads and contacts, create and house contracts, bundle offers, target the right customer, configure and offer packages with discounts and much more. Not only does it create more sales with a better customer experience, but you also create a more efficient sales and service experience for your internal resources while reducing complexity and costs for your back office.

What are the key technology investments for 2023 and beyond?

JL: Over the past two years, we’ve seen a plethora of momentum from sports teams and venues that have taken their digital skills and experiences to the next level to compete with all the entertainment options consumers have today. We help some of the biggest and most recognizable brands in esports. Teams and venues can use CPQ capabilities to quickly and easily bundle offers and create bids on sellable assets such as premium seating and event space. CPQ simplifies the complex and enables offers that can include any number of assets such as suites or sponsorship opportunities, sales discounts, bundles and other features unique to venues and sports organizations. Best of all, it’s all built into Salesforce and fully configurable, saving your business money in the long run.

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CPQ applications often work in tandem with customer relationship management (CRM) platforms, enterprise resource planning (ERP) programs, and other business technologies to ensure both integrated data and accuracy. Quotes created with CPQ are automated according to a pre-programmed set of rules, ensuring error-free pricing that accounts for quantities, discounts, customizations, optional product features, multiple revenue types, and incompatibilities.

According to the State of Sales study, sales reps spend only 34% of their time actually selling, and research shows that some of a sales team’s non-sales time is spent creating quotes, proposals, and obtaining approvals. The same report found that when CPQ is deployed and used correctly, users reported 10x faster quote generation, a 95 percent reduction in approval time, 2x faster quote-to-payment conversion, and a 30 percent speedup for new salespeople.

Recent trends also include the introduction of a Customer Data Platform (CDP) / Master Data Management (MDM) for the digital technology stack of sports teams and venues. A CDP enables better customer insights, increased efficiency and productivity for internal sales teams, and a better understanding of the customer’s golden record. It consolidates lead and customer data from multiple data sources, not just sales and marketing data, for buyers’ coveted 360-degree views.

From concessions, ticketing, web traffic, event traffic and more, organizations can turn marketing intelligence data into actionable content. This bespoke content helps target the local fan with a last minute offer to get them through the door. Plus, you’ll know if they actually walked through the door, so you can follow up and continue their experience with a survey or season ticket discount. Want to reach out to fans who didn’t make it to the game? Find out who abandoned their cart and start the next best deal.

The systematic integration of customer data creates endless opportunities for omnichannel engagements, allowing you to move from transactional and one-off moments to segmented and personalized experiences. Arming your sales and service teams with intelligent marketing data also enables them to prioritize who to speak to and target, further empowering their workflow, tailoring their client experience, closing more deals, and renewing contracts faster.

Final recommendations for leaders to improve stakeholder experiences?

JL: The integration of systems and platforms makes the difference for the external and internal user journeys. Connect systems and eliminate data silos. Eliminate fragmented experiences with a digital upgrade and focus on investments to support your business over the long term, so your customers can convert and your team can close more deals. Empower your people to be successful with the right tools and the right information at the right time.

Eliminating manual processes and automating workflows leads to greater team efficiency and improves the customer experience. It also prepares your business for future success. The right partners with proven techniques in implementation and optimization will help you. Implementing these tools requires immersive planning and roadmapping to have the greatest impact and be prepared for friction along the way, and it starts with prioritizing the digital journey.

This article was co-authored by Jason Lumsden, Vice President at Verndale.


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