Digital trends in sports and entertainment industries: Customer experience drives investments

Digital transformation priorities in the sports and entertainment industries are focused on improving the customer experience with real-time and hyper-personalized services.
Written by Vala Afshar, Contributing Writer
Two athletes laughing over a phone

Customer journeys, 360-view of customer analytics, customer data platforms, and smart work-flow automaton, enable businesses to deliver real-time, highly personalized services in the sports and entertainment industries. 

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The latest 2022 research focused on the connected customer experience found that 88% of customers say the experience a company provides is 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 leads to better customer experience and revenue growth. In fact, companies are leaving money on the table. Breaking silos between employee experience and customer experience can lead to a massive opportunity for revenue growth of up to 50% or more. 

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The customer experience is also shifting rapidly 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 organizations to bridge new ways of engagement with tried-and-true ones. 73% percent of customers expect companies to understand their unique needs and expectations. And 68% of customers have purchased products in new ways over the past two years. 

A 2022 State of Marketing Report notes that improving the use of tools and technologies is the number one priority for markers. CRM is a leading tool for high-performing marketers. While customer relationship management (CRM) systems are particularly popular, marketers use a blend of tools to build relationships across the customer life cycle. 89% of B2B and B2B2C marketers are using account-based marketing platforms, aiding teams in their pursuit to orchestrate targeted campaigns with their sales and service counterparts. 

The research also notes that CMOs cite customer preferences and expectations as the No. 1 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 preproduced video and livestream video both rising to the top of the marketing mix. 

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

Jason Lumsden is the former director of IT for the Boston Red Sox and currently is a vice president at Verndale, a Boston based customer experience agency, purpose-built 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 sports industry with regards to delivering a better customer experience? 

Jason Lumsden: It wasn't long ago that professional sports teams didn't need to try to sell tickets. They didn't need to have any fancy customer experience platforms. They weren't worried about gathering data on purchases. There were no analytics or modeling on customer/fan behavior, and teams had limited technology budgets because the fans came anyways. That's all changed, and sports and entertainment venues are fighting for a share of the customers' wallets along with everyone else. It isn't enough to have a competitive team or die-hard fan base. We're seeing empty seats in stadiums in places with even the most passionate fan bases. 

And this isn't just a sports problem. Concerts, horse racing, festivals, conferences, and even new ventures like e-gaming are all competing in this new remote-working and digital-first world. The plus side for many sports teams is that customer loyalty is usually strong. They generally already have a customer fan base that wants to engage with them, so the challenge becomes offering the right product to the right customer at the right time. We are working with Major League Baseball to really build on this loyalty and offer a better customer experience so fans can focus on cheering for their favorite team and supporting the product on and off the field. 

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

JL: Venues need a way to engage with customers efficiently and effectively to win their hearts, minds, and dollars. They need to motivate their customers to get in the game, literally and figuratively. This begins with finding easier ways to manage ticket sales and corporate sponsorships, fill seats, create new fans, and customize the fan journey before, during, and after events. With the right technologies in place, you can enable a 360-degree view of the engagement customers have with you, providing you with the insights needed to personalize the customer journey and achieve better outcomes. Venues are looking at this from more of an enterprise perspective. Maximizing the engagement with sponsors or fans across all their entities while not complicating the employee experience. We are helping some of the largest franchises rethink how they engage, manage, and generate revenue from 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 platform that is scalable simplifing your technology stake. You can eliminate manual processes and automate workflows, holistically look at campaigns and manage communication, leads, and contacts, create and house contracts, bundle offerings, target the right customer, configure and quote packages with discounts, and much more. It is not only creating a more more revenue with a better customer experience but you are also creating a more efficient sales and service experience for your internal resources while reducing complexity and cost to your back office. 

What are the key technology investments for 2023 and beyond? 

JL: Over the past two years, we've seen an abundance of momentum from sports teams and venues next-leveling their digital capabilities and experiences to compete with all the entertainment options consumers have today. We are helping some of the largest and most well-known brands in sports. Teams and venues can quickly and easily bundle offers and generate quotes for sellable assets like premium seating and event space using CPQ capabilities. CPQ simplifies the complex, enabling quotes that can include any number of assets like suites or sponsorships opportunities, sales discounts, bundles, and other features unique to venues and sports organization. The best part is this is all native to Salesforce and completely configurable saving your company money in the long run. 

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CPQ applications often work with Customer Relationship Management (CRM) platforms, Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) programs, and other business technologies to ensure integrated data as well as accuracy. Quotes produced using CPQ are automated according to a preprogrammed set of rules, ensuring error-free pricing that accounts for quantities, discounts, customizations, optional features of products, multiple revenue types, and incompatibilities.

According to the State of Sales research, sales reps spend just 34% of their time actually selling, and research shows that part of a sales team's non-selling time is spent generating quotes and proposals, and gaining approvals. That same report determined that when CPQ is deployed and used correctly, users have reported 10X faster quote generation, 95% reduction in approval time, 2X faster moving from quote to cash, and 30% quicker ramp-up for new sales rep. 

Recent trends also include the introduction of a Customer Data Platform (CDP) / Master Data Management (MDM) to sports teams and venues' digital technology stack. 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 the coveted 360-degree views of buyers.

From concessions, ticketing, web traffic, event traffic, and more, organizations can turn marketing intelligence data into action-driven content. This tailored content helps target the local fan with a last-minute deal 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 discount on season tickets. Looking to target fans who didn't make it to the game? Know who abandoned their cart and launch the next-best offer.

Systematically integrating customer data creates endless opportunities for omnichannel engagements, enabling you to go from transactional and one-off moments to segmented and personalized experiences. Plus, arming your sales and service teams with intelligent marketing data will help them prioritize who they talk to and target, further empowering their workflow, customizing their clientele's experience, closing more deals, and renewing contracts more quickly.

Final recommendations for business leaders on how to improve stakeholder experiences? 

JL: Integrating systems and platforms makes all the difference for the external and internal user journeys. Connect systems and eliminate data silos. Eliminate fragmented experiences by a digital upgrade and focus on investment to help your business in the long run, so your customers convert and your team can close more deals. Put your employees in a position to succeed with the right tools and the right information at the right time. 

Eliminating manual processes and automate workflows will lead to greater team efficiencies and improves customer experiences. It also sets your organization up for future success. The right partners with tried-and-true techniques in implementation and optimization can help you get there. Implementing these tools requires immersive planning and road mapping to have the most impact and be ready for any 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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