How clubs are responding to the ‘Omnichannel’ Fan

The topic of the ‘omnichannel’ fan – hungry for 24/7 content, on TV, on the web and increasingly, via mobile – continues to capture our attention. We took the opportunity, earlier this week, to have an animated debate with a range of football clubs about the subject.

In the inspiring setting of The Gherkin, we discussed the importance of the online relationship that clubs have with their fans; what makes a great online experience and how this helps to build loyalty, enhance a club’s brand and drive commercial opportunities. Everyone agreed with the view recounted from last month’s Leaders in Sport event – ignore digital channels at your peril and make sure you’re monetising them. But there was also a recognition that clubs were at different stages on the road towards enhancing the online journey for their fans.

We were fortunate to have Scott McLeod from Everton Football Club share his experiences and insights into the significant strides they’ve taken in making it simple for supporters to engage and purchase with the club online. This, he reported, is helping to change purchasing habits of existing fans whilst also enabling them to engage with new ones.  Online engagement is at the heart of Everton’s ongoing digital strategy, which has been spearheaded by the success of the official club app. This is exciting because the app provides fans with the opportunity to purchase tickets more quickly and easily than ever before, with our TALENT Sport commerce platform integrated within the native app. All this work by Everton has resulted in the club winning an award at the Football Business Awards (read more here) as well as being voted number one by the fans in the Premier League’s annual fan survey for ease of purchasing tickets online (read more here).

Kurt Pittman from Brentford Football Club also shared his experiences about encouraging fans to move online and the importance of using data to provide a personalised experience for supporters. In fact, the focus on delivering a customised, tailored journey was a major theme throughout the event. Everyone agreed that using data about the fan in the right way helps to deepen the intimacy of the relationship. Clubs can use previous purchasing behaviours and profile information to better understand fans’ preferences – this insight can then be used to create a better, more relevant experience but also to unlock the value of the individual supporter from a commercial perspective.

Prior to holding the event, we had debated the role that the retail industry plays in informing the sports organisations how to deliver a great online experience. Tina Spooner from IMRG – the online e-retail industry body – attended the event to provide this insight, looking at trends around shoppers in the retail space. She shared how game-changers for online shoppers have been mobile, personalisation and maximising international opportunities. It was interesting to hear how consumers have shifted from shopping online to find better value, to a situation where convenience has become the key motivation. It’s clear that retailers are working hard to keep up with customer demands as they embrace mobile and how they endeavour to make it as easy for shoppers as possible to have choice and convenience. Tina shared that recent research carried out by them shows how retailers are struggling to find the right balance between engaging with consumers in a personalised way but without over-stepping the line and making it feel too ‘spooky’.

This latter point sparked off great debate; the clubs around the table all agreed that, for sports fans, it just can’t get too personal. In fact, the feeling was that this becomes a badge of honour based on their support of the club; it demonstrates that the club knows exactly how deep their loyalty lies. The role of fan data and being able to use this data in the right way to profile fans and, subsequently, engage more effectively with them, was clear. Clubs shared several examples of this, such as targeted communications with tailored videos full of relevant sporting memories to the individual supporter which helped to increase season ticket sales. Tina acknowledged that most retail brands would die to have the level of engagement and loyalty that football fans offers.

There was also a reality check where clubs intimated that, on the whole, they simply do not have the same budget as retailers and, therefore, can’t always deliver exactly the same experience online. Choice and convenience are still at the forefront of their minds when delivering a great experience, and making sure that the basic benefits are in place is fundamental. For example, fans do expect to be able to purchase a ticket easily, quickly and seamlessly, from any device – and within as few clicks as possible.

Given the retail shopper and the football fan is – in many cases – the same person, there were conversations as to why the consumer is happy to purchase online yet the football fan is often steeped in tribal traditions. There was an acknowledgement that in some cases, driving fans online required a forced change in behaviour to encourage fans to purchase online.  However, there was agreement that you still need to make the experience as rewarding as possible; prioritising relevant content for particular audiences, so the customer journey is personalised and the ‘virtual store’ is polished and clean, as well as some of the basics outlined above.

For us, we’re more certain than ever that exploiting the value of fan data in the right way helps to enhance loyalty by delivering a satisfying customer experience. Enriched data means more personalisation and opportunity for increased yield, as well as delivering enhanced commercial value to sponsors. But it was also evident that the core technology commerce platform still needs to deliver the goods when a fan is purchasing online – a few of the words used to describe this was quick, simple, and efficient – fans don’t want big bottlenecks which disappoint and means clubs have to work very hard to draw fans back online.

In the coming weeks, we’ll be looking closer at how sports clubs are finding innovative ways to create compelling online experiences and, more importantly, using online data to develop the services of the future.

We’d like to hear from you; what are your biggest challenges when engaging fans online?

Mark Dewell

Managing Director - Advanced Ticketing

 

For all news and stories see our Advanced Ticketing news site or follow us on Twitter: @Adv_TALENTSport and @MarkDewellADV

Managing the Social Media Voice of your Football Club

In order for a football club to establish a direct and engaging relationship with its fan base it must develop a strong and consistent voice across its various digital and social media channels.

Having an original and genuine voice can prove to be a challenge as it is not always easy to speak to fans in a conversational tone.  If managed correctly, however, it can uplift the presence of a mediocre club to become an industry leader.

Some important guidelines to remember when establishing your club’s social media voice include:

A.      Determining your football club’s own brand identity

This will be based on the organization´s culture, values, and overall brand experience it would like to promote.

For example, more traditional clubs like Arsenal, Manchester United or Real Madrid will tend to communicate throughout their social media platforms in a more formal manner as they consistently strive to transmit the image of class, excellence and tradition.

On the other hand, less classic and long established clubs such as most Major League Soccer’s franchises will favour a more personable communication approach in an effort to consistently generate buzz and engagement in less mature football markets.

 

B.      Knowing your football club’s audience

Knowing the desired demographic that your brand wants to reach will help your club understand its target audience and the relevant social media channels to use to reach out to followers and potential consumers.

Although it is important to remain consistent throughout your social and digital media presence, it is also imperative to adapt your approach to the relevant audience you are targeting through each platform.

For example, the style of writing in a football club’s official website should be different than the voice and tone used across other social platforms such as Twitter, Facebook or Instagram.  Each platform has a different set of followers and must be targeted accordingly.

 

C.      Engaging and interacting with your community 

Whether the objective is to inform, sell, or provide customer support, it is essential to know how to communicate your football club’s objectives with personality and sincerity.

Listening to the needs, thoughts, opinions and insights of your audience will help your brand achieve the corporate objectives and remain authentic via social and digital media platforms.

Because of their massive size and social relevance most top-flight clubs will tend not to answer directly to followers on social media mainly due to a question of volume and risk management.

Nevertheless, when communicating with your online community of fans and supporters worldwide it is essential to remember that in order to generate true engagement social media platforms should be used like a telephone and not like a megaphone.

photo-6The Sports Business Institute Barcelona offers a two-month program entitled ¨Football Communication & Social Media Online Program¨ that provides practical training to those wanting to start or advance their career in the areas of communication, PR, sports journalism, online branding and social media management for the football industry. 

For more information visit: http://bit.ly/111jVD9

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