Exploring digital transformation: Part 2
August 17, 2021
Blog
analytics | digital transformation | Marketing

If you haven’t had an opportunity to read part one of our discussion on digital transformation with StellarAlgo’s SVP of Customer Success, Derek Throneburg, you can find it here. This article continues the conversation we began with Derek three weeks ago and offers his insight and advice to sports and live event organizations looking to use data to help drive results and embark on their own digital transformation.

Derek, when we last spoke, you explained that – in your experience – one of the main reasons sports organizations decide to undertake a digital transformation, is to better understand and nurture their fans in a more efficient and effective manner. Can you expand on that?

We’ve all planned and hosted birthday parties, dinner parties, and gatherings for family and friends. There are countless tasks to do, communications to draft, and deadlines to meet. Imagine doing that several times per month throughout the year, but for parties that welcome thousands of guests. And each “party” is broadcast on TV, video clips are shared and streamed around the world, and every person in attendance expects the experience to be flawless. That’s what sports teams are tasked with doing.

But sports teams are businesses and that means revenue goals must be met and projects need to be prioritized. That’s why it’s important for teams to focus their efforts on building the best possible experience for their fans, whether that’s in a stadium, watching a game on TV, or creating the most engaging digital content. Doing this isn’t easy – teams are fortunate enough to have vast records of customer engagements in the form of ticket sales, email subscribers, merchandise buyers, and many other sources. This is where teams can utilize technology, like a Customer Data Platform (CDP), to unify this data to achieve a comprehensive view of each customer’s relationship with the team. Without this type of technology, it’s not possible for a team’s data and analytics department to crunch the numbers often enough to provide the same type of insights and predictions that a CDP can provide on an ongoing basis.

What advice would you give to sports teams who are looking to effectively engage their fans outside of game days?

Before developing new strategies and programs, take the time to learn more about who your fans are and try to determine the ways they want to engage in the off-season and on non-game days. Teams and fans interact in so many different ways, it’s difficult to aggregate all this data from the numerous tools managed by each team and its league. Many teams have consolidated this information in data warehouses, but the real magic can happen when data-driven insights are discovered. There are many different types of analysis that can be done, but the power of machine learning can greatly expedite this process to not only establish a baseline understanding of the team’s fans, but to also continually monitor changes in the future.

What role can machine learning play in an organization’s digital transformation?

Machine learning is one of the buzzy phrases that has become very common, but it can still carry a reputation of being too complex and too technical for the traditional sports marketer.  The broader sports and entertainment industry has many themes and patterns that are consistent across events, teams, and leagues. The pattern of seasonal business cycles can be monitored and analyzed by machine learning. At StellarAlgo, our Innovation & Impact team constantly monitors the insights that our machine learning produces, and we work with our customers to turn these into simple solutions that drive sophisticated outcomes. 

Imagine trying to identify which exact customers are best suited to upgrade their season ticket locations to a brand-new premium hospitality experience featuring all-inclusive food and beverage and special access to exclusive digital content and player meet and greets. Think about how many hours and days would be needed for an analyst to extract reports and data from a dozen different sources and organize the data for analysis – and that doesn’t even include performing the analysis itself. We could easily add weeks to the timeline when doing a deep, thorough analysis and, ultimately, do we really know if the analysis being conducted is the best analysis to help inform our business objectives and strategy? My fingers hurt from thinking about the number of clicks to extract, download, format, V-Lookup, and Pivot Table the data to death! And then I would still need to conduct the analysis and make it presentable! To really burst that bubble, just think about the fact that, within days or weeks later, the analysis would already be outdated. How many days have we now lost without launching the premium marketing campaign? And what if our pricing strategy is off? Ouch!

So yes, let’s lean into the concept of machine learning to do this work for us. Machine learning enables us to use those insights and determine what should be added to strategies that help create better experiences and deeper relationships with our customers. The power of machine learning baked into a CDP can provide so much of this analysis in just a few seconds. This approach figuratively checks both the “smarter” and “more efficient” boxes.

To learn more about machine learning, check out our blog: Understanding machine learning: The ‘What’, ‘How’ and ‘Why’

Finally, as you work with organizations to become more data-driven, what’s the top piece of advice you’d give as they begin that journey?

Ask yourself, your team, and your colleagues – “Are we getting better every day? Are we doing all we can to provide the best experience for our fans?” Challenge yourself to keep learning about best practices, both inside and outside of the sports industry, and how they can be implemented in your business. And finally, be patient – it’s a long journey, but constant progress will get you where you want to be.

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