A shot of a crowd-filled stadium, looking from one end line to the other.
Wednesday, January 16, 2019
Written by:
Dr. Karim Mualla
3 minutes

Ecommerce in the sports industry

MORGAN HIPP

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The sports industry employs 1% of the population, is worth $422 billion and grew 3.7 percent between the years of 2015 and 2017. What does that mean for sports ecommerce? A study by ESPN showed that across the four main sport leagues in the US, ecommerce annual growth has reached $22.5 billion in total.

What Can We Learn From the US?

The key behind the success of the US leagues can be traced back to:

  • Cheaper, faster and easier ticket sales compared to physical, on-site purchases
  • Easier access to merchandise
  • Increased market size for individual teams and leagues
  • Cost cuts within the organisation to increase profit margins
  • Scalable marketing strategies to avoid a disconnect between fans and team

Moving Away From Legacy Systems

Many sports clubs suffer from having to deal with legacy technology that is no longer fit for purpose. Throughout the last decade, the process of migrating away from legacy platforms was a hard thing to do, especially when the objective is to create a centralised platform that works well for clubs of different sizes and needs.

But 2019 is, by consensus, an exciting year for the sports industry to get new features in place. Doing so will harmonise your commercial digital strategy, grow sales online and attract a bigger fanbase.

Our research comes from working with major league clubs on new websites, ecommerce platforms, ticketing platforms, CRMs, business intelligence platforms, and POS systems in the club shop.

10  features to focus on

1. Single Sign-On (SSO)

SSO functionality allows users to sign on once across all club-related services and accounts. This includes  ticketing systems, online shopping platform and other systems such as customer-service registration and commuting for away games services. The only Premier League football team that currently offers this feature is Leicester City Football Club. Their state-of-the-art integration was built to support all LCFC platforms, thus providing a frictionless online experience.

2. Order Fulfilment and Click & Collect

In today’s ecommerce world of Amazon Prime and other express shipping, you must offer flexible shipping options in order to survive. Brands like DHL and Amazon are already pushing the limits further in the complete order fulfilment cycle, using methods such as robotics and drone delivery systems. That's still future-state for most – but in 2019, a focus on last mile delivery is crucial for all.

One delivery-transforming solution directly available to Sports Clubs is a robust ERP system. One integrated with your ecommerce platform, this allows as much automation and accuracy as possible.

Another is real-time stock management. This is enabled by a bespoke integration with your warehouse management & EPOS system and is essential to improving your website’s presence. An increase in sales follows when robust order fulfilment takes place across all platforms that offers fans flexibility and real-time results.

3. Offer Better Promotions and Discounts

It is vital to regularly inform fans about newly launched products and keep them updated about when relevant types of products are available.

In the sports industry,  one of the main reasons customers abandon their shopping carts is the lack of pocket-friendly pricing. A well thought-out strategy on discounts and promotions, and customised deals on products based on user behaviour analysis, are both positive steps in the right direction.

4. Integrate Social Media Selling

Your social media platforms are probably already heavily used by your Club's fanbase. Integrating these channels with your ecommerce website has been proven to help increase reach, reviews and sales.

5. Crowd-Sourcing

In the Sports industry, crowdsourcing is a way to improve the way individuals or organisations obtain goods and services. These services include a relatively open and often rapidly-evolving group of internet users, which the sports club would target as their fanbase, through their ecommerce website and customised products. The aim is to divide a set of ecommerce products between different participants to achieve a cumulative result, and increase sales.

6. Multi-Domain Integration

Conveniently delivering information, services, and products is the key to online sales growth and improved conversion rates.

Sports team ecommerce stores should allow stadium users to purchase merchandise and food using only mobile phones. This reduces wait times – always a concern of fans wanting to watch the game. This requires a multi-channel integration between on and off-stadium systems, as has been accomplished successfully by LCFC’s new ecommerce site.

7. Solution Engineered by Design

It is not a coincidence or luck that ecommerce sites that offer a seamless and frictionless user experience are increasing their online sales at a rapid pace. The key is to eliminate the gap between the frontend and the backend. Achieving this is difficult and relies on an expert team. But the rewards are immeasurable.

8. Adopt Outside-the-Box Ecommerce Techniques

Successful Sports clubs have been adopting ecommerce techniques from industries such as fashion and construction, such as digital tickets that use cryptography and other digital signature techniques to prevent fraud. With every new service and strategy, clubs must consider the ‘ease of use’ factor for their convenience-focused buyers and constantly pursue a wider reach and increased target market. This becomes easier when time-consuming day-to-day ecommerce tasks become automated, such as inventory tracking, smart sales reporting, and operational and transaction cost analysis.

Thinking outside the box in Sports ecommerce will offer your customers an exciting process through constantly evolving products. This can be achieved by adopting features such as:

  • Personalised Kit Building Functionality – with various customisation options to increase share-of-wallet
  • Google Tag Manager – to track traffic across all of the club’s sub-domains without any duplication
  • Rolled-up view functionality – for specially configured goals and funnels, tracking the customer journey across all integrated sub-domains
  • Instant visualisation of products – to increase user engagement
  • Custom reports – that deliver bespoke insights tailored to the club’s needs and enable a seamless customer experience across all connected systems

9. Fast Global Delivery, Customised Products and Warehousing

It is without a doubt difficult for every team to deliver globally and customise their products for every region in the world. Therefore, consider taking advantage of the cost-effective and reliable services that are already available worldwide. For example, Amazon Warehousing is currently being used by top NBA and NFL teams to ensure a worldwide ecommerce service that is customised to each region's needs. Other teams are successfully selling their merchandise on Amazon, where they are able to sell products cheaper as a result of Amazon's global storage and delivery networks.

10. Effective ERP Ecommerce integration

Sports clubs must ensure a bespoke integration of a single-customer-view with their CRM systems in order to enable waste-free marketing. Building an effective ERP ecommerce integration gives Sports clubs an additional push to acquire new customers and allow them to make informed sales decisions and optimise inventory management.

A Prosperous Future

Through the use of information technology, sports industry informationalisation is set to increase the quality of the sports industry's economy. Sports retail in the US has an average monthly sales growth of 39% and an average basket size increment of 9.9%. It is the second strongest ecommerce industry in Australia. These figures show how powerful and prosperous the future of sports clubs can be when ecommerce features are used effectively to meet rapidly-changing customers’ needs and expectations.

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