Mobile strategies on the playing field: 5 customer experience lessons from smart stadiums

By Jonathan Crowl

The traditional sports experience remains unchanged, with fans filing into their seats and passionately cheering on their favorite teams. However, smart technology is changing every aspect of the fan experience. From activities during timeouts to finding your favorite bratwurst vendor, smart stadiums are enhancing the traditional experience through innovative mobile strategies and a deeper understanding of how fans engage with sporting events and the activities surrounding them.

You may not run a professional sports team, but these insights from smart stadiums have extremely useful applications at the enterprise level. Though the individual experiences themselves may vary, the strategies used to engage with customers can be applied to a range of enterprise industries.

Here are just a few examples of smart stadium tactics that could be used to improve your enterprise marketing strategy:

1. Supporting the social element

Many stadiums across the US have upgraded their wifi to support the online activity of a large, concentrated body of fans. As IBM notes, the Atlanta Falcons’ Stadium in Atlanta, Georgia has almost 4,000 miles of fiber optic cable that forms the backbone of the stadium’s entire IT infrastructure.  It also boasts nearly 2,000 fast wireless access points to provide all 71,000 fans with internet access throughout the stadium.

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Stadiums do this knowing the social media aspect of the fan experience is part of the appeal of attending sporting events. By supporting fans as they create and share content and experiences, the events become more attractive destinations and strengthen consumer loyalties.

You can easily apply this practice to any industry operating physical brick-and-mortar locations. Shoppers in retail stores should be able to access in-store wifi to do their online research and comparative shopping, as well as share social content with their friends. Some retailers want to restrict wifi access to keep customers engaged with in-store inventory, but today’s shoppers expect to be able to access the internet through their phones while shopping. If they can’t, they’re liable to walk away and go to a more accommodating store. Retailers should upgrade their wifi to support the types of experiences customers want to create for themselves.

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2. Location-based services

A stadium can be a large, overwhelming place. As CNBC notes, fans often forget where they’ve parked, struggle to find their seats or get lost seeking out specific food vendors or even public restrooms. For example, the Atlanta Falcons’ brand new smart stadium has an integrated mobile experience that helps fans find transportation, locate their cars, buy tickets and navigate the stadium.

These apps contextually adapt based on the time, location and the relationship that the fan has with the team or event, delivering a relevant and personalized experience for every fan. In turn, this helps the organizations deliver more of the team-centric content and relevant offers that fans want.

Many smart stadiums have responded by building mobile apps to help navigate their venues. By using location-based services built into smartphones, these maps can help fans get where they’re going without seeking the help of a concierge or stadium staff member. Similarly, beacon technology can help alert consumers to limited-time promotions that may be nearby or even the appearance of team mascots close to their seating area.

The use of location-based technology has clear applications at the enterprise level. Many retail chains have already built mobile apps that offer maps to help find products on store shelves, while beacons can help increase engagement as consumers move through brick-and-mortar environments. Location-based targeting can also help enterprises market to consumers based on their proximity to the company or to focus on engagement within an isolated community.

3. Creating constant engagement

Sports stadiums want to keep fan attention at all times. In the past, this meant halftime shows and entertainment during breaks in gameplay. Today, it also means offering mobile apps that feature highlight reels and statistics covering the game, as well as social media feeds that facilitate interactions among fans.

This type of engagement should be a priority for enterprises as well. Maintaining interactions with customers is one of the best ways to retain clients over time, whether you’re a B2C or B2B brand. Where events or physical locations are concerned, consider how a second-screen experience can have an additive effect on the physical experience you have already cultivated. When you aren’t physically close to your customers, use regular engagement through automated marketing and other mobile strategies to maintain a close relationship despite your geographical distance.

4. Personalized experiences driven by customer profiles

At a sporting event, fans might get special offers for upgraded seats or discounts to favorite in-stadium vendors and restaurants. In the same way, enterprises can use customer profiles to provide advertising on an individual scale, using email, social ads and other content to create user experiences that serve each person’s interests or needs.

The fan profile used to more effectively market to these fans is no different than customer profiles designed to track behavior and purchasing patterns over time with the goal of personalizing service. The ideal approach is to pair this user-specific data with a strong CRM tool to optimize automation and personalization strategies, enabling large enterprises to customize experiences at the individual level.

5. Gather more data than ever

Smart stadiums are filled with technological endpoints that function as data acquisition channels. Through this unprecedented influx of data, stadium operators and teams can understand user behavior at a deeper level than ever before, identifying problems with the fan experience that are undercutting the team’s efforts to give every fan the best service possible.

Enterprise organizations should take a similar approach to leveraging existing data acquisition channels while building new resources from which to pull customer data. Use the insights from this data to optimize every step in the customer experience.

For a stadium, this could mean changing where certain vendors are positioned or even adjusting how restrooms are accessed or managed. Fans can receive mobile app alerts when bathroom lines are short, for example. For businesses, this data could be used to improve the engagement quality of certain aspects of a retail store or to better understand how foot traffic comes into and out of your store.

Smart stadiums turn a single fan experience into a larger ecosystem of interconnected experiences, all of which add up to something greater than the sum of their parts. Enterprises should learn from this immersive, engaged strategy and seek to build similar customer experiences.