How Technology Is Shaping the Fan Experience

Boom. Bang. Sparkle. Buzz. Electric. The modern gameday experience has become a 21st-Century medley of sights, smells, and experiences being stirred up by technology. With a proliferation of devices, screens, installations, does our beloved pop-culture homage still ring true, “If you build it, they will come”? Undoubtedly, technology is shaping the fan experience, we just have to make sure it’s for the better.

The goal here is to enhance the fan experience, not distract from it, which can be achieved by creating experience-driven touchpoints. Fan engagement is a wake-to-sleep business, and requires better, smarter, mobile, social, digital-led environments to keep fans coming back to the stadium and being a full-fledged member of the sports/team community.

It’s more than just burgers, hotdogs, buns and beer. That’s still a bi component, but fans are thirsty for more. More content, more speed, more data, more info, more social, more fantasy, more experiences powered by technology.

The optimal fan experience includes a tailored mix of digital and physical experiences that fans can explore and self-design on-site, off-site, gamedays, and days in between. But to advanced and future-proof these experiences for teams and stadium operators, they need to be tied to the latest and greatest technology.  

The first and most critical part of any fan journey starts with the ticketing experience. For season ticket holders and casual fans, the experience begins with was the ticket buying experience easy? Did you get what you wanted? Was it what you expected? Was it easy to use? Were your tickets useful?

 

Customer Experiences that Gets You to and Through the Gate

Useful? Yes, tickets are useful. The 2016/2017 season saw an average per game attendance of 69,487 for the NFL, 30,163 for MLB, 21,692 for MLS, 17,884 for NBA, and 17,500 for NHL for American professional sporting leagues. That’s a lot of foot traffic.

As more teams come online with digital tickets, they’ll be able to improve not only entry/exit strategies but also the whole fan/ticket/customer experience better with online, in-app, mobile ticketing management capabilities.

Usefulness will also come into play down the road, as with mobile tickets, we will have a touchstone for fan behavior that we can use as a medium to better cater experiences and content based on user’s mobile interactions tied back to their digital tickets.

And let’s face it, what’s the easiest way to sell more tickets? Reduce the barrier to entry so fans can easily make ‘one-click’ purchases directly from their phone. This consumerism shift towards mobile devices makes it easier for teams to influence impulse sales through personalized messages, geo-targeted marketing, instant offers, and loyalty rewards.

Beyond the use of the ticket, customer experience is also impacted by the human connection experienced when purchasing it. Contact centers with a smart unified communications approach that works with and responds to the user expectations fans have at any given moment will provide an enhanced and optimized experience.

 

Communications that Go Full Circle

In a world of applications, real-time communication structures can impact the biggest of big and smallest of small teams, even the 11-man teams we show up to watch (and the extension thereof). Technology impacts more than just the fans, but even down to the players, the coaches, and the teams themselves, which reflects through to the fan experience.

What it’s really about is connecting your entire organization across one platform, essentially creating a centralized hub for collaborating and sharing information. Instantly. Network mobility and simplicity takes “connected” experiences to a new level.

With advanced technology infrastructures that enable communications across voice, video, multimedia, messaging, and conferencing, smart stadiums will be able to better allocate operations and staff through more proactive, strategic initiatives from the suites to the concessions stands, effectively deploying the right people, to the right place, at the right time.

 

Intelligent Systems that Power and Automate Operations

These gameday experiences, communications, ticketing, merchandising, socializing etc. need to have a robust grid to run off of. At Super Bowl LI, fans used over 11.8 TB of data during the game. And with the majority of stadiums being built prior to 2001, when the first tech bubble popped, it’s logical to assume there are several facilities that aren’t equipped to handle this sort of bandwidth.

Even as recently as two years ago it was a struggle to get a signal inside some venues. It’s now more imperative than ever that today’s stadiums have to be upgraded or retrofitted with wireless solutions that can guarantee uninterrupted gameday experiences.

But the need for technology infrastructures goes beyond connectivity. It has to be powerful, and it has to be smart. Stadium staff needs to be able to optimize workflows. Coaches need make better team decisions based on player and field conditions. Security needs to react, predict, and respond dynamically across the environment. Vendors and sponsors need to enhance and deliver personalized offers across the stadium.

These touchpoints and experiences essentially create data that can be sent back to the teams, stadiums, and operators to further impact the gameday experience. It’s team analytics. It’s stadium analytics. It’s fanalytics. It’s all the smart stuff that tech-savvy stadiums need to activate.

 

Wow! Touchpoints that Are Experience Driven

Fans demand mobile experiences on the way to and at the game, which requires world-class Wi-Fi, functional mobile apps, and engaging fan boards.

Today’s fans don’t just want to watch the experience; they want to be at the center of it. That starts a seamless approach to fan engagement and team engagement that can manifest in many ways from on-site touch-activated, multi-sensory, virtual experiences to off-site communities.

The bottom line is smart stadiums of the future have to connect fans across the stadium and across all corners of the globe with state-of-the-art experiences rooted in modern technology. We’re essentially paving the way for SoT (Stadium of Things). Producing, sharing, and leveraging information from connected devices and experiences in context to their interactions. From wearable tech, to seat sensors, to virtual reality displays, to crowd-tracking tools, to smart equipment: bats, balls, gadgets, and gizmos a plenty, the future of sports is connected fans, connected stadia, connected teams, connected data.  

No matter the size of your league, your venue, or your team, your fan base is everything. In fact, It’s huge. It matters. And it demands the best in fan experience every day.