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The Game Has Changed: 5 Takeaways from ALSD 2022

Bonnie Milam Jul 18, 2022 9:00:00 AM
Zippin at ALSD 2022

We have just returned from the annual Association of Luxury Suite Directors (ALSD) conference in New York City where we networked with sports venue operators, food service providers, and sports teams, among others. There was a clear focus on how technology is addressing the fan experience in ways that’s delighting the event-goer, as well as increasing revenues for venue operators. From dynamic screens and back-end data that increase value for corporate partners and advertisers to checkout-free technology like Zippin’s, that makes sure folks don’t miss a moment of the fun. The key theme? Make every moment in the venue a memorable one. Here are some highlights.

1. It's the Memories that Matter

Venues don’t sell products, they sell once-in-a-lifetime live experiences. Fans spend hard-earned money to see their favorite teams and athletes, hear the roar of the crowd, and feel the excitement of sharing a moment with thousands of other fans. They’re investing in “being there” for that overtime game-winning catch, that game seven walk-off home run, or a live version of a favorite song. But events are only part of the experience. Fans will also remember the pain of waiting in line for a drink and missing that great play, or the aggravation of long lines to get into the venue. 

To ensure these memories aren’t tarnished by inefficiencies, frustrations, or poor service, sports venue operators and their partners recognize technology is key to creating stellar fan experiences that drive return visits and season ticket renewals. Corporate sponsors are investing in tech to become an authentic, immersive part of the fan journey.

2. Fans Can Have Great Experiences, No Matter the Score

Just as no one can control the weather, sports venue operators can’t control the wins and losses. For every game, a percentage of fans will leave disappointed, perhaps even heartbroken. But it’s possible that the day their team loses, a guest tried the very best burger they’ve ever eaten, or checkout-free shopping for the first time and beat the lines. There are countless opportunities for venue operators to delight fans within what’s in their control. 

One ALSD panelist reminded the audience to always look at the game day experience through the eyes of the fan. Attend your events and experience the journey from start to finish. Then, look for ways to eliminate friction and design unique and engaging experiences. Great food, exceptional service, fast shopping, luxurious suites – these can delight fans so they’ll keep coming back regardless of how their team is doing in the win column. 

3. Attending Games is Only a Slice of Any Fan’s Life

Throughout the conference, panelists said, “meet fans where they are.” As we know, the vast majority of fans are watching the game on TV, not inside the venue. There’s a world of opportunity to connect with your fans outside the venue throughout the season, and even during the off-season. Mobile apps, loyalty programs, and interactive social platforms all help build these relationships and ensure your fans are connected to their team wherever, whenever, and however they want to engage. 

Fans also shop, dine, vacation, bank and transact with businesses of all sorts throughout their daily life. Pay attention to consumer trends and tech innovations across industries. Technology has led people to expect to get what they want, whenever they want it, with little tolerance for slow-downs, poor service, or mistakes.

4. Being a Data-Driven Operator

Data should be at the center of every business decision, especially data that provides insights into fan preferences and behaviors. With integrated systems, venues can design programs that treat fans as individuals, not members of an email list. AI-powered shopping like Zippin’s platform, for example, can help track what fans are buying and what they’re putting back. These insights inform SKU selection and loyalty programs that drive engagement and participation among fans.

Data is also key when it comes to corporate partners, who typically have limited ability to measure the effectiveness of their investments. By collecting and sharing fan insights with their partners, teams can be more thoughtful in designing strategies that increase revenues, plus collect more in corporate partnership dollars. Protecting data is essential, but this information will play a key role in the fan experiences of tomorrow.

5. Innovation is a Journey, Not a Destination

Imagine if a single transformational technology investment could perfect the fan experience – forever. Of course, this is impossible, but after deploying a major IT project, it can be hard to grasp that there’s going to be another one right around the corner. This isn’t because of a short-sighted decision, it’s because technology enables business strategy. Smart businesses are always evolving, so their technology roadmap must be robust to keep up. There will always be a new way to delight fans or squeeze out another ounce of operating efficiency. Consequently, there should always be that next IT project on the horizon ready to answer that call.

Final Thoughts

Venue operators realize they’re competing for fans’ entertainment dollars with a vast array of options. Additionally, a comfortable couch, a home theater system, and food delivery make it tempting to never leave the house. Today mobile ticketing, parking apps, stadium wayfinding, checkout-free shopping, digital signage, and reliable Wi-Fi work together to reduce friction from their home to their seats and allow fans to spend a whole lot more time watching the game. Happy fans spend more, tell their friends about their experiences, post on social media, wear more merchandise, and engage more often with digital content. And when everyone’s talking about that great catch, amazing goal, or  grand slam home run that sailed clear out of the ballpark, they will get to say with overwhelming pride, “I WAS THERE TO SEE IT!”


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