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Anonymous Attendees, Big Data, and Loyalty Rewards Programs

Chris Dill's picture

Big data and loyalty rewards programs really have a buzz going in the sports and entertainment business these days. We all understand the need to capture data on our customers so that we can retain, up-sell and generate new sales with the proper people, tools and data. Currently teams are doing a great job in this area, outfitting sales with CRM systems and feeding them qualified leads as well as great analytics and reports. Customer service is using the same systems to track customer touch points in order to service and retain the season ticket holders.

However, one piece of data that has been missing is who is actually sitting in the seats. Tickets have been very fluid since access is tied to a bar code and not digitally to a person. The tickets can be passed around to friends, neighbors, business associates or be resold. In essence what you have is 18,000 tickets being scanned for a basketball game and you really don’t know who is actually getting the tickets scanned and sitting in each seat unless you go and research it. Hence the term “anonymous attendees.” Loyalty rewards programs, when tied to the access control systems via a unique card as the ticket, can offer an avenue to capture that key piece of missing data and help you optimize the ticket-holder’s experience. The theory is that the unique membership card will not be passed around and will be used by the card holder to enter events and when not using the ticket for the event it would be digitally transferred to another person’s card.

Who has scanned into the building and is sitting in each seat can have a tremendous value. With this data there is an abundance of ideas you could implement to customize the customer’s experience, thus providing perceived value and increasing future sales. For example, you could automate texts to ticket holders as the tickets are scanned with a personalized welcome, send a text of an instant reward for attending 6 straight games (or any threshold you want to set) or have the scanner system play a few bars of ”Happy Birthday” if it’s the ticket-holders birthday. You could also automate a text to an account rep that a certain customer has entered the building who they have been wanting to meet. The day may come when a ticket-holder walks by the digital signage in the arena, swipes their card and has a video of their favorite player greet them. There is potentially a long list of these scenarios. Closing the gap on the anonymous attendees looks to be one of the next great frontiers.

There are many types of loyalty and rewards programs in existence. Most of these programs rely on a web portal for the management of the program as well as have a customer-facing web portal for the customers to manage their profiles and rewards. The rewards are often points, coupons, stored value or other values that can be redeemed in various ways.

Once customers enroll in the loyalty programs they are given a unique member ID card. This could have a magnetic strip, bar code or RFID. The card is then scanned at entry, used to purchase items in the venue, used with marketing partners and, in some cases, is used as the actual ticket, a common practice in Europe. The Arsenal Football Club in London has over 250,000 RFID cards issued. When used for access control you now are on your way of capturing anonymous attendees.

There are several key vendors in the loyalty program space: Alverado offers a product called Venue View 360, which is currently in use at Six Flags and the Cleveland Cavaliers. Ski Data has a program called Ski Data Loyalty, used by the Philadelphia Union and Seattle Sounders. FortressGB’s program is called The Smart Stadium and Venue Solution. The New York Red Bulls and Washington Nationals are currently using it. Crowdtwist has a program called Crowdtwist, and counts the Miami Dolphins and Live Nation as current customers. Obviously, this is by no means a complete list of these company’s customers and certainly there are many other vendors offering these types of programs as well.

The sports and entertainment organizations that have implemented loyalty reward systems are on their way to closing that gap in the reach for more data points, more customer behavior data and a closer digital relationship to those attending events. For those of you still looking for a loyalty rewards vendor, make sure you do your due diligence as there are lots of choices out there. Try to find a solution that best fits your unique organization and its customers. Remember that any system you do implement will need to evolve to meet the ever-changing needs of your customers in the future.

With the help of loyalty rewards systems we could be entering the era where anonymous attendees are a thing of the past. As the competition for the in-home TV experience vs the in-arena live experience continue to challenge each other, we need to continue to deploy technology solutions like loyalty rewards systems in order keep adding value to the live experience. Figure out what kinds of loyalty rewards work for your customer base and get to work on closing the anonymous attendee data gap.

This article was written by Christine Stoffel and Chris Dill.

Developed by Old Hat Creative