The Formula 1 World Championship returns to the Netherlands for the first time in 36 years at the weekend, with cloud software company CM.com delivering a truly digital-first, mobile-centric fan experience.

Max Verstappen’s legions of orange-clad supporters will cheer on their local hero amongst the dunes of the Netherlands’ North Sea coastline from September 3-5.

CM.com has been an intrinsic part of the process of bringing F1 back to the Netherlands as an official event supporter of the Formula 1 Heineken Dutch GP and primary sponsor of Circuit Zandvoort.

Capitalising on every revenue opportunity was vital to ensure the success and future sustainability of the Grand Prix. CM.com was at the core of the commercial strategy, ensuring maximum ticket sales through an automated data-driven ticket ballot that delivered record-breaking yield along with their other solutions that drive merchandise sales and spend per head on track.

Rogier Aarts, Field Account Executive at CM.com, told TheStadiumBusiness.com: “The partnership stems from the successful cooperation that CM.com started with the Formula 1 Heineken Dutch Grand Prix. Both partners are of Dutch heritage and share a similar vision for the future of sports and leisure events where the need for innovation has become more relevant than ever. But passion and nostalgia for the event had to be coupled with a deliverable commercial strategy and we put CM.com’s technology at its heart to deliver this.

“As we continue to grow globally, especially in strategic markets such as the UK, we wanted an international stage to show the world what we can achieve. We believe in the digital transformation of the circuit and have so many innovative solutions to take this event to the next level. We are creating a Grand Prix unlike you’ve ever seen before.”

Smart solutions

While F1 will finally return to the Netherlands at the weekend, the comeback race was originally due to take place last year, only to be cancelled due to COVID-19. In May 2020, it was decided to delay the event until 2021 rather than stage it without fans.

The Formula 1 Heineken Dutch GP took up its new calendar slot of September 3-5 on the initial 2021 calendar published by F1 in November 2020, which has itself undergone several revisions due to the pandemic. Assessing how CM.com has sought to harness its smart solutions to aid race organisers in tackling the challenges of staging a new event during COVID-19, Aarts said: “The demand for smart digital solutions in the event industry accelerated due to COVID-19.

“Health and safety issues are now more relevant to event locations like CM.com Circuit Zandvoort than ever before. Whilst government protocols that govern health and safety must be adhered to, the ultimate responsibility for the wellbeing of fans rests on the shoulders of the circuit’s operations team. CM.com’s tools ensure personalised communication with visitors throughout the entire event.

“Relevant and constant communication helps visitors remain confident in the organisers and builds trust. With so much uncertainty this year, it’s important fans are kept fully up-to-date at all times regarding the event. The Mobile Marketing Cloud has been instrumental in helping the circuit do this.”

Aarts continued: “The Dutch Grand Prix came to us with several problems, the main ones being they did not know who their fans were and the logistics of handling thousands of visitors in a small town.

“CM.com knew their tech could help solve these difficulties and bring F1 back to Circuit Zandvoort. We are a data-driven company and Circuit Zandvoort needed a data-driven partner. Our Mobile Marketing Cloud and Customer Data Platform meant we could collect data on who their fans were and build customer profiles which would help with ticket sales and the logistics of organising the event.

“Our goal has been to be as flexible as possible when negotiating the changes and challenges that COVID has thrown at the events industry. And although we’ve had to face a lot of new problems, opportunities have also arisen. Communication and safety are more important than ever before and solutions such as chatbots and emails make handling both elements simple.

“To aid fans in every step of their journey and ensure smooth communication throughout, we created the technology behind the Race Engineer for the Dutch Grand Prix. This chatbot was built specifically for the Dutch Grand Prix and has a WhatsApp interface.

“Just weeks before the event the circuit was informed that only two-thirds of the total capacity were going to be able to attend. Our ticketing and Mobile Marketing Cloud software were instrumental in letting customers know whether or not they would be able to attend.”

Pre-registration

The race deal signed in May 2019, which will run for at least three years, was agreed between Formula 1 and Dutch Grand Prix (DGP) – a partnership formed by SportVibes, TIG Sports and Circuit Zandvoort.

Fuelled by the rise of Dutch driver Verstappen at Red Bull Racing, F1 had been keen to return to the Netherlands, with Zandvoort having staged 30 races from 1952 to 1985. There had been concerns over how the circuit would handle modern-day F1 cars, with the track and infrastructure needing modification to meet the standards laid out by motorsport’s world governing body, the Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA), in order to host a world championship event.

CM.com has been part of this process by overseeing the digital transformation of Circuit Zandvoort. Aarts said: “To optimise the ticketing process of the Dutch Grand Prix, we started by setting up a pre-registration for tickets. The pre-registration was necessary because demand was greater than supply. The process was also put in place to prevent fraudulent applications.

“The pre-registration data was directly registered in CM.com’s Customer Data Platform. There, it was filtered with several authentication steps to prevent fraudulent applications. This was an important requirement for the Dutch Grand Prix: preventing tickets ending up on the black market for up to three times the original price, which would have caused fans to miss out on tickets.

“We’re happy that we met this requirement, as more than 11% of the pre-registration requests were blocked because they were fraudulent.”

Optimised customer journey

Aarts states that all parts of the customer journey at the Dutch GP will be optimised, adding that CM.com’s software is “built to create that ultimate fan experience.” Aarts continued: “That is what we stand for: Outperform Expectations. The tools of CM.com result in an even better experience for all ticket holders of CM.com Circuit Zandvoort and are used simultaneously to guide the event visitor in the best way possible before, during, and after the event.

“It started with data capturing from the moment the partnership was announced back in May 2019. This allowed the Dutch Grand Prix to really understand who their fans are and how they would be travelling to the event. With one of the main challenges of CM.com Circuit Zandvoort being its location and limited travel options, it was vital to capture this information.

“CM.com’s solutions enable a visitor to CM.com Circuit Zandvoort to be informed proactively with relevant, personalised information about the event as soon as they receive their digital ticket. By segmenting data, they can share relevant information via the Mobile Marketing Cloud and WhatsApp to the customer on how to travel to the event.

“For example, if the customer purchased a parking ticket the organisers know they are travelling by car and can then send relevant information on local traffic and recommend alternative routes. From pre- and onsite registration, various reminders, to aftercare, visitors receive communications via a broad range of channels, including WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger and Apple Business Chat. 

“Once the customer has scanned their ticket, a triggered SMS can be sent with a dedicated landing page. This can include all the relevant information for that specific customer, such as which gate to enter, where to find their seat, and where retail and food outlets are situated.

“There’s also no more waiting in line for refreshments with our Mobile Order solution. Event visitors can order and pay for refreshments via the CM.com application and pick them up with a QR code. This way, visitors avoid queueing to order food and beverages, which drives spend per head and maintains a constant flow, limiting congestion and contact moments. 

“CM.com can even help optimise the experience after the event. Automated campaigns can be created based on the data collected before and during the event and can include information such as early access to next year’s tickets.

“CM.com’s wide range of solutions offer visitors a unique customer experience. Although the Dutch Grand Prix is one of the largest events for Circuit Zandvoort, all ticket holders will experience the digital transformation as this is a long-term partnership that goes beyond the Dutch Grand Prix.”

Digital transformation

While the latest round of Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton’s intriguing title battle takes to Zandvoort this weekend, CM.com is looking beyond this year’s race as it seeks to make its role in the revitalisation of the historic circuit a showcase for its abilities.

James Matthews, CM.com Country Manager for UK and Ireland, added: “This partnership goes beyond the Dutch Grand Prix. It shows our long-term commitment to digital transformation and the development of the sports and events industry, ensuring a guest-oriented focus. 

“CM.com and CM.com Circuit Zandvoort are jointly tackling the digital transformation of the circuit, and we intend to help similar organisations and clubs as we look to the rest of 2021 and beyond. By helping the sports industry invest in new technology and focus on the fan experience, we can help them take the next step in their digital transformation strategy.  

“This weekend’s race is just the start of CM.com’s commitment to global sports and I’m excited to increase our presence in the UK sports market.”

CM.com is a sponsor of this year’s TheStadiumBusiness Summit, which will take place at Emirates Old Trafford in Manchester on November 30 and December 1. Click here to meet them.

Images: CM.com