Q&A: CM.com makes case for fan engagement

With fans being the lifeblood of any sport, organisations should spend some time getting to know them better – that is the belief of CM.com.

The cloud software company’s Customer Data Platform, or CDP, is the key to organising data from multiple sources and getting a 360-degree view of the ways in which fans are engaging with a sports team, organisation or venue.

The CDP forms part of the Mobile Marketing Cloud, an omnichannel customer engagement platform which is 100% mobile focused and includes all mobile messaging channels like SMS and WhatsApp. Sam Windridge, Sports Partnerships Manager at CM.com, discusses with TheStadiumBusiness.com how the CDP, Mobile Marketing Cloud, Mobile Service Cloud and Conversational AI Cloud can be applied to the stadium and arena marketplace.

TheStadiumBusiness.com: What benefits can a CDP bring to a stadium/arena?

Sam Windridge: “Sports clubs need an army of loyal and engaged supporters to ensure healthy ticket sales, sponsorship opportunities and merchandise revenue. Without these revenue streams, the club’s prospects can be limited, impacting every facet of the business. That’s why it’s essential to turn casual spectators into lifelong fans. The sorts of supporters that travel weekly for games and dig deep into their pockets to show their support for the team.

“Digitisation has been a hot topic in the sports industry for some time. Good data management – with a strong strategy for utilisation of that data – creates value for partners and opportunities to drive revenue growth. Mastering data is the key to creating personalised experiences that strengthen the emotional connection fans have with your brand.

“A Customer Data Platform, or CDP, can gather data from merchandise and ticket sales, season ticket information, F&B outlets, messaging and social channels, and more. A CDP is the key to creating personalised marketing that delivers exceptional ROI.”

TSB: Can CM.com share any examples of best practice with clients in this space, or the entertainment sectors, where CDP has been used to great effect?

SW: “The Formula 1 Heineken Dutch Grand Prix optimised its fan experience with CM.com’s solutions. Our Customer Data Platform was initially used in the pre-registration stage and, because of this, it now holds over 10 million data points that are aggregated into over 300,000 customer profiles.

“Too much data to handle? Not with our extensive segmentation options, which offer a smart way to set up highly personal marketing campaigns. You can easily decide which group to send which email, for example, offering different options for different demographic, psychographic, or behavioural segments.

“To aid fans in every step of their journey, CM.com also created the technology behind the ‘Race Engineer’ chatbot. Designed specifically for the Dutch Grand Prix, the Race Engineer runs on WhatsApp and all conversations with it are automatically stored in the Customer Data Platform to enrich customer profiles.

“The CDP is the beating heart of the Mobile Marketing Cloud, where all customer data and interactions are stored. This enables marketers to easily segment customers by filtering by demographics or actions, such as ‘everyone who started a conversation with the Race Engineer’.”

TSB: In terms of Mobile Marketing Cloud, Mobile Service Cloud and Conversational AI Cloud, what specific benefits can these services bring to the stadium/arena market?

SW: “From season tickets, to payments, to sending directions to the venue, CM.com has the solutions you need to help your supporters seamlessly enjoy their sporting experience. With the Mobile Marketing Cloud, you can unlock data and unify all your data sources, making setting up personalised marketing campaigns simple. Reach your customers where they spend most of their time, with highly relevant and engaging mobile content.

“The Mobile Service Cloud allows fans and supporters to contact stadiums and arenas on all messaging channels, such as SMS, WhatsApp, Twitter etc. All incoming messages can be managed by one Agent Inbox, boosting productivity. It allows customer service agents to manage fast, personal conversations from any channel in one inbox. Skills-based routing means all questions are routed to the right agent based on skills and relevance.

“So, if a customer has a question about a recent order which hasn’t arrived, the Agent Inbox allows customer service teams to collaborate easily with colleagues, or involve an external supplier to ask questions or share information. There’s also a Live Chat feature which enables fans to speak with agents in real-time, assisted by the Agent Inbox.

“For example, if a fan has an urgent question about a game they’re attending that day, they can get an almost instantaneous response with Live Chat. No need to wait hours for a customer service agent to get back to them, by which time it could be too late.

“The Conversational AI Cloud assists stadiums and arenas in scaling-up during peak sports seasons by automating elements of customer service through scripted & AI chatbots. This allows customer service agents to focus on more pressured customer questions and problems. With your AI bot, you can offer a personalised interaction instantly, 24/7, empowering customers to decide how, when, and where they contact you.

“Our AI technologies also learn from end-user input and analyse conversational performance. This data feeds back into your Customer Data Platform, helping you to get to know your fans and customers better.”

TSB: How can these products work in harmony with other similar systems that stadium/arena operators may already have in place?

SW: “CM.com’s platform is an open API SaaS solution, so we are easily able to integrate with existing partners.  We understand that the buying cycle of some solutions (such as ticketing) often do not synchronise with the ambitions of a club, or indeed the pace of tech developments. We have designed our offering to accommodate any club, at any point in their technology journey.

“We have users that start with our Mobile Marketing Cloud offering, then build into Mobile Service Cloud and Conversational AI Cloud solutions, but aren’t ready to move away from an in-house ticketing solution. Even in those instances, we can still move the needle on your digitisation journey. We can move at your pace, but experience tells us that once the benefits of our solutions become apparent, many clients tend to want to move towards their end goal at a much faster rate!”

TSB: Looking to the future, where does CM.com see developments in this space progressing?

SW: “The road towards digitisation is one-way and we know that the wider retail/customer service space is moving towards Conversational Commerce or C-Commerce. This entire movement is based on dialogue and relationship-building. For decades, clubs have benefitted from generational support – a right of passage when choosing your team – but as we see consumer behaviour shift and Gen Z becoming the dominant demographic cohort, intimacy and immediacy of those dialogues and relationships become all the more important. We have a situation now whereby a 21-year old will buy a pair of trainers in a vastly different way to a ticket to a match.

“If sports clubs recognise that the start of a total supporter value journey starts with a fan buying their first match ticket, that experience has to be on a par, or better still exceed, the experience they have elsewhere in their consumer life. Sport can no longer get away with a consumer experience based on email, phone calls and paper.

“As for how it will progress, we see adoption of new technology in other verticals that will benefit sport. For example, voice-bots, in-channel payments and softPoS are all exciting innovations that are happening right now. These developments could see season ticket holders having a dialogue with their Smart speaker about hospitality upgrade options, or tickets being purchased through a WhatsApp session, or sales executives taking payments for hospitality on their phone whilst out meeting a client. 

“We see this technology developing in the background, allowing the fan journey to remain seamless and technologically agnostic. The relationship between fan and club, however, will be much closer, richer, more personal and, crucially, more conversational, with both the fan and the club having the opportunity to be heard.”

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.