Game Changer: Technology in the Sport and Leisure Sector
The worlds of sport and technology are largely inseparable. Football’s goal-line technology, tennis’s Hawkeye system and sprinting’s pressure-sensitive starting blocks are just three examples of how technology in sport has changed the sector. Each one shows that when hardware and software operate together, they’re able to make the sporting competition more measured and fair – while often adding an element of theatre and tension that’s great for spectators.
Away from televised sports, the recent rise of wearable technology has empowered ordinary people to train, set goals and track progress and with more scientific insight than once imaginable. And advancements in sports-related nutrition allow professional and amateur athletes alike the opportunity to modify their diets to get the most from their bodies.
But between the elite athlete and the home fitness fanatic lies a whole industry dedicated to serving people at every stage of those extremes. This leads us to ask…
How can digital transformation benefit sports and leisure businesses?
As we’ve previously explored, digital transformation can constitute different things depending on the nature of your organisation. For example, it could mean uplifting digital sales by launching a new website or app; streamlining customer journeys; revolutionising your marketing; or gaining deeper insights into customer behaviour. All of which businesses in the sports and leisure sector can benefit from.
Here are four ways technology has changed the sports industry – and how adopting digital transformation could have a similar effect for all kinds of sports and leisure business:
Gym and fitness centres
According to a survey by Newconsumer.com, 76% of gym-goers switched to at-home exercise during the global pandemic – and 66% say they now prefer it. That makes winning back customers a more significant challenge than ever for the already competitive fitness centre sub-sector.
One answer is for gyms to improve their customer journey to make the process as fast and hassle-free as possible when customers walk through the door.
That was the brief for the work we did with activeNewham, for whom we created several web-enabled wall-mounted displays and interactive service kiosks. This helped make the centre’s class timetable more transparent at a glance, and aided customers in choosing, booking and paying for sessions – all without the need to wait for a customer service representative to become available.
Such technological changes are the tip of the iceberg for fitness centres. There’s huge potential for wearable apps that communicate with gym equipment to log training regimens, and membership apps that allow users fast check-ins for outdoor events, court bookings, and even membership rewards for regular attendance.
Sports SaaS providers
While consumers’ growing preference for exercising from home has meant challenges for gyms, it’s also created an enormous opportunity for fitness brands to leverage digital platforms with a hybrid fitness model.
This boils down to is a combination of hardware and software as a service (SaaS), delivered for sporting and exercise purposes.
Current examples are the success of brands like Peloton and NordicTrack. These offer a wide range of fitness equipment available for a one-off fee, plus built-in video classes, coaching slots and training sessions delivered directly to the owner’s machine via built-in screens, in exchange for a regular monthly subscription fee.
These exciting new technologies being used in the sports industry are potential game-changers in a connected world. Now, people can plug into those fitness ecosystems for a ubiquitous experience either at home, or on their travels at any sports centres offering that technology. It means fitness fanatics never need to miss a workout, and gym managers can provide a regular suite of classes for the monthly subscription fee, without even needing to rely on real-life instructors.
Sports apparel and equipment retailers
Another of the ways technology has changed the sports industry is by giving consumers greater access to a broader range of equipment and apparel.
As discussed in our post on digital transformation in the retail sector, the rise of web-enabled technology and the closing of many high-street stores have created a seismic shift in the retail industry towards m-commerce. Put simply, products are now selling online from handheld devices more than ever. This is something the sports and leisure sector, with at-home workouts now more popular post-pandemic, is incredibly well placed to feel the benefit of. In the post-Covid landscape, McKinsey cites Athleisure (a hybrid of comfortable athletics clothing and stylish casual wear) as a “contested battleground” in which “sporting goods players need to leverage their innovation abilities and market knowledge in order to win.”
One business that’s well placed to take advantage of these developments is sports supplies company Sports PLC. A truly international business, it sells over 3,000 lines across the UK and US focusing on equipment and attire for golf and cricket, amongst other sporting pursuits.
Sports PLC worked with us pre-pandemic to renovate 15 websites (11 in the UK, four in the US), allowing them to offer a richer customer experience. As part of our solution, each site we created implemented its own stock control and sales order management systems. These were linked to inventory management and CRM tools that allow the business’ owners to manage sales and run reports in a way that’s speedy, and entirely joined up across locations.
The results were a great example of digital transformation in sports and leisure that benefits for all concerned. The business itself got a solution that offered more sales data, marketing power and customer insight. Meanwhile, its customers got sales portals that made acquiring their favourite sporting goods as much of a pleasure as actually playing the sports they love.
Our final example of digital transformation in the sports and leisure industry involves one of the world’s most recognisable sports clubs.
Back in 2018, Liverpool Football Club was about to embark on a period of on-pitch success that ended up bringing the European Cup, Premier League and World Club Cup trophies to their home ground of Anfield. However, away from the pitch this was supported by a switch in digital strategy that would transform the club’s fortunes; enhancing its brand reach, empowering its marketing efforts, and ultimately super-charging its earning power.
Labelled “Local Heart, Global Pulse”, the initiative saw the club:
- Increase digital content production for its website, social media and in-house TV channels
- Adopt new technologies like virtual reality and augmented reality to bring fans closer to the club
- Deep-dive into fan behaviour using improved customer relationship management (CRM) tools, allowing them to see everything from matchday habits to content preferences and spending patterns
- Work with a global communications partner to deliver omnichannel cloud communications across various channels – all on a platform linking Anfield, the club’s purpose-built training facility, and its retail outlets.
For then-CEO Peter Moore, it was “about helping fans [by] giving them a frictionless experience when they attend Anfield and when they interact with us throughout the week.”
Or, as he later put it: “The more we know about you, the more we can help you.”
Helping sports and leisure businesses to transform
The above examples are just some of the ways technology has changed the sports industry. In truth, the only real limits to digital transformation in sports and leisure are your business’s budget, and your management team’s imagination.
To learn more about how we can help you transform, visit our Sports and Leisure industry page. Alternatively, you may find our pages on Digital Transformation for Enterprises or Product Development and SaaS for Established Businesses equally helpful depending on the specific nature of your business.
Not sure where to start? Get in touch to talk us through your needs.