By Scott Lowrie, Vice President of Product & Innovation
I’ve witnessed first-hand as various consumer markets have adopted innovative technologies and subsequently evolved. Anticipating and adapting to these evolutionary phases ahead of the competition can lead to growth and differentiation, while reacting after the onset simply becomes a matter of business survival.
So what evolutionary technology phase are you operating in? Are you just focused on satisfying your online registration needs? Or, have you progressed to fully take advantage of optimizing operations while maximizing market reach? Or have you advanced enough to utilize real data insights and implement a full consumer lifecycle experience?
An honest assessment will help an organizer make some important decisions on when and with whom to partner for their technology needs.
Phase I: Innovation
Online registration/booking was the innovative technology that revolutionized many consumer markets—especially those where the consumer was a first-person participant. For example, the travel industry was completely turned on its head with the advent of online booking tools, all but eliminating travel agents. Travel adjacent markets such as attractions, resorts and yes, endurance races, were all caught up in the online registration revolution.
The endurance market, being smaller and younger, was able to capitalize and leverage online registration to dramatically grow its market share. Without online registration, the endurance market would still be heavily localized and could not bear the financial burdens of growth.
Phase II: Optimize vs. Maximize
As the endurance market quickly matured with the advent of online registration, many organizers began to feel investment tension between the pressure to keep expenses low (optimize) while investing to fuel growth (maximize).
The rapid growth of event sizes created logistical headaches for event organizers and the need to find technology providers who could optimize operations: in other words, manage the waves of participants in short order with a minimal amount of staff.
Meanwhile, the digital revolution was completely transforming marketing. Practically overnight, race organizers went from stapled flyers and word of mouth to promoting with content rich websites, SEO, targeted ads and social sharing. Event marketers energized participant conversions with creative packaging, pricing variability and an assortment of promotions and discounts. Technology providers were expected to maximize consumer reach and monetization by building and deploying these marketing capabilities.
Technology providers who successfully maneuvered to meet both sets of demands of the rapidly evolving endurance market survived to enter the next evolutionary phase of the market. Some did, most did not.
Phase III: Full Event Lifecycle
While there will continue to be enhancements to event management and marketing, the emphasis from both the organizer’s and participant’s perspective has shifted to other aspects of the event lifecycle.
Many organizers are growing in size and sophistication. They are faced with decisions on how to fuel that growth. For instance, is it better to widen the appeal of an event to attract more diverse participant segments? Or, is it better to keep the same event recipe and look to replicate its success in a different locale?
Organizers also recognize that their continued success is ultimately linked to the appetite of consumers to participate—and then participate again. They seek creative ways to connect with participants between registration and event day, as well as provide them a heightened, memorable experience when that day arrives.
Growth strategies are inherently risky. Resources, both financial and staff, limit the number of strategic initiatives organizers can chance. A single failed growth initiative can put an organizer out of business. Even a status-quo strategy has risk. The seasonality of the endurance market embeds uncertainty; what worked well this year is no guarantee of similar success next year.
What, then, is the best way for event organizers to mitigate these risks? The effective use of data to truly gain deeper insights. And we’re not just talking about surface data provided by operational reports, but real data insights gleaned from statistical analysis. It is quite common for deep data insights to discover subtleties that reveal unforeseen and transformational strategies.
In addition, event organizers are caught in a net of ever-increasing consumer expectations. Loyalty is a two-way street, with event participants expecting, and in some cases overtly demanding, that organizers deliver an overall heightened and valuable experience.
Pioneering organizers are responding by implementing value added services before and after registration, as well during and after event day. They accurately conclude that guiding and enhancing their consumer’s overall experience throughout the entire lifecycle not only provides competitive differentiation, but is the key to sustainable loyalty and growth.
Most of these added services are dependent on a technology solution to create and deliver the value. Also, there is usually a technical interdependence across those same value added services. Technology providers must deliver a well-contemplated ecosystem of integrated services; otherwise any break points will create consumer friction. Any breakdown within the service ecosystem can have a domino effect, and turn an otherwise well-intended, robust experience into an event nightmare.
Technology providers must determine where to build or partner to most effectively deliver an ecosystem lifecycle on behalf of the organizer. It is essential that event organizers vet their technology providers to ensure the solutions not only provide the right consumer value, but are also durable.
The ACTIVE Network’s partnership with the Brighton Marathon is a perfect example of an event and technology provider partnering together to successfully navigate the evolutionary phases of the endurance market.
Learn more about evolving through innovation here.
Scott Lowrie is vice president of Product & Innovation for The Active Network based in Dallas.