Driving visitation to stadiums has become a top priority for owners and operators. Digital transformation holds to key to a more engaging, seamless, and frictionless fan experience. Yet even well-funded initiatives fail to lift stadium attendance. Learn how to get it right, do it fast and make the most of your investment.

Advances in home entertainment technology are creating many alternatives to watching games live within a sports venue. The percentage of fans watching games from home continues to rise and compete with game attendance. Driving visitation to stadiums has become a top priority for owners and operators.

To get the fan out of the comfort of their homes and into the stadiums, operators of arenas and stadiums need to make going to games more attractive, seamless, and frictionless. They need to put the fan in the center of the action, create unique experiences and provide an engaging environment that keeps them coming back. They need to provide more conveniences and offer exclusive amenities and services—even content that is only available to the fan in the arena or stadium. These unique experiences create the opportunity to earn loyalty and gain greater share of wallet.

Digital transformation enables new ways to upgrade the fan experience, capture and leverage valuable data, and increase overall fan loyalty. But quite often, well-funded initiatives fail to achieve the desired lift in stadium attendance. How do you make the best use of your budget and achieve rapid results? Here are 5 steps to an effective transformation:

Define an engaging fan experience that is exclusive to the arena or stadium.

Create a vision for the fan experience that will meet the objectives of elevated fan engagement and loyalty.  Specify the desired fan behaviors and hypothesize why this vision will drive those behaviors. Most sports venues are already considering a large laundry list of exciting fan features such as in-seat ordering and mobile wallet, virtual ticketing, personalized messaging and offers, location-based services like wayfinding, wait time notifications at concessions and rest rooms. Fan experience roadmaps also include content experiences such as game replays, arena cams, real-time polls and social media streams.

Plan for evolution versus a big bang launch.

The experiences don’t need to be created and implemented overnight. And they shouldn’t—because the user and business value is often unclear at this point. Break up the big vision into manageable chunks based on the various hypotheses. Build a business case based on evidence. Investments in new technology need to be justified by expected returns, which can be supported by data and learnings gathered in discrete pilot programs and trials. Develop a long-term roadmap based on 90 day rollouts of features and experiences. Take an agile approach to the overall digital transformation.

Tap into near-term proof points as building blocks to the overall vision.

Implement a test and learn approach to showcase and validate various hypotheses. Keep pilots light and think minimum effort and spend for maximum learning value. Prioritize the features that you believe will bring about the biggest return from a fan or business perspective. Early stage pilots should also represent the biggest areas of risk or unknowns. These require up front learning and may make or break other hypotheses. Let the data drive your decisions and investments. Don’t forget about staff—they are your most valued ambassador for managing the fan experience and troubleshooting any early issues.

Evaluate pilot programs carefully and don’t pivot in haste.

User behavior can take some time to come around, especially if the frequency of interaction is relatively low. Execute the experiments one-by-one and decide whether to preserve or pivot. If preserve, plan for implementing the learnings into the overall fan experience. Decide when and how to implement and craft the adoption strategy to ensure the fan experience is greatly enhanced (and not disrupted) by this new feature. If pivot, take the valuable learnings and insights and create new concepts or features. Don’t hesitate to backlog an idea that is not driving the desired behavior. Oftentimes, the lack of success in a concept might just be a matter of timing—some features can be ahead of their time and released ahead of user readiness.

Strive for learnings beyond your original hypothesis.

Note the data trends across user behavior, business metrics, and technology viability. The data may disprove or invalidate the concept, but you might also learn something new. Remember the importance of data in justifying a particular concept. Is the data indicating customer receptivity to the concept? Will a behavior shift occur? How does that behavior shift lead to increased profitability? Can a robust business case justification be developed based on data?

Emerging technologies are making in-venue experiences more innovative and personalized than ever before. Fan expectations are evolving. Convenient, engaging and frictionless experiences are drawing fans to physical locations. Whether you want to be first to market or aspire to be a fast-follower, the time to act is now, given the rapid change in fan expectations. Remember to stay lean and don’t spend too much time in discovery paralysis or plan for multi-year projects.

Ready to get started? Explore our CatalystGo Accelerator program to kickstart the digital transformation of your fan experience.