INTELLIGENT SPACES: Interview with Gavin Wheeldon, CEO of Purple
Katie McIntyre speaks exclusively with Purple CEO, Gavin Wheeldon (GW) in regards to meeting the challenge of supplying Wi-Fi solutions for mass audience spaces like stadia and arenas, maximising revenue and optimising both the fan experience and fan engagement.
Can you give our readers a brief overview as to the solutions Purple offers to the sporting events & sports venues sector?
GW: Whether they go there for sport or entertainment, thousands of people visit stadiums, united by a common interest. Free Wi-Fi can help stadiums reach out to these defined and engaged audiences, enhancing customer experience and fan culture, while also making merchandise and event services more personalised.
Purple develops intelligent spaces using a cloud-based platform. Using social engagement, marketing tools and location analytics, stadia can get digital insights using data from real world spaces, such as Wi-Fi data. Our best-in-market analytics gives them better understanding of their visitors and the ability to create a highly personalised experience.
With the fan experience and fan engagement a ‘hot topic’ for facility managers & owners, clubs & teams, how can Purple’s offering be used to their best advantage?
GW: Stadia are essentially ‘home’ to thousands of people, a willing audience enjoying a common interest that’s open to engaging marketing campaigns. By sharing relevant content with fans at events, stadium managers and promoters can increase social media engagement and boost awareness of events. That’s great in itself, but our social Wi-Fi solution takes fan engagement even further.
Purple encourages people to use their mobile device to sign into free Wi-Fi using their social networking accounts. The venue can then see who is online, how often they attend events at the stadium and understand more about their interests. They gain access to analytical information as it is happening, giving them a much clearer picture of consumer behavior.
The data that they collect allows the venue, promoters and advertisers to send relevant news and information to the audience, ranging from targeted announcements about relevant upcoming events, through to the travel updates when leaving the venue. All of this contributes to an enhanced experience for fans.
Some examples of valuable interactions between venues and fans include: Wayfinding apps that point customers to drinks and food areas; Links that allow spectators to view LED screens for increased interaction; Real-time updates to inform visitors about events as they happen.
There are many ways for venues to engage with fans for their mutual benefit. For instance, by sharing news around future events to interested parties while they are there, and redirecting them to dedicated sales pages, it’s possible to facilitate ticket sales.
What kinds of fanalytics does the system deliver? And how can this data be utilised to optimise a venues’ offering?
GW: Visitors can log into the Purple’s free Wi-Fi platform using Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or a short form. This process allows the stadium to collect key demographic data, contact details and, depending on the hardware type, location data and presence analytics.
The data collected can be used to segment visitors into highly targeted groups based ondemographics, loyalty and their physical location in the stadium. It also allows them to see footfall movements and understand where people are located and how they move around.
By providing tools to drive offers, information and loyalty promotions in real-time (via the login screens, emails, SMS, or the API), Purple helps to boost customer experience, visitor loyalty and stadium revenue.
Can you provide us with details on a couple of your signature projects from the sports venues sector?
GW: In August 2015, Purple deployed a Wi-Fi solution at the United Wireless Arena and Conference Center in Dodge City, Kansas. The Arena is a state-of-the-art, multi-purpose facility, which hosts a variety of concerts, sporting events, and trade shows.
The venue has two objectives for the Wi-Fi infrastructure – to provide a better customer experience, enabling visitors to use the Internet and social media while in the arena; and to use analytics to build a rounded picture of visitors, enabling more targeted marketing and enhancing the success of promotions and events.
In October 2016, Purple signed a three-year contract to supply the Bankers Life Fieldhouse, the Indianapolis home to the NBA Indiana Pacers and WNBA Indiana Fever, with Ruckus Wireless and Purple’s guest Wi-Fi solution.
The technology allows Bankers Life Fieldhouse to get more attendees online during events, while learning more about those audiences through fanalytics. Purple’s unique analytic and marketing platform helps the venue to discover the detail of fan behavior in and around the venue, including demographic data and attendance frequency.
Delivering Wi-Fi access at stadiums can be a challenge; with potentially 50,000+ fans all trying to use the network at the same time. How can this challenge be overcome & are there any other solutions?
GW: Purple offers cloud-based guest Wi-Fi software, offering customers fast access to free Wi-Fi through social media login. Our fully scalable solution has options for small, single site businesses right up to large multi-site organisations with high volumes of Wi-Fi users.
We partner with most of the top service providers and IT resellers around the world, who deliver the connectivity and wireless equipment. We choose our partners very carefully to ensure that connectivity is great at all times.
How do you see Purple’s, and indeed the sector as a whole, offering evolving over the next 2-3 years?
GW: We believe that the stadia who will be the frontrunners and the winners will be the ones that are already working to build state-of-the-art infrastructure now. There are already so many data points in any given public space and the venue of the future will need the ability to be able to connect up the data, analyse it intelligently, then take action.
When they do that, they have the ability to deliver an amazing fan experience, while making money and saving money simultaneously. Purple plans to be the backbone software of the ‘intelligent space’ helping those venues connect the dots of data and take action.
What are the key benefits of transforming stadia into intelligent spaces?
GW: Revenue and growth are clear benefits. Purple provides a stepping stone towards more meaningful interaction between a stadium and fans. Informed by in-depth customer insights, the stadium can send out targeted marketing communications while they are in the venue and thereafter. These might include emails or SMS messages offering discounts, multi-buys and coupons for food, drinks and merchandise; or advance booking opportunities.
Venues can also use the Wi-Fi infrastructure as an attractive opportunity for club or venue sponsors. Armed with knowledge about their visitors, it’s easier to match make the venue with sponsors or advertisers that stand to benefit from exposure to that audience.
Improved fan experience is another advantage. A problem for a lot of stadia is a lack of understanding of visitors who purchase tickets from external sources. Purple solves this by enabling the venue to identify who is in the stadium, providing deep insights about them including their email address. By opening up a channel of communication, it’s possible to send targeted marketing messages with a real value to the customer.
In addition, fans can find their friends easily within the ground, communicate with others outside and even watch replays. Using social media to interact with the stadium and other fans leads to a richer experience and deeper connection to their club or team.
Purple’s wayfinding feature offers assistance to visitors, helping them locate or navigate to areas around the stadium. Wayfinding works beautifully with Purple’s marketing tools and allows venues a means of providing their visitors with useful and targeted information about their venue and services, as well as promotional offers and details of forthcoming events.
Purple can also help boost app downloads to generate extra revenue, while building brand loyalty and creating an extra platform to communicate with visitors.
Can Purple’s solutions be integrated with other platforms?
GW: Yes, Purple is a software only product. It is cloud-based SaaS, billed as a license, and the price is determined by the number of wireless access points.
Purple works as an overlay or ‘OTT’ service to all market leading wireless hardware products. For the top ones (Cisco, Cisco Meraki, Ruckus, HP Aruba and more) we have integrated our product behind the scenes with the hardware manufacturer, so it’s very easy to enable, and can be switched on remotely in most cases within an hour.
Purple also has a restful API, so the data can be connected to other information systems that the stadium is using, for example their CRM platform.
What does the future hold in terms of analytics, transforming stadia into intelligent spaces, marketing/branding sports venues?
GW: Sporting arenas and stadia face several challenges. At the top of the list is always the question: how can they generate more revenue? The main way that a stadium does that is obviously ticket sales, however there are other ways to enhance that revenue, including food and beverage sales, merchandising and sponsorship.
Stadia also have another hurdle to overcome. You might be surprised to learn that right now in the U.S., 60% of the people who show up to live events did not originally buy their ticket. Season ticket holders often resell or share seats with friends and family, and more and more tickets are now exchanged via third party websites such as eBay. So how does the stadium form a relationship with that person, in order to sell more tickets?
If a stadium could actually identify their visitors, and monitor their attendance, their marketing campaigns would be so much more effective. With Purple, they can identify the person, the device they use, their interaction with the venue and much more.
Every individual matters. Here’s an example – drinks usually have the highest margin of all food and drink sold in stadiums, at 90%. So if you can persuade 10% more people to go and get a drink, that’s a lot of extra revenue. To achieve this might be as simple as delivering offers to people who haven’t yet been for a drink to their smartphones at the right time, or advertising the fact there is a small line at the nearby stall on a digital screen nearby. The possibilities for delivering ROI from the Wi-Fi infrastructure really are huge.
Purple is an intelligent spaces company. It evolved from Purple WiFi, the cloud-based marketing and analytics Wi-Fi software company, to take the lead in real-time analytics and marketing for venues and businesses that want to engage with visitors and understand the use of physical spaces. Purple refers to this process as ‘Intelligent Spaces’ and can help brands to learn more about their location, customer base and help them to take action.
With 18 million users across 73 countries, Purple works with a range of brands and venues, including Indiana Pacers, Merlin Entertainment, Bloomin Brands, CenturyLink, Molson Coors, Legoland, Jaguar, United Wireless Arena, City of York and TUI.
It has a global agreement in place with Westcon Comstor, in addition to an active reseller base of over 960 in 60 countries. Purple employs over 90 full time staff and currently has offices in the UK, US, Chile, Madrid, Singapore and Melbourne with more offices planned.
Huge growth is being seen in all sectors, including hospitality, where people have time to spend online, retail, where footfall tracking is essential, healthcare, offering transparency around service and communication and entire cities moving towards the ‘Internet of Things’.
Purple divides its offering into two specific segments: small businesses and enterprise customers. Small businesses can continue to take advantage of Purple’s free guest Wi-Fi product and purchase a cloud software license, which allows open access to marketing and analytics tools. Enterprise customers have the option of four product lines: Wi-Fi, Location, and two new offerings: Fusion and Provision.
- Purple WiFi is the well-established guest Wi-Fi, analytics and marketing product
- Purple Location is a location-based services product that works to actually pinpoint devices, enable heat mapping, provide zone flow information and enable journey management
- Purple Fusion is the latest offering, enabling connection to any type of data source, which can then be analysed and actioned. A variety of different data sources will be utilised to harvest information about any physical space
- Purple Provision is a commercial product more suitable for businesses, enabling a completely secure guest and staff Wi-Fi environment. This uses automatic certificate provisioning instead of WPA or other encrypted Wi-Fi SSID’s, which are intrinsically insecure for a BYOD environment
For further information, visit: http://www.purple.AI
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