A CHANGING LANDSCAPE: A look at how adopting innovative technology can help grassroots sports venues
Innovative technology is shaping the way the public engage in grassroots sports for the better. Search and booking portals, which have long been a fixture for the travel and takeaway industries, now look set to change this landscape permanently too, as Will Chrimes of MyLocalPitch explains.
Consumers can order a takeaway or book a journey with just a few clicks using their laptops, phones or tablets. The introduction of websites and apps in the aforementioned sectors opened them up to the mass market to deliver significant growth.
This principle when applied to the grassroots sports space has already had a big impact for grassroots venues and sports players. Technology removes barriers to entry which exist in getting more of the UK into sport by changing how society thinks about physical activity. Over time, the more people visiting facilities means better footfall and increased revenues.
Greater numbers of people playing sport has far reaching benefits for society and these include mental and physical well-being that fit alongside the social and community uplift.
Government cuts across the board remain constant as the country battles through a difficult time for the economy. That means venues and the community are having resources squeezed and the need for value becomes greater.
Increased numbers of people booking activities at venues brings revenue growth, whether through membership or pay as you go system. The industry has been slow off the mark to integrate new technologies to enhance the way the public find and book venues. Conversely, it does mean there is lots of potential to realise.
To support this shift in attitude it’s important to work together through the various steps to avoid teething problems. With that in mind, booking and management software must be simple to build into existing systems to quickly be put into operation. A product must also work across web and mobile to maximise the returns and fight back against government fiscal pressure.
Booking systems have other benefits too. One of which is making it easier for venues to cope when there is a shortage of staff. Working with a third-party booking system means venues can take online bookings to avoid situations where staff are unavailable to respond to bookings over the phone.
Every booking and enquiry is stored in the system to give venues an accurate picture of their sports users. This means they can market a new sport, time slot or facility at the venue to those that are most relevant. The same can be said of sports events and initiatives being offered for the first time. These can be built into the booking journey to allow venues to manage an event and ensure it gains maximum returns.
As an extension of venues being able to market new sports or facilities, they can also introduce bigger initiatives or campaigns aimed at getting more people active at grassroots levels. An example of which is Sport England’s ‘Use our School’ initiative. Here, the government sports body is working with schools to open their facilities to local communities. Head teachers around the country are keen to get active people in the local region to utilise sports halls and other sporting amenities. This builds a bond between local schools and communities as they mutually benefit from additional revenue streams and places to engage in activities. Using sports search and booking platforms means schools can quickly join the scheme to market their services to locals and handle enquiries without the risk of admin errors.
Live booking software displays current availability to block out the slots already being used during school time. The campaign offers outside organisations a chance to have somewhere to host activities and adds a revenue stream to schools.
Mobile continues to dominate with two thirds of people now owning a smartphone in the UK. Society has been mobile first for a considerable time with the need for society to have everything on-the-move and instantly.
MyLocalPitch’s unique app launched at the end of last year to satisfy the impulsive nature of grassroots sports. Giving people a means to find their nearest venue using geo-location encourages people to challenge friends or book a game on the spur of the moment. This market has never been able to be reached before and opens another means for venues to boost footfall.
If all it takes is to pick up your phone to search for the nearest court or pitch, then playing sport has the potential to become second nature.
In MyLocalPitch’s case, around 60% of enquiries are from mobile and tablet and the app allows users to compare prices, search for their favourite surfaces, and book venues.
Mobile technology has bought about many positive effects for society and having a sports search and booking app means more people can regularly and meaningfully play sport.
Integrating with search and booking portals has produced excellent results in London for a leading grassroots operator. A MyLocalPitch case study comparing revenues between October 2014 to September 15 versus the same period the following year reveals significant revenue growth.
Multi-sport venues in central, north and east London each saw increases of 210%, 172% and 700% – respectively.
Search and booking portals also let users find specific sports that a venue may offer. Secondary sports like squash, futsal and badminton can be marketed to a wider sporting group to push participation levels.
Results have been positive with the number of MyLocalPitch squash enquiries increasing on average by 46% month on month since August 2015. In the same period squash bookings, have grown on average 48% each month since November 2015.
In comparison, badminton enquiries have been increasing on average by 59% each month since January 2016 and bookings by 68% each month.
A sporting marketplace is created from these regular returning users and this is the perfect place to educate them to the benefits of sports they may have never played or not done so for an extended period.
Grassroots venues are beginning to realise the huge potential of adopting innovative technology across a number of key areas. Society is riding a wave of technology advancement as it changes our daily lives for the better. A search and booking portal for sports venues improves accessibility for the public, increases bookings and in turn drives revenues.
Sports venues can deliver an improved service for their regular customers, but perhaps more importantly engage with the inactive who found the previous way to get into sport laborious and fragmented. The vast majority of people appreciate the positives of leading an active lifestyle and the pivotal point is making it as simple as possible to get involved.
Newly-launched venues who work alongside third party partners gain access to free booking software and marketing services. Established venues can also receive support in marketing structural developments, pitch upgrades or new sports offered.
Sport England’s ‘Use our School’ campaign will have a bigger impact with this technology as more schools are given a platform that lets communities hire out their facilities for the benefit of all parties.
MyLocalPitch brings together these aspects with an intuitive search and booking platform for online and mobile. Grassroots sports venues and facilities now have a space where consumers can find and engage in sports with ease. A greater number of sports visitors brings increased revenues to help longevity for the venues and society through health benefits. Innovating the way grassroots venues and sports users engage in activities through technology will deliver many positives for years to come.