Mobile is certainly prevalent among loyalty marketers and, depending on the use, it can be a vitally important form of customer engagement. Or in the case of the Portland Timbers, fan engagement.

Cory Dolich, senior vice president of business operations for the Portland Timbers of Major League Soccer (MLS), told Loyalty360 that mobile creates a level of access that didn’t exist previously.

“We’ve tried to be unique with sharing special content to keep the brand top of mind throughout the day,” Dolich explained. “Last year, we created a web-based Timbers-themed video game (can be played at setpiece.com) and a custom messaging app with team-themed emojis. It’s about trying to create fun, engaging, and evergreen content that our supporters can engage with outside of just the game experience.”

The biggest challenge associated with mobile is time, Dolich said.

“Specifically, ensuring your product, platform, experience etc. remains a priority for that specific individual given all of the other competing forces out there,” he explained. “The biggest opportunity is access. You have an immediate link to people and can speak to them very specifically.”

Rose City Rewards, the Timbers’ loyalty program, offers more rewards and chances to win prizes. Dolich said the organization looks at various metrics to measure customer loyalty.

“We look at a variety of key indicators, including but not limited to retention rate, show rate (at matches), digital engagement (via social and web), and net promoter score,” he said. “We also conduct a variety of surveys throughout the year and ensure we consistently reach out and have conversations with our supporters too. The 1-to-1 conversations are extremely important and valuable.”

Customer loyalty is the main priority for the Timbers organization.

“It’s a core part of who we are and part of our mission statement, and, as a result, permeates all aspects and areas of our organization,” Dolich explained. “The granularity of data can be overwhelming at times. In sports, specifically, there is a massive push to be more scientific and strategic with how that data is analyzed and, as such, a larger allocation of resources, both headcount and technical, being dedicated toward this area.”

And making that customer data personal and impactful presents a challenge.

“To truly craft an appropriate personalized message, you need to compile, analyze, and have easy access to a lot of data. Setting up the appropriate systems and platforms to accurately optimize this information can be challenging. It is critical that you do this at the outset, to ensure the infrastructure is in place to optimize around this programming–this, in itself, can be difficult.”  

For Dolich and the Timbers, that all-important customer journey, from a match day perspective, starts the moment a person thinks about the game, not just the in-match experience.

“How can we provide and engage with them before they get to the stadium through the end of that match window … which, depending on the outcome, or what happens in the match, could be a day or two afterward,” Dolich said. “For example, if there is an amazing goal that happens, and our supporters want to re-live that moment, what type of videos/content etc. are we providing on our site/social platforms to extend that experience? It’s not just the two- or three-hour window at the match–it’s got to be a more holistic and wide-ranging approach.”

Everything regarding data stems from truly listening to fans.

“As stewards of a sports brand, listening to our supporters is absolutely critical,” Dolich explained. “We’re fortunate to have a very engaged community that actively participates in surveys and other more formal opportunities to share feedback. I think the challenge (and this isn’t specific just to surveys) is getting feedback from everyone, not just the fans on the ends of the positive-negative feedback spectrum. How do you engage the group in the middle that isn’t as willing to share? For us, we try and address that challenge by having a proactive outreach approach by our service staff via phone and in-person conversations. You have to be accessible and responsive to supporters 24/7, and it can’t just be through one communications vehicle. You need to provide a variety of platforms, be it surveying, email, social etc. A one-phased approach doesn’t work and isn’t customer-centric.” 

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