Fanatical About Fanatics: How the Ultimate Fan Gear Store can Elevate the Customer Experience

As a diehard sports fan I constantly find myself shopping with Fanatics. I’ve spent hours browsing their website or opening their emails searching to find the perfect quarter-zip sweater or vintage jersey to proudly display my team loyalty everywhere I go. As someone who sets their clock to the next game, draft or free agency period, Fanatics has become essential to my fandom the same way Starbucks is essential to starting my day on the right foot.

In between games I spend my days creating product marketing content for a customer data and engagement platform powering some of the world’s most iconic loyalty programs, which puts me in a unique position to assess the overall Fanatics customer experience. Keep reading to learn where Fanatics is operating at an all-star level, a minor league level and a recreational league level.

All-Star Level Experience

Fanatics does a solid job of using browsing and purchase data to send personalized emails and recommendations. For example, populating emails with the names of my favorite teams is a good hook to grab my attention, and providing several recommendations and a direct link to each team’s page at the bottom of the email helps to streamline the process. Additionally, earning FanCash for every purchase, and being able to use it as currency is a nice touch. A smart strategy they’ve implemented is providing customers who order through the mobile app with twice the FanCash. In similar fashion, Domino’s recently announced they’ll be giving customers loyalty points even when they order pizzas from somewhere other than Domino’s. While it might seem like an odd strategy, enticing customers to use the mobile app and providing utility when they do so is important for unlocking a wealth of customer information.

While I do enjoy the Fanatics experience, there are areas that could be improved. For example, their product recommendations seem a little abstract. Instead of using machine learning to determine what I have a high affinity for, it seems as if they’re populating these recommendations with random products loosely related to my interests. FanCash has a short life, and they don’t create enough interesting earning opportunities. Starbucks sometimes rewards members with additional points when they purchase in the afternoon to drive sales during non-peak hours. Fanatics could stand to implement a similar approach, such as rewarding football fans for purchasing NFL products during different parts of the offseason. Fanatics creates a solid customer experience, but for all the data they’re collecting it’s disappointing they’re not doing more.

Minor League Experience

Let’s start with something that could be easily improved: the sheer amount of emails I receive on a daily, weekly and monthly basis from Fanatics. While I continue to trudge through their barrage of messages, I know a colleague who became fed up and hit the unsubscribe button. According to Adobe’s 2018 Consumer Email Survey nearly half of the respondents said the most annoying thing about marketing emails is the frequency in which they are received. Additionally, 23% of respondents said they’re annoyed by offers that make it clear the data marketers have about them is wrong or the email promotes a product or service they’ve already purchased. While every now and then the email titles are populated with the names of my favorite teams, more often than not they’re general promotional emails. There’s a time and place for promotional emails, but to receive several every day adds too much clutter. Instead of opening or clicking-through, these messages tend to be quickly deleted.

As mentioned above there’s a time and place for promotional emails, but these should be doled out sparingly rather than several times a day. Instead, robust customer journeys should be created and designed to increase spend by rewarding various behaviors and actions. For example reward the fans of the teams that made playoffs with the opportunity to earn three times the fan cash for a limited amount of time, and provide fans of the teams that missed the playoffs with the same reward during draft day. With professional sports there are so many events throughout the year to trigger different campaigns that impact spend behavior. Sometimes less really is more.

Recreational League Experience

My real problem with Fanatics is that discounts never feel special because everyone gets one, and if I wait another week to purchase there’ll most likely be another sale. According to Accenture’s 2018 Personalization Pulse Check, 91% of consumers are more likely to shop with brands that recognize, remember and provide them with relevant offers and recommendations. This means going beyond populating email titles with names of my favorite teams, and rewarding the same amount of fan cash for every purchase. As a retailer selling sports apparel, Fanatics is collecting a gold mine of customer information. The data should be used to create robust customer journeys, an innovative rewards program and personalized experiences across all channels.

At SessionM we believe that a truly successful loyalty or rewards program is one that matches sound above the line design with compelling below the line thinking, tactics and tools. In broader terms this means using visible above the line loyalty tactics to drive acquisition, retention and sustained customer engagement to create data from which more compelling and sophisticated value creation can be created. Examples of these below the line tactics include 1:1 offers, micro-segmentation as well as surprise and delight perks. With FanCash, Fanatics has a fantastic vehicle from which to drive more customer spend. Now they need to dig into the customer data being collected to enable the advanced techniques that deepen customer relationships, lifetime value and ROI.

Fanatics has been an essential component of my fandom for a number of professional sports teams in different cities and countries. However, if the areas mentioned above can be improved, the customer experience could be taken to the next level. With a number of tools that enable more sophisticated rewards program functionality and more personalized customer engagements SessionM is helping retailers create all-star worthy loyalty programs. Learn more by requesting a demo.