For the past few years I’ve been involved in supporting ecommerce companies understand and optimise their customer journey. This has included ways to convert a new prospect into a customer or trying to win back lost customers. For them their “merchandise” has been about individual products and not branded items but a lot of the learnings and opportunities are the same.

We’ve looked at the frequency of messaging, the data that can and should be captured to support this messaging, choice of channel (email vs. SMS?) and what automated flows can be created so that Marketers can get back their time for other things. When it comes sports and esports I think a number of the top teams are missing out when it comes to ecommerce so I’ve highlighted 5 reasons why they need to take back and own the merchandise journey.

1) Data.

If you direct an audience to a 3rd party where they can make a purchase are they really your customer? Yes they might buy some branded merchandise but it is likely you will have no data about them and nothing you can use in the future to communicate with them.
This becomes a big negative when trying to build a consistent revenue stream. Who has bought your jersey every year? No response. Which country has the largest volume of orders? No response. Is there a period of the year where we see the most orders? No response.
Now I can’t speak for the relationships between 3rd parties and the teams but having seen a lot of esports teams direct people to sites like Metathreads or JINX and moving the customer experience away from the team there’s a big chance the team loses all influence over the customer and any data associated with them.

2) Build recurring revenue.

If you know who your customers are then you are in a better position to make them aware of your jersey for the new season, other branded or partner merchandise and other opportunities like event tickets. This can help you build processes for communicating with those customers and build a recurring revenue stream.
It is definitely better to know that every year you can generate X sales, as a minimum, from your devoted fans. This enables you to look at stock quantities, manufacture lead times, messaging to those fans and how that contributes to your over bottom line.

3) Automated flows.

We’ve all been shopping online and you’ve probably received “we miss you” or “you left this in your cart” emails. These can be built in to automated flows so that you don’t have to worry about remembering to communicate with potential customers. While your 3rd party ecommerce partner might also offer this level of support they might not enable you to review the success of those flows, change the messaging or suggest alternatives. Can you do an A/B test on the messaging? Can you change the cadence of any messages? If you own the merchandise journey yourself it becomes a lot easier to understand what is happening and test to see which bits you can improve. No ownership means no ability to improve.

4) Upsell/Cross-sell.

As a team you may have jerseys, caps, hoodies, badges and a whole range of other merchandise. Owning the merchandise journey enables you to make suggestions to potential customers. It also enables you to decide where in the journey you make those suggestions. When they are viewing the cart page do you suggest a high cost item like a hoodie or something like a keyring?

You can incrementally increase the average size of the cary by testing and understanding what works well.

5) Product knowledge.

The more data you have available to you the more empowered you are to make decisions. This point about product knowledge sits parallel to customer data – both are important.

Which items sell the best and to whom/where? Can you see a level of interest in a product from page views but no purchases? Is there an opportunity to test pricing to see if the number of purchases increases?

These are all things you can determine if you own the merchandise journey and connect with your prospects/customers. From this side of the table I think it is something teams need to look at for the long term.

Philip Wride
Philip is the Founder of Heero and has been involved in esports since 2001 where he spent time managing the legendary 4Kings. He's also played rugby since the age of 10 and won the Dubai 7's Gulf Mens Open tournament in 2016 with Abu Dhabi Harlequins.