Great fan experiences at Boston Red Sox are all about the customer journey

The Boston Red Sox are investing in digital transformation to help power its off-field approach to great customer experience.

Brian Shield, vice president for IT at the world-famous baseball team, is helping the organisation use data to better understand and serve fans better. Essential Retail spoke with Shield at the recent two-game London Series, which was the first time regular season Major League Baseball games have been played in the UK. Shield explained how keeping supporters happy helps to boost business performance back at the Red Sox’s home Fenway Park in Boston.

“To raise revenue, we need to look at what we can do to make the experience as good as it can be, so that we have large number of fans attending games,” he says. “I want to see what we can do to both simplify processes and enthuse fans with the kind of things we can deliver. My hope is that coming to Fenway Park in the future is a bit like going to Disney World.”

Data and technology

Shield says the aim of these developments is to use data and technology to help eliminate complexity for supporters on game day. People visiting the ballpark encounter a range of touchpoints with the organisation. Shield wants to use information to ensure fans have a great day out and are keen to return again in the future.

“For us, it's about identifying areas within the broader fan experience or the customer journey,” he says. “There are those moments along the journey where you can really differentiate between whether someone's going to think of this as a really compelling experience – and we're starting to isolate a lot of time and effort on those things.”

Shield says the key to success is using data to identify potential problem points for fans. Those issues cover a range of areas, such as parking, entering the ballpark, finding fan amenities or services, and being able to enjoy the game by having access to as many facts and figures as possible.

“Access to information is going to be a big one, especially if you think about all the different information that's provided through media and other folks, but most fans don't see, whether that’s in the form of statistics or instant replays. I think you'll see over time more and more of that content being brought to fans, whether someone wants to purely watch the game and enjoy the game as it is, or whether they want to supplement that experience with additional content, be that audio or video,” says Shield.

“Running the business of baseball from a technical perspective is really not that different from any other business”Brian Shield, vice president for IT, Boston Red Sox

Vendor partners

The Red Sox recently partnered with ParkWhiz to allow fans to use their mobile devices to reserve parking spaces. Shield says that’s crucial for a ballpark like Fenway Park, which is in an urban environment and where parking can be a hassle for fans. The organisation is also looking at ways of accelerating and simplifying ticket entry through smartphones.

Shield says a lot of the work around digital transformation is being supported by key vendor partners. He directs attention to the firm’s partnership with technology specialist Mitel. The Red Sox use Mitel’s unified communications platform as the basis for organisational operations, including sales outreach to fans.

“The technology allows our folks to be more effective when they’re working with fans and answering their questions more efficiently. It really makes the whole consumer experience more holistic. Our ability to also leverage those capabilities in our suites and premium areas gives many of our season-ticket holders access to information,” he says.

“We’re starting to be able to create one-touch access to certain amenities, such as ordering food and merchandise. That’s simplifying the experience for the fan and hopefully in doing so creating a compelling experience. We’re excited to be working with a company like Mitel who see communication as being about much more than just phone systems.”

Shield says technological innovation will remain key to his organisation’s approach to customer experience. He says the Red Sox are investing in technology for opening day 2020 that will help support its concessions business. The organisation is also exploring new ways of using mobility and data to boost fan experiences in its suites and premium areas.

“We want fans to have freer access to food and beverages and to do that in a very secure manner. And we’ll work with our sales teams to help them be efficient and effective in their jobs, such as integrating data so that we can better understand the demands of our fans and our season-ticket holders,” says Shield.

“Creating a compelling customer relationship management solution is a big part of that. But mostly it's about getting our arms around our data and understanding how we can use data to create a really effective business. And in that regard, running the business of baseball from a technical perspective is really not that different from any other business.”