You might expect online shopping to dip during worldwide sporting events like the FIFA World Cup or Wimbledon but the opposite is true. It seems whether fans are happy after a win, or biting their nails during a tough match, there’s nothing better than a little retail therapy. Just how much do global sporting events affect people’s shopping habits? Charles Brewer takes a look.
By Charles Brewer, CEO, DHL eCommerce.
Read this article in Chinese (中文).
Outside of those lucky enough to gain tickets to the actual event, the rest of us have been glued to screens as sporting history is made in front of our eyes at this year’s FIFA World Cup in Russia. Millions of us have been cheering on our favorite teams on TV screens where advertising is at a premium, and the world’s brands are fighting for a share of voice. Others have been going online and checking social media, where more and more companies are executing their multi-channel marketing campaigns. So what can e-tailers learn from this sport-related marketing frenzy?
Sports kick-start sales
Worldwide sporting events like the World Cup give consumer spending a real boost. In 2014 there was a spike in e-commerce purchases seven months before the start of the World Cup in Brazil. E-commerce sales in the country saw a 27 percent increase, contributing an estimated US$16.6 billion to the Brazilian economy. In the UK it’s estimated that up to £500m was added to the UK retail industry in extra sales over the course of this year’s World Cup, and each successive England win boosted the economy by a further £100m. A study from the Centre for Retail Research has found every goal in England’s match against Sweden was worth £165.3 million to England’s retailers and an extra £33.2 million to pubs, hotels and restaurants. One way to tap into this potential boom is to increase omnichannel offerings to reach viewers across a number of different channels – and they don’t even have to be sports-related.
Reaching billions of potential viewers
This year, the World Cup is expected to reach a potential audience of well over 3.2 billion viewers. With such a massive potential audience, e-tailers can’t afford to miss out on opportunities like this. But if TV budgets are too big for smaller players, there are many other ways to jump on the bandwagon, with event-related promotions and products. Zenith projected the World Cup 2018 would drive an increase of US$2.4 billion in ad spending worldwide, and as mobile becomes an increasingly important part of the World Cup experience, in-app advertising could also see a surge in user conversions.
Do believe the hype
Worldwide sporting events like the World Cup give consumer spending a real boost.
At the start of this year’s World Cup, the Adidas Telstar 18 ball flew off shelves as soon as it became available. But no one expected a waistcoat to become a world-wide sensation. Inspired by England coach Gareth Southgate, who wears a smart shirt and waistcoat on the sidelines, department store Marks and Spencer experienced a run on waistcoats on the eve of the England vs Croatia match, a phenomenon dubbed #WaistcoatWednesday. Even Russia’s Moscow branch of M&S ran out of most sizes on the day. Another surprise ‘must-have’ World Cup item was team Nigeria’s Nike-designed football strip – people were literally queuing around the block to buy the green and white strip in London’s Oxford Street. Online, it sold out globally on the day it was released and three million people pre-ordered the replica shirts, according to the Nigeria Football Federation. You might not have a giant like Nike behind you, but there’s absolutely no reason why you shouldn’t make use of a sporting association to boost your sales.
You don’t have to be in it to win it
It’s not just competing countries that are seeing a boost in sales this year. In India, sales of team jerseys as well as footballs and other football-related items spiked on a number of e-commerce platforms with merchandise for Argentina, Germany and Brazil proving to be the most popular. In fact, it’s not just sport-related goods that are booming. In China, beer sales soared. Popular Chinese food delivery app Meituan experienced a 40% increase in beer orders 15 minutes before the start of the opening World Cup match between Russia and Saudi Arabia. Another food delivery service, Ele.me, received beer orders from 150,000 users on the first night of the World Cup, up 167 percent compared with the same period last year. If you have a product that compliments sports viewing, be prepared for a peak in sales.
Watching on the go is on the up
Although most sports fans will readily admit to preferring to watch on a big screen, sports viewing has well and truly gone mobile, which is no surprise considering how fast mobile user rates have shot up in the past decade. During the Germany vs. Brazil game in 2014, mobile traffic volume to sports network ESPN was 20 times higher than usual. People will happily watch on a mobile app if they can’t get to a TV and this encourages social media interaction, which could be a great way to make use of video retargeting. It’s also worth noting that in 2014, 70 percent of World Cup content was consumed on desktops. This year, with mobile accounting for 73 percent of internet consumption, mobile is where e-tailers are most likely to reach potential customers. E-tailers should consider making use of marketplace features offered by major social media players such as Instagram’s shopping tags.
Social’s going loco
As an avid Arsenal and England fan, I’m unlikely to be distracted by social media when there’s a game on, but there are situations where social media can really enhance an event. According to CNN, England won the social media game in this World Cup as delighted fans turned to social media to churn out memes and share their disbelief in their national side’s success. In 2014, 74.2 percent of football fans were browsing on social media during a game, while 43.4 percent were posting on Facebook about the World Cup and their favorite ads. The #WorldCup hashtag was shared millions of times, along with specific hashtags for countries and players. Instagram and Facebook proved to be the most popular platforms for football fans and it’s here that mobile usage peaked during commercials. In 2014 some 350 million people created a total of 3 billion interactions with World Cup content on Facebook alone. Social media channels are a great, fun way to promote your products in connection to sporting events, but bear in mind organizations like FIFA and the Olympics’ strict guidelines on the use of specific trademarks and logos – you don’t want to get in trouble!
This year, with mobile accounting for 73 percent of internet consumption, mobile is where e-tailers are most likely to reach potential customers.
Passing the time by shopping
According to researchers at the University of Lancashire there are three types of World Cup consumers. The hardcore fans who follow the whole tournament avidly will organize social events and invest in things like home entertainment systems to boost their viewing experience. Fans who become more interested as their team moves closer to the Final are likely to join the hardcore fans in pubs, bars and public viewing events. People with a low interest in sporting events are a great potential audience for e-tailers. Bored of waiting for games to finish, they’re highly likely to indulge in online retail therapy to keep themselves entertained. In the UK, according to the Independent, that could mean as many as four million Brits shopping on their smartphones while watching the World Cup. There’s also the gender divide to bear in mind. Men are less likely to spend time chatting on social media during a match, which I can relate to, whereas women – with their well-known multi-tasking capabilities – are very likely to be available for conversions during actual game hours.
So how are you planning to jump on the sports bandwagon this summer? At DHL we have a long history of supporting world class sporting events. We’re the Official Logistics Partner for Formula 1, Formula E, MotoGP, Manchester United, FC Bayern Munich, Rugby World Cup and many more. Our most recent sponsorship with ESL One is bringing us to a whole new audience of GenZ and millennial gamers, reaching a potential worldwide audience of hundreds of millions worldwide. We understand the value of sport, not only as a useful way to promote our brand, but also as a way to transport emotion and share ‘moments that deliver’. You can find out all about our sports partnership activity on our InMotion website.
So, what are you waiting for? The World Cup final may be over but there’s still the India versus England cricket test series, the US Open tennis championships, and the Tour de France up ahead – not to mention golf, baseball and rowing events. These all provide ample opportunity to get your products in front of a massive potential audience of avid sports fans, as well as a huge number of people with time on their hands to shop while they wait for the games to end.