For many Arsenal Football Club fans, the prospect of watching their team play a home game at the Emirates stadium in North London is wildly out of reach. A vast number of them, after all, may never visit the UK.
A study released earlier this year by online betting company Unibet used data from Facebook to figure out which English Premier League teams have the biggest global fan bases, and puts Arsenal in third place, after Manchester United and Chelsea F.C. From the data, it seems that the Gunners – Arsenal FC’s nickname – are particular popular in Ethiopia, Kenya, Uganda and Costa Rica.
Wherever they’re based, many Arsenal fans are keen to get their hands on club merchandise, from kit shirts to keyrings, which makes it vital that it offers a rock-solid e-commerce experience that spans the globe, according to Simon Lilley, Arsenal FC’s retail director.
With Venda, around 55 percent of traffic to Arsenal ecommerce site was coming from international markets, but those markets only accounted for around 25 percent of sales, adds Eddie Woffinden, senior ecommerce manager at Arsenal. Last year, these issues prompted the club to swap out its Venda e-commerce platform (bought by NetSuite in 2014) and replace it with SAP Hybris, as Lilley explains:
At the time we implemented it, Venda did a good job for us, in terms of helping us move from an old-fashioned mail order proposition to an e-commerce approach, but as our online sales grew, we felt that we weren’t converting enough of our 100 million-strong social media following into e-commerce sales.
We needed something that would help us build a really modern retail e-commerce proposition, that would enable us to embrace mobile, promotional engines, personalization, multichannel and B2B sales. SAP Hybris ticked a lot of boxes for us, in terms of offering out-of-the-box functions but also the ability to dig deep and customize where we needed to do so.
Arsenal FC went live on SAP Hybris in October 2016, after a 14-month deployment. Fans can now buy official Arsenal training kit, training wear and accessories on any device in four currencies: Euros, US dollars, Australian dollars and British pounds. And the results have been impressive: an overall 42 % increase in sales and an 86% increase in mobile transactions. Sales from outside of the UK, meanwhile, are up 48%.
According to Woffinden, in the club’s two biggest overseas markets – the US and Australia – revenues are up 138% and 102% respectively. Mobile took centre stage in the club’s deployment of Hybris, he says:
One thing that’s really important to us is personalization options: when someone buys a shirt, for example, they’ll probably want their own name on the back, their own choice of player number, different sleeve patches. That’s quite hard to do well on mobile – so we took a ‘mobile first’ approach, working those customer journeys through from scratch and only then proceeding to desktop.
For more on this, there’s an interesting analysis here by Econsultancy, which compares Arsenal’s online shirt personalization process on mobile to that offered by another London club, Tottenham Hotspurs. It’s broadly positive about Arsenal’s clean design, clear customer journeys and mobile checkout experience.
Arsenal also needed to take into account that customers may not be football fans themselves, but are instead buying a gift for a friend or family member who supports Arsenal, says Woffinden, so it needed to be sure it could put as many product options in front of them, even on a mobile screen.
Page loading times were also a concern that needed to be addressed, he adds. The Arsenal ecommerce site will see the typical online retail traffic peak ahead of Christmas, but also around big games, new kit launches and new player signings. In the past, traffic volumes sometimes crippled the Arsenal ecommerce website, but since implementing Hybris, the club has seen a 57 percent reduction in page load times.
The journey to finetune the Arsenal ecommerce experience continues, with plenty still to do, says Simon Lilley, but what’s important to him is that the club is now able to meet fans’ expectations, wherever they are in the world:
We’re a football club, not primarily a retailer, but we still need to do retail really, really well. We have a huge number of followers, but not only that, they really care about the club. The tribal nature of football means strong reach and strong engagement – and a huge opportunity to convert that reach and engagement into e-commerce purchases.
Image credit - Arsenal
Disclosure - At time of writing, SAP is a premier partner of diginomica.