But this sports and event season is a more hopeful one. When COVID-19 hit, we were already primed to quickly evolve. And now, thanks to our proactive teamwork of data scientists, designers and developers as well as ongoing vaccine distribution and expanded state guidelines for gatherings, large numbers of fans can safely reenter venues across the country.
“Operating large facilities takes a careful, balanced approach in any year,” said Alicia Woznicki, Vice President of Design and Development. “And while the pandemic turned the way we gather upside-down, it’s also given us a fantastic opportunity to reexamine the event day experience.”
Before the pandemic, our data science and design teams studied technology and consumer interest trends like touchless and frictionless vendor experiences. By the time reopening began, we had developed, tested, and proven innovations that could limit close contact and reduce congestion. With a pipeline of solutions at the ready, we were poised to help our clients bring visitors back as soon as they safely could, minimizing the potential for disease exposure, while elevating venue capabilities and expanding amenities to keep crowds coming back.
Data Science in the Dugout and BeyondClients across our Sports and Entertainment portfolio face a myriad of logistical and operational challenges. They’re looking for ways to safely host thousands of people, while creating a personalized, stress-free experience for each individual who enters their doors. Our team of data scientists have an inside look at what it takes to keep these crowds happy and healthy.
In addition to customizing spaces, we also create consumer experience solutions that fit the client’s specific environment. For example, new vendor offerings can address trend-specific demands while adding value to the overall event experience. Case in point: Stocking frictionless drink markets with local beers could satisfy the growing demand for craft beer, appease a local fanbase, and increase overall sales.
“We have a holistic group made up of both left-brained and right-brained teams,” Woznicki says. “Data-backed creativity roots all our conversations. These conversations spark action, which in turn drives success for our clients.”
In an ever-changing landscape, this approach to innovation allows the group to get ahead of the game. Even before the pandemic, data showed guests wanted visibility and control over their dining experience: many chose to use mobile apps and preferred pickup over delivery.
Hall of Favs meets both of those demands. Using mobile or kiosk ordering, guests can pick up the most popular menu items throughout a building in one convenient location. At the same time, it limits personal contact and maximizes speed, two conditions that were beginning to trend several years ago.
Now, innovations like these are in even greater demand given social distancing and other safety measures. Woznicki acknowledges that COVID-19 accelerated the deployment of technology already in her team’s arsenal, allowing them to hit the ground running when the pandemic hit.
“We were always focused on fans’ top priorities – like how to move people through lines quickly so that they can get back to the event,” Woznicki shares. “So from the day things shut down, we were preparing for the day they reopened.”
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Streamlined Technology to Slow the Spread
Data science was key in this preparation: it helps measure and predict venue-specific situations in which the risk of close contact will be higher among guests and associates. With the widespread implementation of mobile ordering and cashless transactions, we can minimize bottlenecking around vendor stations, better direct foot traffic in seating areas, and eliminate hand-to-hand contact with employees. These elements are critical to reducing the chances of contracting a virus most frequently spread through proximity with an infected person. Such measures also help reduce stress for fans as they navigate large events again – perhaps the first they’ve attended since before the pandemic began. At the same time, cashless and mobile innovations streamline guests’ experiences and improve the accuracy of their orders.
“Many solutions we have developed or are developing inherently keep visitors safe, while making them comfortable and more willing to try out new food offerings,” notes Woznicki.
ZIPPIN Drink MKT, our new grab-and-go market beverage concept, offers such an experience. The fully frictionless vendor allows customers to select drinks and snacks and leave without waiting in checkout lines: they’re automatically charged through Zippin’s self-checkout technology. It’s a restaurant-food hall hybrid, a solution that can be readily adapted by existing consumers and could attract entirely new demographics of fans – those for whom accessibility was a barrier, or those who weren’t willing to wait in long lines out of fear of missing part of the event.
Social distancing, it seems, is written into the code of many user-friendly venue technologies. And when guests can look forward to new and exciting taste experiences – in a safe environment – they are more likely to return.
Cheers to the Future
Dedication to quality, health, convenience, and personalization continues to drive every one of our innovations. For our Sports and Entertainment clients, this approach has never been more relevant than it is today.
“By having a data-backed understanding of client-specific needs and wants, we’re able to design and implement win-win solutions that keep people safe while also helping them have a great time,” says Woznicki. “As crowds make their ways back into seating sections, we’ll be there for our clients as they operate and maintain their facilities.”
Our approach to applying emerging technology innovation has lasting implications. Fan-friendly technology can ensure any venue serves guests safely, efficiently, and creatively throughout this season, and far into the future.