5 min read

The Importance of Localization and Relationship Building in the Sports World

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Roaring crowds. Anxious silences. Making that perfect pass or the shared tension of a match point. These are just some of the experiences that athletes and sports fans are looking for. Shared experiences are a central feature of many sports, even those that may initially seem like individual endeavours instead of team efforts.

Plenty of people have found friendships and even romance on the tennis courts or out on their daily hike through the ravine. It’s not entirely unreasonable to believe that athletes often have a shared sense of community and close relationships.

Tapping into that sense of community can be a powerful tool for sports retailers to boost both their public presence and their bottom lines, provided they pursue their relationships in a meaningful and sincere way. In order to do so, sports retailers will have to take careful stock of how they pursue localization and relationship building with their customers.


Emotional Motivators

Despite our capacity for logic and rational thinking, human beings are highly emotional creatures, which can be both a boon and a blessing for retailers. Plenty of research has conclusively demonstrated that customer purchasing decisions are rooted in our emotional responses, and positive connections can be a powerful driver of sales. However, the psychology of emotions is a complex subject and notoriously hard to quantify, so intentionally creating and maintaining relationships is more of an art than a science.

That doesn’t mean research doesn’t have anything valuable to say on the subject or that it’s impossible to pull off. For example, researchers from the Harvard Business Review spent eight years compiling a list of over 300 emotional motivators to help businesses better understand and create the emotional connections that drive customer engagement. Not every motivator applies to every market or even segment within it but identifying which emotional motivators are most influential is useful to building lasting and profitable consumer relationships. 

The Feel Good Factor

Understandably, brands that build a positive emotional connection with their customers have significantly better outcomes than those that customers feel negatively about. This is a pretty obvious statement (but in case you don’t believe us there’s hard research from Harvard Business School professor Gerald Zaltman to support the idea), and you just have to think back to when your regular grocer was out of a product and you had to go to that other store for your produce to understand what we’re talking about. Positive emotional connection is undeniably a powerful tool for building brand loyalty, whereas negative connections can be devastating. 

Quality Facilities

When it comes to relationship building with clients, particularly in a digital environment, you need to have sufficient resources available to operate your online store smoothly and provide an exceptional experience your customers will remember. In a way, online stores are like gyms and recreation centers—no one wants to go to the cheap ones if they can help it. Bells and whistles are great, but you need to go back to first principles before anything else. Make sure you’ve got robust internet bandwidth to enable smooth, reliable access to your store and associates. You’re also going to need a way to connect those real-life associates with your customers.

Convenience and safety are among the top factors consumers look at when deciding between brands they’re willing to do business with, so a software application that helps your clients connect with an associate—or better yet, their favourite associate—is essential for helping athletes feel as well about your online store as your brick and mortar storefronts. You’ll need to evaluate each app and technology you intend to use.

Salesfloor is exceptional for connecting online customers to local in-store sales associates and offers online eventing and guided selling options so you can even get some of those bells and whistles in one place. Sure, you’ve got to get the must-haves in place before taking aim at the nice-to-haves, but why not get both with one app?

Keeping Things Close to Home

Another common emotional motivator shared by general consumers and athletes alike is a feeling of community. We generally prefer to make purchases from businesses that have a presence not just in our sector (like sponsoring a sports event) but also our city or even neighborhood. This is another reason why you should connect with local social influencers or athletes as part of your marketing and promotions.

That’s why it’s important to ensure you’re properly localizing your business. Too often businesses “localize” by simply translating their store into different languages and not addressing the specific differences of each market. For example, having English and Spanish options for when customers from communities with large Latin populations visit your website isn’t enough. In fact, it can even be damaging if implemented poorly. Imagine how a customer may feel if they click on a poorly localized option and discover inappropriate language use or grammar errors. One or two typos will be forgiven, but at some point they’ll become off-putting and actually damage the relationship you’re trying to build.

True localization means your sites, your online stores, any connected apps, and all of these components’ metadata have been configured properly. That sounds like a large investment, but it not only helps clients find your physical store when searching online, but also helps them recognize you’re invested in serving the local community as well as the market.

Human beings are a bizarre blend of rational thinking and powerful emotions, which makes quantifying our purchasing decisions difficult. Indeed, Mr. Zaltman’s research shows that how we respond to research queries about purchasing decisions is at odds with how we actually make those decisions in real life (we’re much more emotional and far less rational about them than we like to think). This not only makes localization and relationship building crucial for any sports retailer, but also means they need to be implemented strategically to produce powerfully positive responses rather than negative knee-jerk reactions that may damage your brand’s standing in the public eye. 

The Home Court Advantage

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Whether you are a player or a fan, nothing beats the experience of playing a championship game on your home court or field. The roar of crowd cheering energizes the home team and can have an unsettling effect on the confidence of the away team. Every inch of the court is familiar to the home team's athletes and makes the drills run in practice much easier to tap into during the big event. 

The home court for sporting goods retailers is their brick-and-mortar store experience. Their customers favor shopping in-store, interacting with the merchandise and--most importantly--getting advice and recommendations from trusted sales associates. 

Winning the loyalty of customers now depends on a brand's ability to convey the warmth of its personality and unique differentiators in digital channels. In retail, customers associate a brand not simply with a logo or colors, but with the associates who guide them to the best products for their needs. Sales associates do more than simply help customers find the right items. They make them feel good about themselves when wearing or using the item in question. 

The significance of the sales associate in purchase decisions is reflected in the staggering difference in online and in-store return rates. In-store, return rates average 8%. When customers shop online unassisted, that number leaps to 40% and above. Those return rates hurt profit margins and consumer brand loyalty.

With Salesfloor's immersive virtual retail platform, your customers can connect with local sales associates for the same type of expertise and product support they receive in-store. They can book virtual or in-store appointments, text or video chat with a sales associate, and even co-browse the retailer's website together. For the customer, this makes online shopping an enjoyable, memorable experience; one they will eagerly tell their friends about and eagerly anticipate recreating whenever they need products like those offered by the retailer. 

For retailers, Salesfloor's benefits go beyond lower online return rates and associated costs. Customer and employee retention and satisfaction increase. Retailers see higher in-store and online sales from new and returning customers, a stronger online presence, and happier more confident sales associates. 

Ready to take your home court advantage online? Talk to a Salesfloor sporting goods retail specialist today.

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