5 Common eCommerce Challenges The Sport Industry Faces

When people talk about eCommerce, your thoughts may typically turn to traditional online shopping such as footwear and clothing. But eCommerce is an umbrella term with numerous sub-sectors that each face unique challenges. One of which is the sport industry where traffic can fluctuate in a matter of seconds, fans from around the globe flock to one website and inventory can be a hard task to manage.

Research shows that the UK eCommerce market is the third-leading in the world with over five percent industry growth expected annually until 2025. With such huge growth, challenges are to be expected. But with customers increasingly relying on online shopping and opportunities rife, now’s the time to face those challenges and find a solution.

As an Adobe Commerce agency, we see the challenges businesses face daily and we love to be part of the solution too…

In this blog:

We share a look into the common eCommerce hurdles the sport industry face and how to overcome them, including:

  • Coping with traffic peaks
  • Managing inventory
  • Servicing an international audience
  • Processing personal data
  • Interconnectivity across the business

1) Site traffic

Your eCommerce store needs to scale to how many people are using it. Scaling involves ensuring the behaviour of your website is consistent even as the number of users onsite increases. For example, if your website loads in under two seconds when 500,000 users visit a month, you still want it to load in under two seconds once you reach one million visitors a month.

It’s therefore important that your site can cope with both planned and unplanned peaks:

  • Planned peak: This is when you expect major traffic onsite. For example, when the latest seasons kit is released.
  • Unplanned peak: These increases in site traffic can’t be predicted. Examples could include a new team signing, multiple goals in a single match by a player or your team doing particularly well. During unplanned peaks, your eCommerce store must be able to mobilise quickly without the site crashing.

Lewis Sellers, Managing Director at Pinpoint, shared further insight into this common issue:

“Think about football clubs. They release their new seasons kit and can go from having 500 users on their website to 25,000 in a very short space of time. If they’re not prepared for this, this is when they will experience site instability and common challenges of getting orders through payment gateways, distribution issues or syncing stock updates with the website.”

If your website can’t cope with the increase, this is when performance issues rear their ugly heads including slow loading times, functionality not working or even a full site crash. But how do you plan for the unplannable?

The fix

Traffic fluctuations can happen for a number of reasons. To help your business prepare for the unexpected, there are a number of tools we would recommend exploring to ensure you keep your customers happy:  

  • New Relic: This tool allows you to breakdown how a page is being loaded. Using New Relic, you can walk through your website stage by stage to see what percentage of usage is being assigned where. A useful asset for your store, pages can be investigated ahead of publish providing the opportunity to make them as streamlined as can be. Having this tool enabled during peak periods also means you can track problems as they arise and put solutions in place to ensure it doesn’t happen next time.
  • Queue-it: Customers can become very heated when a site crashes leading to bad publicity. You can manage this by using systems like Queue-it, a virtual waiting room that lets you control traffic and prevent your site crashing. When the site comes under too much strain, a queuing system begins, taking the edge off the server load.

    While users may have to wait to get online, this ensures a positive user experience once onsite and means you can maintain your brand integrity. Even better, Queue-it offers various features to make the waiting room experience more engaging including the showcasing of popular products, social proof, a queue number and other wait information.

  • thinkTribe: Using thinkTribe, you can confidently prepare for your busiest times through load and performance testing. The platform allows you to test using real-life user scenarios how many users can hit the site before it overloads and crashes. As such, you can spot weaknesses and put solutions in place to reduce the impact before it becomes a problem.

2) Managing inventory                      

Effectively managing your inventory can have a huge impact on eCommerce success. Good inventory management ensures you have the right products in the right quantities, helping to avoid products selling out or cash being tied up in excess stock.  

However, sporting businesses can face a number of tricky challenges when it comes to keeping their inventory in shape. These include but aren’t limited to:

  • Personalisation: Many football clubs allow fans to purchase football shirts that can be customised with different letters and numbers. Having a system in place that allows you to manage this stock with ease is crucial to ensure supply doesn’t fall short and customers aren’t disappointed.  
  • Multichannel buying: Clubs may have a physical store as well as an online one to stock manage. In this case, do you choose to use the same system to manage stock for both channels or are online orders fulfilled from shop stock?
  • New kit launches: If a sports club launches a new kit, they need to purchase the optimum amount for their fan base. If they sell out in a matter of hours, conversion opportunities are lost and with it, revenue.

An efficient inventory management system is critical to eCommerce success. You need a system that can keep accurate track of stock across multiple channels, allowing you to replenish when its needed and avoid the worst-case scenario of early sell outs.

The fix

A reliable inventory management system can help ensure the right level of inventory at the right time.

We would recommend using a robust system that syncs stock updates automatically. Alternatively, you could also use a system that has the ability to turn off this feature altogether and allow Adobe Commerce to handle the stock count during busy periods.

There’s no one size fits all solution to this challenge – our system recommendations all depend on your unique requirements and the challenges you face.

3) An international audience

Some sports clubs have fan bases all over the world. With such far-reaching audiences comes common international challenges:

  • Inventory management for different regions: Let’s say you’re shopping for a football shirt from a UK team but you’re in the US, does the shopper use the UK store and ship the item to the delivery address in the US or do they go to the US store and pay in dollars?
  • Translation for international markets: It’s crucial that your eCommerce store is effectively translated to the country. The use of translation tools alone is often not reliable enough to produce credible, relevant and well-written copy and could damage the trust of native shoppers.
  • Localised payment currencies and options: It’s a tell-tale sign of a poor user experience when the currency doesn’t reflect the shopping region. Offering localised currency should be a top priority if your brand operates internationally. Alongside this, we also advise offering localised payment options too. For example, certain European locations allow for payment upon delivery.
  • Country selection: Your customers should have the freedom to select which country they are shopping from. When this selection is made, the language and currency should automatically update accordingly.
  • Tax considerations: Handling tax correctly across multiple countries should also be a top consideration. For example, if you’re shipping from the UK to Australia, US and Europe, how will you handle tax and custom duty? Do you wait for the customer to be charged on import or can you work this into your checkout so it’s prepaid and a more seamless experience?

The fix

Many modern eCommerce platforms will be able to support to some extent but find a platform that can support all your internationalisation needs! Adobe Commerce, for example, has major advantages for international retailers thanks to its multi-store functionality.

You can run several stores from a single admin interface while sharing the same backend and codebase to streamline management. Localised sites can even share customer data or keep it separate if you’d prefer. Alongside this, Adobe Commerce offers greater flexibility when it comes to custom pricing, language, tax and shipping to ensure your customer gets the expected experience wherever they’re browsing from.

4) Processing personal data

Sporting bodies commonly work with multiple partners which can involve a lot of data being passed through your systems. When using a third-party platform such as Nosto or Klevu, these systems will place cookies on your website for which users can manage their preferences for.

If they choose to opt out, it’s your responsibility to block the cookie to protect the customer’s data. If this isn’t implemented correctly, you can face GDPR fines and a knock-on negative impact for your brand reputation.

The fix

This is where a platform such as OneTrust comes into the picture. As shoppers become more privacy aware, it’s all the more important to be transparent with their data collection and usage.

Providing privacy management services, OneTrust handles cookie consent and provides choice for consent and marketing preferences. A powerful and easy-to-use platform, you can capture, centralise, manage and sync consent, preferences and first-party customer data while keeping trust and transparency at the forefront of your operations.

5) Interconnectivity across the business

When it comes to the sport industry, your eCommerce offering may be isolated from the rest of your website to make it easier to manage. However, the challenge appears when a club decides they want to sell tickets online or memberships, for example. You then need to consider how these different channels connect and how they can seamlessly integrate.

Alongside this, you need to take into account the relationships between the different channels such as season ticket holders being able to apply their discount in the club shop and the online store.  

The fix

The solution to this challenge is middleware. Middleware allows you to connect multiple systems together. As such as an important part of many projects we work on, we created our own in-house middleware platform – DataConnectr.

Once integrated with your eCommerce store, DataConnectr works 24/7 to push and pull data from any external services such as websites, marketplaces, ERP systems and WMS systems to transform the handling data process.

Another system known as Single Sign On (SSO) could also be used in this scenario. Enabling users to have one login for multiple systems, they can sign in with ease to whichever area of the site they need to access.

How team Pinpoint can help you

As with any industry, the sporting industry requires a unique approach tailored to their challenges. Whether you are part of the sport’s world or not, some of these issues may ring true to your eCommerce business. Fortunately, team Pinpoint have plenty of experience having worked with the likes of renowned football club, Leeds United and others. If you want to find out more about our work with them or how we could you’re your eCommerce challenges, don’t hesitate to get in touch for a chat