Using Data for a Personalized Customer Experience

ORLANDO, FLA.—Technology is at the forefront of every decision made by the National Basketball Association, an organization for which business data has taken on a seemingly customer-centric role.

"It's the statistics we use, the deep data [we tap in to], and from the fan standpoint, it's how we bring the experience to them," said Adam Silver, deputy commissioner of the NBA (who will acquire the title of commissioner in 2014), during a keynote presentation at the SAP Sapphire Now and ASUG annual conference here this morning. Only about 1 percent of the NBA's fan base attends a game in person. The rest watch from televisions and mobile devices remotely.

"We're trying to replicate the arena experience through social media," Silver added. As a fan and consumer, "you want to be able to react to a play or that great Kobe dunk. You want to be able to share in that experience." Using SAP HANA, an in-memory platform designed to run real-time analytics in seconds, the NBA was able to make rich statistics and information available to consumers that had previously only been accessible to the NBA organization.

To compete with consumer attention that is fragmented more every day due to digital access to information and communication via social media and mobile devices, the NBA focused on staying relevant by being where their fans were. Tapping into 60 years' worth of data, the sports organization created an interactive stats section on the global NBA.com Web site, enabling viewers to see what combinations of players were accomplishing on the court and predict their likelihood to score or win based on different variables.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, the National Football League's San Francisco 49ers are looking at what big data can do for their in-house fan experience and coming up with more unique ways to personalize visits. Also an SAP HANA user, the 49ers are not only utilizing data for player recruitment and staffing purposes, but for plans to move into a new stadium in the near future. They are also looking at ways to tailor the experience for the approximately 68,000 fans who turn out for games.

The football team is using data to ask the question, "What do I want the experience to be for me [as a fan]?" commented Jed York, CEO of the 49ers. "How can I have a Pepsi and a Budweiser brought to me right in my seat?" The 49ers have also adopted the model of being a cashless and ticketless stadium to further drive a digital customer experience that makes measurement more feasible.

"The power of HANA," noted Bill McDermott, co-CEO of SAP, is its ability to unlock "dark" (or untapped) data that enterprises house and combine it with sentiment analysis that "gives you that voice, and wisdom of the crowd with predictive analytics built in. The key to this is speed and that's where HANA plays a role." SAP, he said, is looking to become the "business-to-business-to-consumer" company in order to improve customer experiences through better business, partner, commerce, and supply chain connectivity.

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