Got Game? Venuetize Platform Lays Groundwork for In-Venue Mobile Experiences That Engage, Inform

District Detroit Mobile App handles ticketing, food pickup, navigation

One of the major trends in sports-venue design is that the day of simply dropping a venue into a neighborhood and seeing what happens is giving way to an era of creating a district from scratch, complete with housing, restaurants, shopping, and other entertainment offerings. And such districts are creating the need for digital services like apps that can help visitors more easily engage. The role that Venuetize played in District Detroit shows the opportunities that await.

Venuetize’s Craig Duncan: “The goal is to communicate with patrons, so they come earlier and stay later.”

“The teams and venues want to have the fans engaging through their application and their brand because there is a tie to loyalty,” says Craig Duncan, chief revenue officer, Venuetize. “With a single application where everyone works together, all parties benefit.”

District Detroit, for example, is home to Ford Field, Little Caesars Arena, Fox Theater, Comerica Park, Detroit Masonic Temple, and more. It hosts more than 240 live events per year, and the District Detroit Mobile App handles event and parking ticketing, express pickup for food and beverages, and navigation. Connecting via Bluetooth improves wayfinding and ensures that visitors can find the shops, restaurants, and activities they want. And an interactive chat bot makes it even easier for consumers to use.

“How do we use technology to improve traffic or ticketing and not just for the games but also for retail and hospitality?” says Duncan. “The goal is to communicate with patrons, so they come earlier and stay later. We want them to spend more money.”

Venuetize provides a “platform as a service” that is below the application layer and, thus, can give cohesion to multiple apps and backend systems. The goal is to integrate what were previously fragmented technology silos that could require consumers to use multiple apps and create multiple accounts. The Venuetize team helps with the strategy, design, and development of an app and mobile environment that meets the needs of teams and the venue.

“We stay involved post-launch as it is a multi-year iterative process,” Duncan says. “You aren’t just launching an app. It has a life and will continue to evolve, and there may also be new integrations you will want to do. So we provide the services and support to augment the technology you build your applications on.”

The key to a district-wide digital strategy is making sure that connectivity is robust across the entire location. With that in place, the Venuetize platform and team integrate all the digital entities and parties.

Unified app experiences make it easier for fans in the stands to purchase food and merchandise, embrace electronic ticketing, and locate the experiences that are most relevant.

“There are dozens of technology integrations that need to happen as we extend the platform out and bring in other ecosystems so that they can tie together seamlessly and the visitor has a seamless experience,” says Duncan. “You want the consumer to have an easy experience doing things like parking and buying food: if it is more enjoyable, they will be more apt to share more data and trust it so that they can enhance their experience.”

One problem with trying to create a one-off app solution that doesn’t evolve over time is that corporate sponsors and partners that ideally will be integrated with the app might change. The Venuetize team manages those relationships and swaps out technology components as needed to best meet everyone’s needs.

“It may seem like a small thing,” Duncan says, “but there can be dozens of partners, or something like the ticketing partner can change two months before the season. We handle those integrations seamlessly to reduce the risk, the costs, and the possible loss of revenue.”

Venuetize also ensures that new types of offerings, such as those that use augmented reality, can more easily be integrated within an app. At Little Caesars Arena, for example, the use of AR allows fans in the entire arena to take part in things like pizza tosses, with those in the upper levels catching virtual pizzas.

“You can do gamification and reach the younger audience,” Duncan explains. “There are multiple benefits that come through gamification driven by AR.”

He adds that any efforts around the launch of an app, especially one used in multiple venues and by multiple teams, requires that all the stakeholders be involved in the decision-making process from the beginning.

“Mobile engagement touches every part of the organization,” he notes. “You also might want to bring in fans and corporate partners to be part of the design phase.”

Leaving it to the digital and marketing teams can often result in an app or offering that is out of step with what management or even ownership is looking to offer.

Increasingly, Duncan adds, data-privacy experts are important and are playing key roles in ensuring that the best decisions are made to protect data and keep fans on board.

“If you go wrong with things like GDPR [General Data Protection Regulation], it can impact the entire business,” he says, “and the trust that you worked so hard to build will go away very quickly.”