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How the Retail Game in Sports Jerseys Mastered Customer Personalization

Online sports apparel retailer Fanatics knows they need to know who their customer is rooting for, and that the right data is essential for the win.

Johnathan Wilbur of Fanatics on Leading Through Change

With fields closed and stadiums shuttered, the pandemic has created a tricky time to be in the business of retail for sports fan jerseys and apparel. Despite the shutdown of league play, we were inspired by the resilience revealed by Jonathan Wilbur, senior director of global business-to-consumer customer relationship (CRM) technology and operations at online retailer Fanatics. “We sell merchandise that brings out emotion in people,” he said. “If we don’t get personalization correct, we risk ruining our relationship with a customer.”

While online sales have skyrocketed under the pandemic, in a typical year, Fanatics spends the first nine months getting ready to bring in more than 50% of their annual revenue from September through December. In 2020, no one knew for sure how their annual revenue would score.

If you’ve watched Jonathan Wilbur in this episode of Leading Through Change, or even if you haven’t, here are some highlights from the conversation.

Jonathan Wilbur, senior director of global business-to-consumer customer relationship technology and operations, Fanatics, on Leading Through Change

Top three takeaways from this episode of Leading Through Change

  • For a company like Fanatics, it’s essential to know their customers’ favorite teams and the favorite teams of the people they shop for. Fanatics sells merchandise that brings out emotion in people. They feel that if they don’t get personalization right, they’re at risk of ruining their relationship with a customer. While few consumers will abandon a brand if they get targeted with a cut of jeans they don’t like, if they’re messaged with a celebration of the win of a rival team, they’re not going to come back. Sports is about tradition, and that tradition is tribal in nature. Fanatics has to get personalization correct.
  • Fanatics invested in customer data in 2020 to help them shift from optimizing for the transaction to optimizing for customer relationships that can help build lifetime loyalty. They watched customer spend shift as COVID hit different communities, demographics, and cities. They wanted to better understand how their business was going to react to incoming policies and regulations. It paid big gains to help them to predict how things were going to change, and they anticipate they’ll see that continue into next year.
  • As more regulations come at the state level, Fanatics predicts they will see the value of first party data becoming more important, and that their ability to build up a database of first party data will become a valuable tool down the line.

This post is the latest installment of Leading Through Change, our video conversation series with industry and thought leaders who use Salesforce products to transform the way they work.

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