Tech platforms continue to improve the team business in a big way.
While team dealers have always excelled at connecting with customers and providing personalized service, the coronavirus pandemic has drastically quickened their pace in adopting new technology platforms that will enable stability and enhance growth. Such advances are designed to help dealers quickly and easily set up online stores, automate backend functions, stay in touch with current customers, help generate leads and provide a wide range of business metrics. Plus, the platforms can be tailored to suit specific needs. Here is a look at three of the leading team market technology platforms and how they are helping dealers cope with the COVID-19 crisis and positioning for the future.
Started in 2008 as an automated ordering system targeting soccer dealers, TeamUniformOrders (TUO) has evolved into an easy-to-get-started vertical e-commerce solution that now services more than 1500 team dealers and providers in North America.
The platform’s roster-driven technology fully automates the ordering process for large organizations and includes an advanced dashboard that helps manage rosters, invites players to shop, changes the products available to different teams, places orders on behalf of players, auto-assigns jersey names and numbers and communicates with the user’s entire organization.
The benefits for team dealers include better money management, which enables dealers to collect money upfront before they’ve committed their costs; simplification of large group ordering via automation of key steps in the process; and differentiation of the dealer’s business via online ordering.
The technology also offers dealers a way to scale their business and expand into new markets such as corporate apparel and event fundraisers by offering a variety of store types and designs.
But TUO isn’t content to rest on its laurels. “Upgrades and enhancements are standard operating procedure in the software and technology world, and on average, TUO launches over 150 new features every week,” says Gerry Brewer, TUO’s CEO and managing director.
Recent upgrades include new design and layout of the software that improves the user experience, along with the introduction of new store designs and enhancement of TUO’s roster-driven technology. Enhanced Vector Product Libraries make it easier for clients to locate and add products to their online stores in just one click and the introduction of Bulk Actions enables users to make simple changes across many products at once in their stores.
“While advancements in technology have been steadily progressing, there is no doubt that recent events will serve as a catalyst to speed up and expand the various technology solutions available to help dealers survive and thrive in the coming years,” says Brewer. “The trends and benefits of ordering online are too obvious to ignore.”
He further notes that volunteers and administrators for leagues, teams, schools and companies are all seeking ways to streamline the ordering process and get out of the chaos and liability of handling money. Additionally, dealers have to contend with the “Amazon Effect” in which end consumers heighten their demands for shorter delivery times, transparency in order status tracking and delivery, and higher levels of immediate service and support. Each of these challenges is aided by the advancement of technology.
“As more solutions evolve, it will become imperative that whatever technology solution you chose be flexible and capable of integrating with other software tools you use,” says Brewer. “Integration will become even more prominent in the years ahead.”
As for the coronavirus’ effect on business, Brewer reports that in just two months this summer TUO has experienced record sales and has received an unprecedented number of requests to learn more about what the company offers.
“However, there are also many dealers who remain reticent and are choosing to just wait it out. The truth is, if the current pandemic has not been a wake-up call for many, frankly there’s not much more that can be done to change minds.”
In fact, Brewer believes that fear – of the unknown and of all things technology – is the main challenge facing the advancement of tech in the team market.
“The ‘we’ve always done it this way’ mindset is still pervasive. That’s unfortunate because as a general rule, as technology becomes more powerful it also becomes easier to understand and use,” he says.
This growing player in the group ordering space was created by the management of Burghardt Sporting Goods, a Wisconsin-based Sports Inc. dealer. The company claims its products are less expensive than those of its competition and the platform’s built-in automation saves thousands of hours of labor, thus increasing its financial benefits to users.
For example, explains Lynn Burghardt, CEO of Chipply and a co-owner of Burghardt Sporting Goods, “logos are automatically placed on the product images, so on a site with 50 products in three colors each, you avoid having to make 150 images — it’s instantaneous. Pricing is automatic, so your sales guys don’t have to go line by line and do the math (risking errors and inconsistency).”
Moreover, dynamic inventory feeds are built into Chipply’s platform, making it easy for dealers to check inventory as the site is being built — and the live inventory will be accurate a month or even a year later when a dealer re-launches or copies the store.
“We’ve curated a wide variety of out-of-the-box product arrays based on direct vendor feedback and we’re working with industry leaders at Augusta Brands, SanMar, Founder Sports Group and many others to present offerings that can be widely used and are fully customizable,” she says.
In the next year, Chipply will be building on a framework of existing features to introduce a bold new user experience that essentially eliminates the quotation and manually entered bulk order process entirely.
In 2020, Chipply added a new store type that allows users to keep a webstore live for as long as desired while still maintaining the platform’s backend fulfillment tools that include order manager, work order integration and batch integration.
“We continue to add to the long list of live inventory feeds from vendors and we’re integrated with a growing number of third-party POS systems,” notes Burghardt. “In the next year, Chipply will be building on a framework of existing features to introduce a bold new user experience that essentially eliminates the quotation and manually entered bulk order process entirely.”
Regarding the coronavirus pandemic, Burghardt observes that dealers are using the Chipply team as a central source for knowledge and feedback across the industry.
“Our dealers have taken this obstacle and turned it into an opportunity by embracing technology, eliminating bottlenecks and improving their overall operations. Team dealers are listening to their customers, making big decisions and diversifying product offerings. They’re spinning off mask websites, getting into corporate apparel and selling things like scrubs and thermometers,” she says.
Now that online stores have largely been adopted by the team business, Burghardt suggests that the next phase in the tech realm is optimization.
“Technology has come a long way in the last few years and we understand that the biggest challenge dealers face with technology is change itself. During the onboarding process, our team gets to know everything about the dealer, its staff, its operation and goals. This allows us to develop a strategic path forward together.”
Established in 2008, OrderMyGear (OMG) is arguably the leading technology provider of e-commerce stores for team dealers, where the platform’s main benefits encompass the elimination of paper-based ordering, e-payment capabilities for consumers, live inventory feeds and the ability to sell more merchandise versus single orders.
Because product is ordered and delivered in a more compact window, it’s easier for decoration services and end-fulfillment, while the integration of order information and payment details into accounting software gets rid of manual data entry, saves time and simplifies bookkeeping.
The platform also provides reliable product inventory and quality/consistency of product while eradicating manual order collection, excess product and cash handling/check collection (and the need to run down payments). Consumers gain an easy and dependable online shopping experience.
This year, OMG has implemented three major improvements on its platform.
- First is Fundraiser Tracking, which allows dealers to display a tracking meter on the storefront that shows end consumers how close the store is to reaching a fundraising goal, or will simply track funds raised.
- Another tool, Consumer Order Status, lets dealers provide consumers with visibility into the status of an entire order or specific items within that order. Dealers can create custom descriptions and enable Consumer Order Status at the store level.
- Third is Packing Slips, a tool that provides a dedicated report to support the sorting and bagging process, and is designed to be sent to end consumers.
“I believe the tech stack is headed to a full-stack provider, or more all-in-one solutions,” says Mitch Hammer, OMG’s senior director of marketing. “Right now we have team dealers using various tech platforms and not all of the tech talks to each other, so simple solutions and platforms that can cover all the bases is where we’re headed.”
Hammer points out that for the past five years the company has seen a major shift in team dealers adopting and using the OMG platform, and tech in general.
“COVID-19 has accelerated the need to transition a majority of team dealers’ business to online sales. End consumers are now more accustomed to online shopping and they expect that experience and a fast turnaround time, just as they are used to when shopping online with major retailers,” she says.
COVID-19 has accelerated the need to transition a majority of team dealers’ business to online sales.
Looking ahead, Hammer expects to see less direct sales – “pop-up and always-open is where the volume is running” – and also anticipates consolidation for tech players, along with a team dealer shift to reliance on tech and data.
“Tech providers need to keep innovating in ways that support dealers being more successful in new environments, particularly when working with their decision-makers and the end consumer,” she says. “Dealers have to please so many folks along the purchasing chain, so tech platforms need to be proactive on the features they support that can make dealers more successful and keep them competitive. Creating platforms that allow dealers to be flexible for whatever comes in the future is key.”