Cheltenham Festival has just proven you can stage a great sporting event despite adverse weather conditions - and even produce a record-making result. For jumps fans and festival goers alike, it was a fitting start to the horse-racing season (unless you backed the wrong runner, that is...)
Bookies will have been hoping you did, of course. But more importantly, they will have been putting a lot of effort into ensuring you could get your bet on in the first place. A few weeks before the event, I was talking to somebody from the e-commerce team at one of the major betting companies. He explained how the business was getting as many servers as possible in place to support its website to ensure it did not crash under the weight of demand.
Availability is one of the key metrics used by webmasters and customer experience managers alike. Hard data from server calls shows how many potential visitors were able to get on and whether the load exceeded capacity at any point. In the minutes just before a race, that gap narrows dramatically and can easily go negative.
What this digital marketer was concerned about, however, was the limited use which his business made of that data. Primarily, it was viewed as a technical measure, allowing IT and web teams to keep the doors to the bookies open. At the same time, these insights were also being used to optimised the web site’s design and navigation.
What the gaming company was failing to explore were the broader insights which could be derived from the same data stream. If a punter tries to load a page from their mobile while visiting Cheltenham and can not get on, chances are they will simply visit a different gaming site. But that can be inconvenient if they do not have an account set up elsewhere, meaning they might miss the chance to place a bet at a critical moment. As a result, they could close their existing account at the first opportunity and shift their business elsewhere.
As well as this loss of revenue, the company is also likely to suffer from reputational damage when that punter decides to tweet about their experience. Tracking negative comments during a sporting event and comparing them to availability statistics is a clear Big Data opportunity that tells you more about the success of the business during that event than just looking at availability alone.
Businesses have not had this degree of visibility of prospect behaviour and conversion before. But they have had other similar opportunities which were routinely missed. When call centres were the primary direct channel, there was a lot of focus on calls answered by agents compared to those in the queue. Few companies looked further upstream to see how many calls were not able to connect to the call centre in the first place because the switch was overloaded. That missed the full picture of demand and opportunity.
In yet another age, the acid test of advertising was whether the chairman’s wife had seen a campaign and talked about it. These days, she is more likely to be tweeting about winning a bet on Ladies Day at Cheltenham - or complaining that her husband’s company could not take her money when it was on offer.
Being equipped with as much data as possible to deal with the inevitable Monday morning inquest is essential. Knowing just how much data to take into account could make the difference between keeping and losing your job.