Society is becoming more impulsive by the day. It's not always enough to provide an excellent service, as it must quickly be accessible too. Technology has had a major hand in delivering services to the public, simply and efficiently, to the great benefit of many industries.
Search and booking portals have reshaped service industries like taxis, airline and takeaways beyond recognition in only a short period. Anyone ordering a cab, flight or meal can do so with just a few clicks through desktops or mobiles. Technology has given consumers greater access and more choice to create massive growth.
Applying this principle to the grassroots sports sector is beginning to have the same impact for venues. Technological advancements help open grassroots sports for the masses to enable more UK residents to engage in meaningful physical activities. An increased number of sports players across the country means greater visitor numbers at venues, which in turn drives revenues. Unlike other industries, more people playing grassroots sport has a positive impact on the mental and physical well-being of the nation. Councils all over the country are facing ongoing government cuts as purse strings tighten. It results in grassroots venues and local communities coming under the same pressure and there is a real need to fight this momentum.
Finding ways for venues to boost visitor numbers is one way to counter this and technology can be a powerful force. In contrast to the aforementioned industries, the grassroots sports space has been slow to innovate, but that does mean there is huge potential to be realised.
To make this change as simple as possible requires teamwork between all parties. For example, some grassroots venues already have booking systems in place which need to be integrated with, while others won't have a system in place at all. Once a booking system is installed, it must be easy to navigate and able to work across multiple platforms to cater for society's mobile-first mentality.
Tutorials in how best to use the technology for handling enquiries and bookings makes for a smoother transition to get venues online
quicker. With a reliable system in place, a number of day-to-day concerns of running a sports venue can be handled. Introducing a third-party booking system can free up staff to deal with more customer facing duties and help provide cover when there are staff shortages.
Every enquiry and booking is stored online to enable grassroots venues to build accurate profiles of their visitors. With this information at the tips of their fingers, the venues can accurately market new sports, facilities or even time slots which become available at short notice.
Search and booking portals let users find specific sports which a venue offers. From the venues' perspective, activities like badminton, squash and basketball can be cross-sold to an online sporting community to encourage participation from those regularly using the gym or playing football.
Venues keen on diversifying by adding activities like trampolining or table tennis are in a position to market to people most likely to try other sports by looking through previous search history.
Trampolining is just one way that venues are encouraging people to get active in line with London Sport's ongoing initiative to get 1m more people active. Another scheme aimed at boosting participation numbers is Sport England's 'Use our School'.
The government's plan is to work with schools to provide greater access to their facilities for local communities. Schools around the country are being given the opportunity to help people become more active around the local region by utilising sports halls and other sporting amenities out of school hours.
Not only does this allow better access to sports for people that live close by, but it also develops a better relationship between the two parties. Being able to take bookings for facilities, when otherwise they would lay unused, adds another revenue stream for schools.
Any school willing to sign up to the initiative benefits from being able to quickly take bookings, and here is another example of how technology can assist grassroots venues. A reliable bookings system can take care of enquiries and bookings without risk of admin oversights.
Live booking interfaces list current availability and will black-out slots taken during school time or by clubs after the bell sounds. An online grassroots community gives venues and sports players a market where they can interact online or through mobile to guarantee all demands are satisfied.
Mobile is playing an increasing role in people's lives and particularly when ordering services instantly. Deloitte's UK Mobile Consumer Survey revealed that 76% of adults possess a smartphone and over half use mobiles on public transport, out shopping or at work.
Giving people the chance to book sports venues on mobile offers venues another avenue to take bookings. Before now, this impulsive and on-the-go audience has been difficult to reach and there is vast potential to be realised. The easier it is to book a pitch or court, the more likelihood of sports players doing so if it is hassle free and convenient.
Mobile technology has brought about many positives for today's society and having a sports search and booking platform means more people can regularly and meaningfully play sport.
Better access to grassroots sports will help venues and players in equal measure and technology is the key. Other service industries have been quicker to make consumer's life as convenient as possible and the grassroots sector is perfectly positioned to roll out these innovative changes.
Grassroots search and booking platforms will fully integrate the industry with the players that support it. Society is becoming more demanding and selective in how they order services and the sports space is reacting accordingly.
Sports venues are delivering an improved service for their regular customers but, more significantly, engaging with less frequent players or the inactive who felt the old system was fragmented.
Developing an online sports community helps venues market their services and communicate new facilities to an active audience partaking in healthy lifestyles. Making it as simple as possible to enjoy grassroots sports will make the nation healthier and simultaneously keep venues in play as they continue to fight financial pressure.
Jamie Foale - MyLocalPitch co-founder