Providing An Edge
Next Gen tech platforms are changing the team dealer landscape for the better.
In the team dealer universe, an emphasis on personal service and the ability to connect with customers have always been, and still are, the keys to doing business. But the way this is achieved is now being augmented with a new generation of technology that allows dealers to grow and thrive rather than simply struggle to remain viable.
In short, the old ways of doing things – such as writing orders by hand – are no longer helpful or even quaint. They’re just antiquated. The latest technology platforms can help dealers quickly and easily set up online stores, automate back-end functions, stay connected with current customers, help generate new leads, provide analytics and reporting, and more. Best of all, the technology can easily be tailored to suit specific needs.
Here is a look at four of the leading technology platforms – OrderMyGear, TeamUniformOrders, Chipply and TeamLinkt – and how they’re helping team dealers successfully move into the future.
With more than 11 years in the tech industry, industry leader OrderMyGear boasts more than 2500 clients, has processed nearly $1 billion in gross merchandise volume and is now celebrating its third year as an honoree on the annual Inc. 5000 list of the nation’s fastest-growing private companies. OMG’s online e-commerce platform gives team dealers the ability to quickly create online stores, and much more.
“We can create a store in 15 to 20 minutes because the brand is already loaded. This means the dealer doesn’t have to manually upload brands, colors or sizes,” says Mitch Hammer, OMG’s director of marketing. The platform’s store duplication function allows an online store that occurs once or twice a year to be duplicated while also permitting certain pieces of info such as banners and product to be swapped out for a more customized look.
On a larger scale, “Spiritwear and football stores, for example, are often similar between schools and our store duplication allows clients to swap out logos and banners,” Hammer explains. “This saves a lot of time for dealers, is easy to update when needed and avoids having to waste time recreating entire stores.”
To help dealers better connect to their customers, OMG features a marketing function on its platform. Because online stores are by their very nature pop-up shops, it’s important to spread the word of their existence. OMG’s social media and email options can notify customers where to go and when the store is open and can automatically generate flyers. The technology can also upload products, set limits on the time that the store is open and allow dealers to see everything that an individual customer orders, thus eliminating the worry of excess inventory.
“We also have a group access portal that allows the dealer to give a coach limited access to a store, meaning that the coach can see who has already ordered product and who still needs to do so,” says Hammer.
Looking ahead, Hammer reveals that, “At Sports Inc. in November, OrderMyGear will be launching and highlighting three major product releases and enhancements around integrations, fulfillment and being the only software provider in our space to support live inventory by partnering with Under Armour, Adidas, Augusta Brands, SanMar and Founder Sport Group.”
While dealers want to make customers happy and the technology to help them continues to advance, timelines are shrinking and putting more pressure on customization and speed of delivery.
“The challenges are more about the industry than the OMG platform,” Hammer notes. “Customers are used to Amazon and want things right away, so time and fulfillment are issues. Everyone is working on streamlining the process and making it faster. The technology will keep getting simpler, quicker and more secure overall and this will help dealers feel more empowered to use it.”
Hammer is also quick to point out that dealers that have adopted technology have seen improvements in their business.
“Customers like technology and dealers need to be aware of this. The shift in the business will come from the end-user — it will force a different adoption of how and when customers get products and the market will follow that demand. The team market is ready for some disruption. Once a few dealers are successful, others will follow.”
The company began in 2008 as an automated ordering solution for a few of the top soccer dealers in the country. The goal was to improve the efficiency, effectiveness and accuracy of processing numerous, complex orders for large clubs and sports organizations via technology. Today, TUO enables 1500-plus team dealers, decorators, corporate apparel and promotional products providers to easily set up custom online stores for the teams and organizations they serve, while providing one-to-one ordering via advanced, proprietary roster-driven technology.
“Every individual receives a personal invite to shop, the products they choose can be customized just for them and the detail from every order is automatically captured, stored and easily accessible in customizable data formats that dealers can use to run every facet of their operations,” says CEO and managing director Gerry Brewer.
Dealers that are wary of the expense of heading online may be pleasantly surprised to learn that TUO provides no-cost start-up, and hence no risk.
“TUO is the only solution that does not layer on monthly fees or any start-up costs,” Brewer claims. The platform’s other benefits include simple online ordering that allows dealers to collect money upfront, along with roster-driven technology with the ability to offer different products to different shoppers all in the same online store. It will also send out personal invites to ensure that everyone receives access to the online stores.
The technology is also designed to reduce mistakes, over-ordering and questions surrounding custom orders; it helps enhance the client’s brand by providing services that customers are demanding; and it presents a new channel of growth as online ordering becomes the norm.
“On average, TUO launches more than 100 new features and enhancements each month. Many of these are driven by the collective users of TUO and the direct, open lines of communication we maintain with each and every client we serve,” says Brewer.
TUO’s recent new features include Corporate Stores for providers that serve large companies with corporate apparel and promo products, and Dynamic Reporting that enables each user to easily search, sort and analyze sales data and order information across multiple stores and time periods as well as set up custom reports for each online store.
Client Contact Integration with Email Software helps clients set up remarketing programs that leverage customer contact information generated from every online store, thus providing additional purchasing opportunities, including exclusive online stores.
TUO’s Dynamic Store Designs are mobile-responsive, allowing shoppers to place orders on any smartphone. Plus, every storefront can include multi-media animation, integration with Facebook and videos and other promotional/web-based content to enhance the shopping experience.
But despite these advances, changing technology in the team market will inevitably create some new hurdles. For instance, Brewer thinks that there will be an explosion of direct-to-team providers, as many in the industry perceive they can replace the local team dealer and do what they do better.
“There is a lot of money backing this belief,” he says. “This will require that every team dealer up their game and be ready to compete. Technology such as online ordering will be vital to the ability to sustain and compete. In turn, the technology providers with whom [dealers] chose to partner will become critical to the dealers’ long-term survival and success.”
Other looming challenges include consolidation on the vendor side, which places an emphasis on the importance of choosing the right partner, on differentiation among technology and software solutions and on speed of delivery from click to order delivered.
“Speed of delivery will require more automated solutions and deeper integration between the disparate shipping, customer service, fulfillment, accounting and other software dealers utilize,” Brewer says.
In the grand scheme, “We anticipate continued, explosive adoption of all things online,” Brewer says. For instance, online shopping is now the standard, generational shifts point to Millennials leading the demand to simplify everything using the latest and greatest that tech has to offer, and then there’s the fact that business is going mobile.
“In the past year, over 40 percent of all transactions completed on the TUO platform have been from a mobile phone,” he reports.
“TUO enables dealers to stay competitive as the industry continues to morph and change and as more direct-to-team providers emerge,” says Brewer. “The combination of having/offering the best online ordering technology available, coupled with each dealer’s passionate desire to deliver the best local, personal service experience there is, creates a sustainable advantage over other competitors and direct-to-team providers.”
A relatively new player in the group ordering space, Chipply was created by the management of Burghardt Sporting Goods, a Wisconsin-based team dealer.
“Necessity prompted Burghardt to launch into technology. It became apparent that there was a need for ourselves and other dealers,” says Lynn Burghardt, CEO of Chipply and a co-owner of Burghardt Sporting Goods. “Chipply relieves the bottlenecks and hassles of doing team business online. Our goal is to make building sites and fulfilling web orders so easy that it is the method of choice for all types of team orders. We give team dealers a tool that empowers them to grow their business.
“If you’re not doing team stores online yet, you should be — it keeps things local and adds efficiency,” she adds.
To this end, Chipply’s platform features built-in live inventory feeds from most vendors that are updated daily to help prevent back orders, automatic image creation allowing a quicker site build with a more robust offering, automated pricing to save time and improve accuracy and a robust fulfillment package. Additionally, Chipply’s five-minute store launch eliminates writing and spreadsheets. The technology’s efficiency, accuracy and reliability help users get a leg up on the competition while also maintaining the personal relationships that the team business is based on, according to Burghardt.
Going forward, Burghardt suggests that the biggest challenge will be to maintain up-to-date product information via data feeds through the supply chain down to the end user.
“Now that technology has largely been adopted by the team business, the next phase in the tech realm is optimization. We are currently at work on a new store type that will create an additional layer of optimization for the user,” she says.
For dealers looking to test the tech waters, often the biggest obstacle to making a change is change itself. “But it’s really not scary once you get started,” Burghardt says. “The look and feel [of the technology] has to fit into your business and enhance it, rather than totally change it. It’s important to improve what you do well to stay relevant.”
This TeamLinkt platform provides youth and adult rec sports team and league management tools. Through the platform, leagues, associations, clubs and schools can power and manage their websites, online registration, schedules, standings and communications via the TeamLinkt Team Management Smartphone App. The platform is free for leagues and teams – potentially saving them thousands of dollars in technology costs – through TeamLinkt’s team dealer/sporting goods store sponsor network.
“The TeamLinkt app directly connects players and parents to spiritwear apparel purchases and we have a built-in integration to OrderMyGear,” notes Jay Maharaj, co-founder of TeamLinkt. “We do not mark up online registration Visa/MasterCard processing fees like others do in the industry and we provide a high level of support to teams and leagues — this is one of our key differentiators. We have an average email response time of 45 minutes and offer live chat to league users.”
At present, TeamLinkt’s main competitors in the space include TeamSnap and Blue Sombrero, the latter of which was acquired by Dick’s Sporting Goods.
“TeamLinkt provides a direct channel to players and parents via in-app banner ads and the integration with OrderMyGear enables clients to market apparel directly to that audience via the TeamLinkt app. The technology also automates reminders of online apparel store closings.
“Youth sports leagues are quickly adopting technology to organize and communicate. There is a lot that can be done here — and keeping up in this space with live streaming, athlete evaluation data and more will be key,” says Maharaj.
Looking to 2020 and beyond, Maharaj expects some big shifts to occur in the tech-using team market. “How teams purchase equipment and apparel will change. With these team apps, you’ll be able to recommend equipment based on the user’s sport and age group and then allow purchasing with just a click,” he says. “Enabling teams to upload a logo and purchase branded softball shirts, for example, is becoming more common and allowing teams to do this through their team app and facilitate individual or group payments will be powerful.”
Maharaj is also noticing that fundraising is becoming increasingly important for teams and for this reason TeamLinkt has launched a pilot of “team fundraising” where teams can shop to earn a credit at their local (TeamLinkt sponsor) sporting goods store and then aggregate and use that credit for year-end team purchases.