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Bobbie Ttooulis | Making sure sports brands deliver on online sales

Bobbie Ttooulis, executive director of shipping and e-commerce delivery company, Global Freight Solutions, says sports merchandising needs careful management at peak sales periods, like kit launches and Christmas.

Photo: Bobbie Ttoolis

Online sales of sports merchandise have enjoyed a steady growth over the past few years, aided by an increasingly global audience of sports enthusiasts. The Covid-19 pandemic has only added to this trend, pushing more shoppers than ever to buy online. This surge in online sales means that delivery and returns services have become more key to consumers – and as Christmas approaches, this takes on an added importance.

As a logistics industry insider working for a brand that provides online store distribution for a major Premier League football club, I understand that flexibility and choice are top of the list of consumer’s delivery and returns priorities – whether it be nominated day delivery, deferred delivery, click and collect, or (for the mega-fan) same day delivery. 

Loyal fans will be eagerly awaiting new kit launches, ready to place an order as soon as it is released. But here’s the thing – managing such peaks in demand can be a real challenge for both the major and smaller league sports clubs, many of whom often struggle with legacy technology. Based on my experience, these are three key considerations:

  • Integrating data capture

Integrating data capture as part of your technology solution is one way to better prepare. Having a more comprehensive view of parcel volumes, queries and carrier performance means you can easily identify bottlenecks and resolve any issues quickly. Visibility over the supply chain also helps you put contingency plans in place for peak periods when disruptions can occur.

Kit launches or Christmas sales also mean a lot of sales at one time, and any issues with carrier capacity could cause delays and unhappy customers. Make sure you have the backup in place to ensure you can easily switch carriers and make changes to the process. 

Increasing visibility around your orders can also help when it comes to returns too, which are just as important to consumers. Having an overarching view of your shipments will give you a better handle on what is being returned and why so you can provide your customers with the status of their return. This will cut back on queries, and prevent customers feeling like they have been forgotten which may encourage them to buy from you again.

  • Smooth international deliveries

For global sport brands, if you have international deliveries and returns for brands these are generally more complex and time consuming. Managing multiple international carriers and wide-ranging consumer expectations are just two factors which make global sales more challenging. With the former, it can help having just one trusted provider .

With the latter, payment of duties and taxes remain the number one headache for businesses and consumers alike (and in the UK, these will only get worse with Brexit). 

In fact, 68-per-cent of international consumers now check whether they have any additional fees to pay before purchasing an item. Whether you decide to include duty payments in the customer’s order, or give the customer the choice to pay now or on delivery – outlining the true cost at the outset is essential in reassuring customers they will get no nasty surprises. 

  • Delivery and returns 

Establishing a relationship with a multi-carrier can help you. The Premier League club we work with has benefitted from their use of multi-carrier management and smart technology. Before this, they were managing multiple carriers themselves. This was piling additional pressure on their operations, especially considering their growing international fan base.

By introducing multi-carrier management which integrates delivery management with smart technology to provide practical logistics support, the club has increased parcel volumes by over 600-per-cent the past eight years, and now expects their sales of merchandise to be up by a staggering 50 per cent this year.

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