The Western Bulldogs built an online marketplace to create a community hub for their fans and sponsors. However, the onset of COVID-19 also presented a unique opportunity to use the site to support local businesses in the west as well.
For Simon McNamara, Head of Innovation and Commercial Projects at The Western Bulldogs, the Bulldogs Marketplace was always going to be a unique project.
Whereas traditionally Marketplacer had worked in a predominantly retail sector, here was an AFL club wanting an online platform to further bond its family, support its community, and create additional sales opportunities for all.
“We’re a united family with a very strong sense of loyalty and community. Our marketplace was a chance to give back to those who support us,” explains Simon.
Rather than bringing together a cluster of businesses from a single sector, The Western Bulldogs were looking to integrate partners from multiple industries and of diverse size (from local Western suburbs businesses to global brands). The first step was therefore communicating the concept; whereas some parties were already familiar with marketplaces, others required a complete introduction.
Secondly, and more significantly, was the highly technical aspect of incorporating such an eclectic group of brands. Marketplacer would be required to plug in retailers with an existing and sophisticated multi-channel online presence, whilst also onboarding partners with only very basic eCommerce existence, if any at all.
“Every time I met with the Marketplacer team, my head would spin at the level of complexity they would cut through and simplify for us. We’re not talking about an instant plug-in with 60 fashion brands. This is a single platform that has to seamlessly work with potentially over 1,000 individual businesses. It must integrate with each of their existing online streams so as to make their lives easier, not more difficult,” continues Simon.
These complex considerations extended into other areas, such as working with individual brand style guides and disparate approval processes.
Mitigating the Challenges
Communication and planning were fundamental to the successful build. It fell on Marketplacer to provide detailed timelines so that Simon and his team had adequate room to brief partners, allow for feedback, and provide generous deadlines. Simon was also keen to become familiar with the build, requesting that Marketplacer onboard him so he could initiate much of the key stakeholder interfacing directly.
Return on Investment
Only a week into launch and Simon is satisfied the Bulldogs Marketplace will become a significant revenue stream for the club and its key stakeholders. He is confident it will evolve into a virtual but authentic link between coteries, camaraderie and culture. Moreover, it is providing excellent intel into customer behaviour.
“The measurable data we can already access is giving us some incredible insights into our marketplace customer. This alone will be enormously valuable to partners on the platform. It will help to inform, for example, their advertising strategy or even their stock orders,” says Simon.
Simon can see this is just the beginning.
“We haven’t really even touched the sides just yet. The potential is incredible. Consider, for example, the marketplace’s ticketing capacity. Clients, for example, might wish to sell holiday packages. Our club could sell access to special events. The scope is infinite, and that’s what really gets me excited. We can take this in any direction we want – Marketplacer’s technology capability means we’re not held back on a leash.”
According to Simon, the AFL is now watching this project closely, as are elite sporting clubs overseas. This project has demonstrated that online marketplaces don’t need to be confined to the retail sector.
“We’re proud to be the first sporting club to pioneer this technology. We’re not only doing something that is genuinely a first for the sports sector, but we’re giving our key stakeholders a competitive financial edge. We’re helping our family grow and be as strong as they can. Providing that kind of value is very rewarding to the club.”
Have you identified a marketplace opportunity?
Whether you believe your existing business model is ripe for an online marketplace, or like the Western Bulldogs you’ve identified a potential opportunity, touch base with us. Our team is currently working on some of the most ambitious online marketplaces in the world, and we can offer you sound initial advice. We’d love to hear from you.