Recently, I visited a Destination Maternity (the self-proclaimed “ultimate maternity superstore”) and experienced the following:

  • Upon arrival, my husband and I were greeted by a staffer who – when told it was my first DM visit – quickly explained the store’s layout in casual terms (basically “fancy stuff in the front, normal stuff in the back”) and then left us alone to shop.
  • When it was time for me to try a few things on, another associate led me to a fitting room and wrote my name on a card by the entrance; after that, every associate I encountered addressed me by name.
  • In the fitting room, I found multiple (full size) containers of balms and creams with labels encouraging me to use them during my ‘stay’. (Note for all non-pregnant readers: yes, in some situations, that would be… really strange. However, such products are often in high demand by expectant mothers.)
  • While I tried on my garments, my husband waited in what was definitely designed to be a husband-friendly rest area, complete with leather chairs and a big screen TV broadcasting the Big East Tournament.
  • At the register, I was given a gift bag (including some fairly valuable vouchers and coupons), and my husband and I were both offered free juice and bottled water for the road.

Though Destination Maternity is certainly a nice store, it’s not what I’d consider a high-end boutique… and my husband and I definitely didn’t look like high-end shoppers when we walked in the door. We ultimately ended up spending maybe $50 on a total of 3 items; yet, we were treated with deference and courtesy (and given just the right amount of attention and pampering) from the moment we entered the store to the moment we left. Suffice it to say, the experience left us feeling very positive about DM, and extremely likely to return.

What can sports and entertainment properties take from this example? Obviously, a game day environment (in which tens of thousands of customers are walking through the gates during a brief window of time) isn’t exactly the same as a standard retail experience (where the ratio of staff-to-customers may be 1:10 at most). However, some of the concepts employed at DM are applicable to sports/live events, including:

  • Courtesy: A little courtesy goes a long way. Even though your ushers, ticket takers, concessions employees, etc. can’t be expected to have a conversation with every customer they encounter, they should always make a point to make eye contact, say hello and be prepared to answer questions simply and politely.
  • Comfort: Does your facility have enough basic comforts to keep your customers happy? Plentiful (and clean) water fountains, trash cans and ATMs; comfortable concourse benches/seats; and spacious, well-stocked rest rooms make a difference. The less time a customer has to spend hunting down a place to throw out a cheesesteak wrapper or making the best of a cramped, messy restroom stall, the more time he or she has to engage with your product.
  • Personalization: It goes without saying that suite and luxury seat attendants should do everything possible to know the names (and preferences) of those they serve, but thanks to current technology, teams can now employ a similar level of personalization for all fans. Use a CRM system to track your customers’ birthdays, favorite players, concessions preferences and more. Then, put that information to use in person and via email/text-based offers. The more personalized your approach, the more valued your customers will feel.
  • Non-Fan Amenities: Let’s face it – not everyone who attends your events is doing so by choice. Have activities and areas available for those who may not be 100% captivated by the game action (a play area for kids, a public lounge/bar, an area to walk around away from the game action, etc.). This will keep your non-fan guests happy, which will in turn please your ticket buyers.
  • Samples/Freebies: Everyone likes getting something for nothing. Amp up your quantity of in-park food giveaways (free pizza for a particular section, complimentary waters for bleacher seat fans, etc.), and devote several staff members to full-time sampling on the concourse. Giving out hundreds (or even thousands) of pretzel bites, Cracker Jack cups or water ice samples over the course of a game will engender enough goodwill to more than make up for the related cost outlays.