Making the lives of race directors easier, one registration at a time
Just as in every other industry, analytics and data are playing an increasing role in the running industry, whether that be how races acquire and retain runners or how race organizers make business decisions.
We recently caught up with RunSignUp founder and CEO Bob Bickel, who's breaks down the company's new RaceInsights platform - the tool's tagline is 'Analytics for Race Directors', how data is impacting the sport, the importance of mobile, the push to become more social and much, much more. If you want to understand how technology is shaping the industry, this is a must-read.
Running USA (RUSA): It’s an exciting time for RunSignUp. You recently launched a new analytics platform. Can you tell us a little bit about it?
Bob Bickel (BB): RaceInsights is an intelligence tool built for races. It captures the true ROI of marketing a race, with drill-down reports and year-over-year analytics. The Analytics Engine tracks and attributes every click on a race’s website, giving race directors insight into the source of page views (such as Facebook, search engines, emails, etc.) and how those sources convert to registrations and transactions. Think of it like Google Analytics without the extraneous noise – built just for races and events, and generating reports that are clear and actionable.
RUSA: How long has your new product been in the works? What sort of feedback from race directors went into its creation?
BB: We first envisioned the product and started brainstorming the possibilities years ago; the development team has been building it since early 2017. We took a lot of cues from our race directors – in this tightening market, promotion is a huge focus for the industry. Two pieces of feedback were particularly valuable:
- Some of our larger races, such as the Pittsburgh Marathon, Silicon Valley Turkey Trot, and The Crim, as well as large race series like Night Nation Run, Sour Fish Events, and Healthy Kids, have provided us with a lot of insight into how they use marketing campaigns and what would make those efforts more automated to implement, and more transparent to evaluate. They’re already using Facebook advertising, Google Analytics, and high level marketing strategies, but it’s time consuming to try to consolidate all their data and determine their ROI.
- At the same time, a lot of our smaller, community 5K’s express a lot of frustration about marketing – they’re unsure where to start and how to know what’s working, and they’re operating with limited volunteer time. They need all their data in one place, and they need to be able to make decisions about what’s working quickly and efficiently.
RUSA: Clearly analytics and data are key to any business these days. How specifically can race directors use this new collection of data to retain and attract new runners?
BB: Creating reports that are actionable, not just eye candy, was a top priority for RaceInsights. Because they track the sources of website traffic, registrations, and transaction dollars, race directors can clearly understand the correlation between their Facebook ads, email marketing campaigns, partnerships, etc., and the traffic and conversions on their site. This allows them to optimize revenue by scaling successful campaigns and dropping unsuccessful ones.
Additionally, the reports contain demographic data and retention data. We track new participants versus repeat participants so that races can target past participants who have not registered for an upcoming event with a specific Facebook ad, email blast, or coupon code.
RUSA: RunSignUp has grown substantially over the past few years. Outside of your new product, where are you focusing your attention over the next 8-16 months?
BB: We’ve been putting a lot of focus on our site’s user experience, from both the perspective of race directors and participants. While we are updating the entire user experience, a key effort is being placed on making all of the underlying data more valuable to race directors. Like Salesforce, we are a CRM built for races - and races need many ways to view their data and take actions that benefit their participants.
We will also roll out a fresh design for the 15,000 races who use RunSignUp as their race website. A key feature is that races will be able to have their own race domain URL - such as MyRace.com instead of RunSignUp.com/MyRace.
Beyond that, we’re really excited about RaceDay Scoring, our new next-generation scoring software that is currently in alpha. It will eventually replace our timing software, The Race Director, that timers use to provide results to over 8 million finishers per year.
RUSA: You work with thousands of events. With finisher numbers flat or declining for many races, what observations do you have towards the races that are growing? What might they be doing differently?
BB: From a promotional standpoint, events that are succeeding are learning to harness the power of social running with social media ads targeted to the people who are most likely to sign up for their event (we have some new tools to help race directors create Facebook Custom Audiences!), as well as aggressive referral campaigns that reward runners for encouraging their family and friends to sign up.
For races that are feeling stagnant, it’s also important to think about new events or new twists that can expand your potential participant base. Adding a new distance, a fun run, or a quirky element can help reach new audiences that are more focused on fun than results.
RUSA: RunSignUp focuses a lot on mobile. From that perspective, how should race directors be focusing their attention from a mobile perspective?
BB: Mobile is SO important - more than half of the traffic to our site comes from mobile phones (56.4%), with another 6.4% from tablets, meaning only 37.2% of our traffic comes from a traditional computer. Conversion rates on mobile are still lower, which means we need to make things even easier and better. As part of our User Experience efforts mentioned earlier, we just released a whole new registration flow aimed at improving mobile conversions. And of course races can give returning runners a 1-Click experience for registration if they want to.
RUSA: For small race directors, who are short on time eand doing pretty much everything for their events, what are one or two core pieces of data they should be looking at above all else?
BB: Run a quick test to see what’s most successful for your event. Setup an email blast and a Facebook ad (build custom audiences from our targeted reports) to run at the same time, and then use the pageview, registration, and transaction reports to see which source is most consistently sending you traffic and creating conversions. If you don’t have time to do it all, this can help you assess where you should focus your attention.
RUSA: For the industry, what do you see as the next technology, whether that be in registration, data, race management or another area?
BB: As an industry, we’re moving away from stand-alone registration, into an era where a single platform can manage all elements of your race – promotion, fundraising, sponsors, volunteers, registration, and race day (with results, notifications, GPS tracking, free photos and social sharing). Part of the reason for this is centered around data: building a single database with all your important contacts allows a race to efficiently move throughout the phases of their event and maintain communication with participants, potential participants, partners, fundraisers, and more - year after year.