MARK SCHNEIDER did not hesitate, not even to take a breath, when asked what is the biggest challenge he has faced since becoming US Ski and Snowboard Chief Technology Officer in June 2018. Speaking ahead of the Digital Transformation in Sports Summit on January 29-30 in San Francisco he said
"The biggest challenge was that all the data there had been siloed over a large number of years," he replied.
"One of the things that we've been doing for the last nine months is breaking those silos down and creating a shared marketing cloud."
Basically, what Schneider started with was the data sharing equivalent of an untouched dot-to-dot drawing. A page full of big individual dots that nobody had connected together to reveal the bigger picture.
Different departments, individual stores and events were collecting data on and storing it on their own databases meaning these insights on fans and customers were not being shared across the organization.
Schneider clarified: "Yeah, that's exactly right. So the foundation had their data in Salesforce
"The membership group had their data in a Microsoft SQL Server System.
"The fan base was really not stored anywhere beyond our property called Nastar, which is recreational racing. That database was in its own system.
"And then everybody who had purchased through our online stores, everything was in each store system.
"So one of the first things we did was break down that and bring everything in and dedupe the data.
"We paid a company by the name of BigDBM, who is a great partner of ours, that helped us normalise all the addresses, emails, telephone numbers.
"We've discovered through them a number of attributes about those people, you know, whether they had children, the age of their children, whether they were likely to contribute online, experience type data from them.
"And that allowed us to segment our data go after specific segments instead of just blasting every single person for every lead that we had. Segmentation was a big bonus for us."
In terms of the work that needs to be done to take the project over the finishing line, Schneider and his small team are still riding the ski lift up the mountain, but there has already been some big wins.
Schneider revealed: "From the shared marketing cloud we've seen some really immediate success in our in our ability to raise money and bring people into events.
"One of those examples would be, in our foundation, we sell a lift pass that's about $12,000. The ticket gives you lift access to more than 250 resorts in the US to ski.
"They're very limited. We have about 450 of those tickets but in normal years we have had difficulty selling them out.
"By using our unified database that took data from membership and from our foundation and from our fans and every other touch point and put it together with a $20,000 investment, we were able to sell over 100 of these Gold Passes. We're sold out and we're pre-selling for upcoming years.
"So I think that that shows that by unifying your data and segmenting properly, you can see immediate returns."
Schneider will be part of a panel of speakers discussing how to turn data into revenue at the Digital Transformation in Sport Summit in San Francisco in January, where he will draw upon his ongoing experience with US Ski and Snowboard as well as previous roles with Red Bull USA and Cincinnati-based startup Zipscene, which specialises in understanding and predicting consumer-dining behaviour through deep learning and artificial intelligence on the Amazon Web Services and Google Cloud Platform.
The use of deep learning and AI to better understand and predict consumerbehavior will also be high on the agenda in San Francisco.
Schneider was able to use his experiences of working for organisations with different reach, goals and cultures to confirm that "any company of any size can do this."
He added: "At Red Bull we had an expert team and partners, the top tools.
"At the start up it was all open source. Frankly, we re-wrote the neural network open source FANN library to our needs.
So just how does Schneider go about finding that sweet spot.
He said: "What I have been successful with is using a dashboarding tool called DOMO.
"What I do is pull the data onto the dashboard and then I just build a whole series of graphs and probabilities of finding out what people who have certain results have in common.
"So if I'm looking at people who buy $120 ski jackets from us, I can put those people in and find what they all have in common.
"We have about 200 fields that we have access to, so it can be anything from income to the number of children, to gender, to their preferences on different sports.
"And then we know who to market to."
To hear more from Micheal and for more information on the Digital Transformation in Sports Summit visit https://digital-transformation-sports.com/default.asp