- The Los Angeles Football Club (LAFC), one of the city's Major League Soccer teams, now lets iPhone users order food and drinks ahead of time at Banc of California Stadium, per an announcement shared with Mobile Marketer. The team partnered with artificial intelligence (AI) developer Satisfi Labs to create the system for Apple Business Chat, the tech giant's platform for business-to-consumer (B2C) messaging.
- Olly, the soccer team’s virtual assistant developed by Satisfi, is now equipped to handle ordering and payment through Apple's Messages app. By scanning QR codes in the stadium with an iPhone, a conversation with Olly will open in Messages that lets attendees place an order for pickup from concession stands.
- Olly uses Satisfi's AI-powered Knowledge Management Platform and previously was only available in the LAFC app. LAFC is the first MLS team to use Apple Business Chat for conversational commerce.
The LAFC’s chat-based food ordering is notable for expanding the capabilities of its Olly virtual assistant to conversational commerce on iPhones. The integration with Apple Business Chat extends Olly's features beyond the LAFC mobile app to Apple's Messages app, giving the team another way to connect with fans and to make the stadium experience more convenient for attendees of home games.
By letting fans order ahead for food and drinks, the LAFC has an opportunity to boost concession sales and improve customer service. Long lines deter 42% of U.S. sports fans from buying food or beverage concessions at sporting events, according to a 2016 study by Oracle Hospitality and Turnkey Intelligence. Meanwhile, game attendance for professional sports has declined in the past decade as fans find more convenient and less expensive ways to watch their favorite teams and players, making improvements to the stadium experience imperative to filling seats.
The LAFC’s ordering and payment service likely will help introduce more people to Apple Business Chat, which arrived last year with the rollout of Apple's iOS 11.3 software update. Business Chat lets Apple users connect to businesses through its Messages app that comes preinstalled on millions of iPhones, iPads and Apple Watches. Companies including 1-800-Flowers, Discover, Hilton, The Home Depot, Lowe's, Marriott and Wells Fargo were among the brands to first offer Business Chat. Apple last month expanded Business Chat to work with online stores that rely on Shopify for their e-commerce technology, a move that should expand adoption among merchants. Business Chat always gives customers a way to reach a live person and gives them control of the information they share with businesses.
Conversational commerce is forecast to grow rapidly as consumers become more comfortable with chat ordering and payment. Retail sales from chatbot-based interactions will almost double every year to $112 billion by 2023 from $7.3 billion this year, per a recent estimate. However, other surveys show mixed attitudes among consumers about texting with businesses, indicating that B2C messaging is in the early stages of consumer adoption. Fifty-seven percent of consumers said they prefer phone calls over other forms of electronic communications when contacting local businesses, one survey found. A separate study discovered that 56% of consumers and 53% of small-business owners want to text with each other more often, supporting growth in conversational commerce.
The LAFC is among the sports organizations that are integrating mobile-based technologies into the stadium experience to appeal to the many fans who bring their smartphones to games. Mobile apps are transforming phones into all-in-one devices that provide services like parking information, paperless ticketing, wayfinding through stadiums, food ordering and real-time data about players and teams. The Washington Nationals this year added mobile ordering and payment to the Caviar app, giving attendees of its home games a chance to buy foods and drinks for pickup from concession stands. The Cleveland Cavaliers partnered with food and beverage vendor Aramark on a similar test program at Quicken Loans Arena. Citizens Bank Park last year worked with Aramark on a test program that let Philadelphia Phillies fans order beer or water using Apple Business Chat.