of merchandise orders attributable to WhatsApp over one season
fold increase in sales attributable to WhatsApp over 2.5 months
order-to-visit ratio over one season
of first-party data collected through WhatsApp in 5 months
Transform society through cricket; transform cricket through innovation
Based in Jaipur, the Royals are one of the founding franchises of the Indian Premier League (IPL), which is now the second most valuable sports league in the world (on a per game basis). The 2022 season recorded a cumulative viewership of 528 million people, giving the 2022 season the highest viewership ever. Rajasthan Royals is the inaugural champion of 2008 season, finalists in 2022, and is known for harnessing the youth potential to shape the future of Indian cricket.
Exciting fans on and off the field
Rajasthan Royals (RR) wanted to create interactive, personalized fan-led experiences throughout the season. To keep their fan base engaged, a series of community building initiatives were planned with a strong focus to drive merchandise sales – the team needed an effective communications channel that could facilitate frictionless online shopping.
A game-changing virtual assistant
Cricket fans have watched their favorite teams take the field for centuries. As a popular team in the Indian Premier League, the Rajasthan Royals (RR) give modern-day fans that old thrill of watching players score big. However, the team wanted to spark excitement among its loyal fanbase by providing more interactive, personalized fan-led experiences beyond big moments like a match.
The global popularity of cricket means that fans of the franchise are worldwide, requiring RR to develop a holistic digital engagement strategy. Initially, the team connected with fans and promoted its merchandise through social media, email, SMS, and its owned platforms - website and app – but these channels supported more limited, often one-sided interactions. To hold fans’ interest beyond attending a match or receiving an email blast, the team needed a more efficient, interactive way to engage them.
Since RR observed that WhatsApp is widely used among fans around the world, the team partnered with conversational messaging platform Gupshup and omni-channel marketing automation platform Factoreal to develop a virtual assistant through the WhatsApp Business Platform.
Once fans are connected to the team’s WhatsApp, they’re greeted by menu options inviting them to experience the Royals brand by watching exclusive content, play games, quizzes, interact with players, engage with fellow fans through the Royals fan lounge or Royals Chat room, earn Royal Coins (part of the fan reward and loyalty program), and encourage them to purchase RR merchandise.
“Fans are excited by the interactive experiences we can offer in WhatsApp, driving a threefold increase in engagement compared to text messages and a sevenfold increase over email,” says Zameer Kochar, Chief Marketing Officer. “The volume of fans connecting over WhatsApp drives high participation in our contests and campaigns, while contributing to 60 percent of first-party data growth in only five months.”
Multi-product messaging enables fans to shop for merchandise in WhatsApp
Online contests increase fan engagement and merchandise sales
RR can segment fans based on how frequently they use WhatsApp and target them with relevant notifications – from updates about individual players to community initiatives and contests – to keep them active and engaged in the RR community.
“RR saw the immediacy of WhatsApp to encourage more fan connections and wanted to create special promotions for fans,” explains Beerud Sheth, Co-founder and CEO, Gupshup. “Revealing the season’s jersey and other new merchandise in the catalog are major events for cricket fans, so RR became one of the first global sports franchise teams to leverage WhatsApp in driving merchandise sales.”
RR actively promoted its WhatsApp business account number across its social media platforms, encouraging fans to “come say hi.” The virtual assistant responded to hello messages, providing fans with the option to browse from the merchandise catalog on WhatsApp. With the multi-product feature in WhatsApp, RR can connect merchandise in its online catalog with WhatsApp, enabling fans to add their preferred size and style of jersey to their cart. Once a customer has made their pick, RR sends a payment link in WhatsApp that routes directly to the team’s website to complete their order.
“In one season, half of our total orders came from WhatsApp, and we doubled our order-per-visit ratio,” says Kochar. “Connecting with our fans over WhatsApp has driven a significant revenue increase. Within just two and a half months of adopting WhatsApp, we saw over four times the sales than the entire previous year.”
When customers respond to a campaign directing them to the online catalog in WhatsApp, they’re already receptive to making a purchase. As the process becomes faster and easier, customers are encouraged to shop directly through RR instead of going to outside vendors.
Inspired by its success in building fan relationships and increasing sales, the team is looking to add ticket sales and other fan engagement opportunities through WhatsApp. As the team prepares to hit the road for its latest season, RR uses geo-location and calendaring features within WhatsApp to target fans in different regions and its priority markets like Rajasthan and Kerala, to name a few.
“Exploring the full potential of all we can achieve in WhatsApp allows us to change the game on and off the field,” says Kochar.
Increased sales and orders
A virtual assistant developed by Factoreal enables the Royals to engage fans more consistently while creating seamless shopping experiences that increase merchandise orders and drive revenue from sales.
- 50% of merchandise orders attributable to WhatsApp over one season
- 4-fold increase in sales attributable to WhatsApp over 2.5 months
- 2x order to visit ratio over one season
- 60% of first party data collected through WhatsApp in 5 months
“Fans are excited by the interactive experiences we can offer in WhatsApp, driving a threefold increase in engagement compared to text messages and a sevenfold increase over email. The volume of fans connecting over WhatsApp drives high participation in our contests and campaigns, while contributing to 60 percent of the first-party data growth we saw in only five months.”