In this edition of Don’t Look Back, we go back to speak to the CEO of Just Play, David Argyle, who gave us his perspective on how his company handled the pandemic and the state of play.
They’re one of the Australian sports companies who is becoming a leader in the ‘Digitisation of Australian sports’ and as sports resume in Australia his company is positioned to serve the needs of a public that is engaging in activity again.
Being so dependent on indoor venues, outdoor activity and sports, how did Just Play handle the pandemic?
David Argyle: “From mid-March to early April it was pretty scary and then we began to feel increasingly optimistic. For the first time since we launched Just Play in 2013 we’ve been able to just stop and really question: ‘What are we doing? Why are we doing it? Who are we doing it for? How can we be better?’ As a result of this break we’re going to be much better on the other side of this in terms of the service we’re providing our customers and how we run our business. Having six to ten weeks to just stop everything, take stock and do some planning has been an incredible experience. There are lots of examples of improvements we’ve been able to make, like our sales and marketing team rewriting every single email communication we send our players and potential players (all 54 of them).
“Getting our onboarding right, explaining our product, that acquisition process is only one part of it, our operations team gets to stop and look at the business. As community and recreational sport comes back, I am thankful for this time as it’s going to set us up for the next couple of years.”
You’ve spent the last few months inwardly looking at the business, how will you retool, relaunch Just Play back out into the market? Considering how much hunger there is for people to play sports again.
DA: “I think for us we just had a chance to improve our processes internally during shutdown so that as soon as things are coming back so we can switch our focus to the external, for the player. What we’ve always been about, and our point of difference, is everything that we do is about that individual experience of looking for a way to play sport and us making it easy, accessible and inclusive.
“What that means in reality is, how do we from that first point of contact make people feel even more welcome? How do we better give them an understanding of our product, operations and support? And what do they need to do to have a really enjoyable time playing as part of a Just Play team, which might be as simple as updating their RSVP if they can’t attend a game. So it’s actually giving a better overview of what we do, onboarding people much better and making people understand that we’re there to support them when they need it.
“For us, it’s just been a chance to go, ‘what is this all about?’ Success or failure comes down to delivering a great experience to every single person that signs up and plays sport with us. That’s been our number one takeaway from this, really thinking about how we spend more time and attention on every individual’s experience. We want to spend more time on building community and making people understand they’re part of something bigger and giving people that opportunity to contribute in whatever way they can to be a part of it.”
What are your thoughts on how people will engage in sports, community sports?
DA: “I believe that not being able to do something crystallises the value of it in people’s lives. Hopefully people feel that being part of a team and playing a game is something people deeply value and enjoy and as a result will be keen to get back into activity as soon as it is safe to do so.
“What I’ve been hearing and this is not anywhere near enough of a sample size, just my personal network, is that one of the things people are missing the most is playing their weekly social game of sport. It is getting out there with friends, with their community and having that social outlet to catch up with people and be able to compete
“So what I’m really hopeful will be the outcome is that people will realise how much they value this as part of their lives and will be one of the things that people are very quick to go back to. For community sports, you’re gonna see people come back with a renewed energy, purpose and excitement.”
How do you think we’ll go over the coming six months or so? You’re optimistic, and for good reason as well.
DA: “I think when you’re in the middle of something, and we’ve never experienced a pandemic like this before, but when you’re in the middle of it, it feels like it will never end. Then very quickly it ends and people go back to a pretty close version of what they were doing before. I think the first month or two is very hard to read, there will be some people who are feeling very cautious but if you go to the local park or courts it’s amazing to see people just out there running their own games and activities.
“Seeing people out and about is reason for optimism and the reason being is that there is a pent up demand because we haven’t been allowed to play for months. We have over 40,000 members on our platform and when sports comes back, we’re going to send them all an email and a notification to say, ‘hey, you can play again!’ That’s going to be great.”