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Fantasy Sports Online


In March of this year I had the unlikely pleasure of speaking about online trends at the Fantasy Sports Trade Association (FSTA) conference in Las Vegas. I've never been a professional sports fan, much less a fantasy sports player, but the enthusiasm of the FSTA members and passion for their industry impressed me, and I found my commonality with the group was a love of data. While fantasy sports players pore over draft picks and player statistics, I look at data on what our sample of 10 million U.S. internet users is doing online every day, and one of those things is playing fantasy sports.

Fantasy sports is a quietly growing industry filled with passionate sports fans who value a true connection with their customers. Following is a summary of learnings from the conference that might surprise those unfamiliar with fantasy sports.

Dr. Kim Beason, professor at the University of Mississippi, presented findings of an annual survey of fantasy sports players. From this survey, it was estimated that the fantasy sports industry generates $1.5 billion in revenue per year, and has 15 million total consumers. The industry has been growing at a rate of between seven and 10 percent per year for the last three years. The majority of fantasy sports players belong to online leagues, which I'll get to shortly.

According to Dr. Beason's survey, the typical active fantasy sports player is a married, educated suburban male homeowner in his late 30s. Hitwise demographic data show that 55 percent of visitors to fantasy sports sites have household incomes greater than $60,000 per year, and according to Dr. Beason's survey, they spend $493 per year on fantasy sports.

Dr. Beason's survey also revealed that the active players have been playing for nine or more years, and are likely to be in two sport leagues, and more than one league per sport. They spend about three hours per week managing their teams, and an average of 34 minutes per day "thinking" about fantasy sports. Additionally, 55 percent of those surveyed say that they watch more sports on TV because of their involvement in fantasy sports leagues, and they are much more likely to go to professional sports games than the average American.

Clearly the fantasy sports player is highly involved in this leisure activity, and data show that players value the camaraderie they gain from participating in fantasy sports leagues. Forty percent of Dr. Beason's survey respondents agreed with the statement "fantasy sport participation increases the camaraderie among employees at my workplace," and 57 percent agreed with the statement "I talk to other employees about fantasy sports during my lunch/supper breaks." While some may see this as a drain on productivity, the connections its helps foster almost certainly enhance communication in the workplace.

Hitwise data show that the fall football season is by far the busiest time for fantasy sports online, with visits to the category increasing by 78 percent from August to September 2005. The chart below demonstrates this large increase, as well in the smaller increases in March, during the NCAA basketball tournament, and in early April at the start of baseball season. To give an idea of magnitude, for the week ending May 5, 2006 visits to the Fantasy Sports category accounted for 0.27 percent of all internet visits, slightly more than visits to the Aviation - Commercial Airlines category, which accounted for 0.24 percent of internet visits in that period.

The fantasy sports category is top-heavy, with the top 10 sites accounting for 88 percent of category visits in the week ending May 6, 2006. Yahoo! Fantasy Sports, CBS Sportsline and ESPN Fantasy games lead the pack, but there's still room for 190 more sites within the category to compete for market share.

Hitwise data also demonstrate the high level of involvement of the fantasy sports player; the average session time for a visit to the category was 11 minutes one second for the week ending May 6, 2006, 38 percent greater than the average sports category visit at seven minutes 59 seconds. According to Hitwise clickstream data, 74 percent of Fantasy Sports category downstream visits went to other sites in the Sports category. Is it possible that the 34 minutes per day "thinking" about fantasy sports is actually occurring online?

The online fantasy sports industry, with its high involvement levels and strong male demographic, is an important one to be aware of in considering online advertising opportunities. As mentioned above, fantasy sports players tend to discuss sports with colleagues, and with increasing attention paid to the influence of word of mouth, reaching those talkative men could be a good way to generate interest in your products.

More information about this topic and other online trends is available through LeeAnn Prescott's blog.

Hitwise is the world's leading online competitive intelligence service. Each day, Hitwise monitors how more than 25 million internet users interact with over 500,000 websites across 160 industry categories. By monitoring more people, more websites, more often, Hitwise provides marketers with timely and actionable marketing insights on how their online presence compares to competitive websites. Companies use this information to maximize the return on their online investment, in efforts such as search marketing, affiliate programs, online advertising, visitor segmentation, content development and lead generation. Hitwise collects internet usage information via a combination of ISP data partnerships and opt-in mega panels, and complies with local and international privacy legislation as audited by PricewaterhouseCoopers. Founded in 1997, Hitwise is a privately held company, headquartered in New York City and operates in the United States, UK, Australia, New Zealand, Hong Kong and Singapore.  More information about Hitwise is available at www.hitwise.com

LeeAnn Prescott is senior research analyst, Hitwise. Read full bio. 

Autocomplete involves a website predicting a word or phrase that the customer wants to type in without actually typing it in completely. This feature works best when the website can predict how the customer may finish a word. Email addresses, city names, airports, tags and salutations are all good targets.

To implement successfully, the autocomplete results should come up after typing a minimum of three characters, be keyboard-navigable and mouse-hover enabled. Most of the time, autocomplete is used to aid in completing a single form field, but on Bestwestern.com, when customers select an option, it completes not only the city field, but also the state and country. This is particularly convenient for customers, given that addresses are often long and difficult to type correctly.

Autocomplete can be easily added to your site if you haven't already.

Consider for a moment: How else can you make data entry on your site quicker?

The only complex part is determining what data to return to the customer as he or she is typing. If you have a search feature on your website, compile a list of most used searched terms and start from there.

While it's common to go into an "edit mode" to adjust data, edit-in-place allows customers to perform quick, simple edits simply by clicking the text to be edited. By keeping the customer in the same context and letting their mouse clicks switch between "view mode" and "edit mode" at will, they'll get things done quickly and get less frustrated about wasted time. Flickr.com is well-known for its edit-in-place titles and descriptions for any photo you've uploaded. A good best practice to follow is a hover state affordance: the editable area highlights in pale yellow and a "click to edit" tooltip appears.

If you run an e-commerce business, think about using this technique in a shopping cart -- the prices instantly update when you change a quantity or the shipping ZIP code.

A carousel enables you to feature plenty of content in a small space. Pictures are often used in a carousel, but recipes, new blurbs, or categories of links are all appropriate. Amazon.com uses a carousel to feature personalized product recommendations. By using the paddles on the side, customers can browse from side-to-side to what they want to focus on.

Keep in mind that many visitors may not ever see the items that are out of view, so don't use this space for critical information. A subtle sliding animation can help customers understand the widget, as well as give them a peek at the items to the side of the current view.

Does your site have a large set of content to show but not enough space to show all items at once? If so, this is a natural place where a carousel can be used to create a unique experience.

A modal pop-up is a window created within the page that instantly displays and centers content and establishes focus. Modal pop-ups can be useful for image zooming, watching video or asking for login credentials, like in the example below from TextLinkAds.com.

Other sites like NikonUSA.com are using a modal pop-up in the form of a "lightbox" to show the full-size image when a thumbnail is clicked.

This technique makes interaction speedy but may confuse your customers if they don't know how to get out of it. Always create a very clear (and large) close button in the top right of the pop-up.

Modal pop-ups are particularly useful to ensure visibility of an important message, or to prompt the customer for input before continuing. If your site includes circumstances where decisions need to be made, it will probably benefit from these enhancements.

Typically, when you reach the bottom of a search results page in a search engine like Google, you click "Next," wait five seconds and start from the top again.

With infinite scroll, the next results are retrieved automatically for you as you approach the bottom of the page. By the time you're there, the search results have already been appended to your current view. This technique utilizes AJAX and isn't trivial to implement, but it creates a customer experience that surprises people with its intuitiveness.

Placing results on separate pages isn't limited to search sites. Any content that is currently paged is a great target for infinite scroll: news articles, search results, forum posts and blog posts. Does your site require customers to click from page to page? If so, you may be giving them the opportunity to leave your site. Don't force your customers to ask for more content. Consider areas on your site where you can just give it to them.

There is a now wealth of technology that affords your web presence a more dynamic and rich interface. Providing this interface to your customers will deliver conversion, loyalty and engagement. While you can implement everything here, you have to judge if it's appropriate for your business and your customer's goals. But with a successful design and execution, you'll see a positive growth in your online presence.

Paul Irish is an emerging interactions consultant at Molecular.

An accordion enables sections of content to expand or collapse so only one displays at a time. When you click on a header, the visible content collapses and the desired content expands into view. Just like the carousel, the accordion gives you a chance to showcase extra content in a confined area.

The Reebok Run Easy site uses an accordion to guide visitors through a multi-step process. When implementing, all headers should look clickable and have a hover treatment. If the accordion is part of a process, provide a "continue" button to proceed to the next step.

What are the most common processes that customers are doing on your website? Registration? Checkout? Understanding which of these tasks can be optimized for your customers will help to improve the overall conversion rates on your site.


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