18Birdies App Gamifies Golf, Settles Sidebets, & Scores Socially

Golf app 18Birdies allows users to track and socially share golf scores among friends and for organized tournaments, as well as calculate sidebets in real time, and it offers GPS to aid on-course play. But the ambitious app puts a new spin on sports software by using gamification in a bid to boost engagement and the game of golf.

18Birdies executives say the company wants to do for golf what Fitbit did for fitness. The app developer’s founder/CEO Eddy Lui discussed the strategy with Open Mobile Media’s Robert Gray….
 
OMM: 18Birdies launched in January 2016, but has recently expanded its offerings including DreamGames, literally the gamification of a game: golf. Is this paying off?
Lui: Since launching our DreamGames campaign we’ve seen a 100 percent increase in people coming back to the app.
We keep our super users engaged with social and gamification elements. By rewarding “Golf Bucks” for participation with 18Birdies these users can enter to win dream golf experiences, prizes, and more. Our casual users enjoy the utility of our GPS and scoring functions on the course. For these users we emphasize the value of our community and social feeds.
 
OMM: Speaking of social, you’ve hired viral golf sensation Paige Spiranac as well as millennial PGA TOUR Golfers Harold Varner III and Willy Wilcox. This plays into your live scoring Facebook feed. Is this generating returns?
Lui: They post content to our feed and anyone sharing a round, it goes to the social feed, a content hub. A friend of yours on the app will see their content.
We are also seeing a very positive return on investment from working with Paige not only on terms of engagement with our audience but also being directly tied to driving downloads which is a key metric for us. Overall she is having a very positive impact on our business.
Harold and Willy are both down to Earth, have had success on the PGA Tour and are known for being interactive with their fan base, especially younger golfers, which helped drive our decision to work with them.
 
OMM: What’s the uptake been so far?
Lui: Since launching (in Jan. 2016), we’ve gained over 400,000 users, so our adoption rate has been strong.
 
OMM: What’s the plan for monetizing the platform?
Lui: Currently we earn revenue by selling licenses to golf courses and tournament organizers for our cloud-based tournament management software. We are also planning to roll out a premium version of our app later this year.
 
OMM: What’s the profile of a typical user?
Lui: 18Birdies caters to a young and affluent golfer community. 55 percent of our users are under the age of 45, 53 percent of our users have household incomes over $100,000, and 87 percent of our users are homeowners.
 
OMM: Do you think that gamification and tech can boost golf participation?
Lui: Absolutely. In fact, we conducted our own industry research that showed that showed how much influence technology can have on participation. Some of our findings include:
·      63 percent of interested non-golfers are more likely to play golf with the help of a smartphone app
·      61 percent of golfers would play more with a smartphone app that tracks scoring, betting and distances to the hole
·      94 percent of Millennials and 76 percent of Gen-Zers would play more with a similar smartphone app
Additionally, we have seen rounds played in our app spike up since we launched DreamGames with an increase of about 20 percent (and) our DreamGames participants are playing 42 percent more rounds than our average user, so we are seeing a direct correlation between gamification and increase in golf participation.
 
OMM: What notification methods are you using to connect with users?
Lui: We use push, in-app and email messaging channels in conjunction with our in-app social feed. We have excellent engagement rates with email and push notification. Our recent enhancements to the social feed have drastically improved interaction rates. We have also seen significant improvements to user retention, rounds completed, and session frequency with the addition of our DreamGames section.
 
OMM: Have you talked with any of golf’s governing bodies or pro tours about engagement, especially among millennials?
Lui: We have recently started to engage both golf’s governing bodies and pro tours about partnerships and engagements,andwe are all on the same page in that the industry needs to place an emphasis on attracting Millennials to golf to grow the sport.
Two things that are critical to this are incorporating mobile technology and social. Millennials embrace technology to make their lives easier and like to share various aspects of their daily lives to their friends and family, which are two things that 18Birdies addresses to make it a product that is attractive to them.
 
OMM: How has launching a golf app affected your game?
Lui: Before I started 18Birdies my handicap was a seven, now it is 12.8. Entrepreneurship is bad for my handicap!