The Risks of Declining Registrations

DollarThere was a recent article on Bloomberg News suggesting that the next financial crisis could start in Silicon Valley and “Fintech”. Fintech is a broad term, but touches all races who use online registration with the movement of over $1 Billion per year thru the 100 or so race registration systems. Here are some of the key thoughts from the article:

The fintech revolution has created an environment ripe for instability and disruption. It does so in three ways. First, fintech companies are more vulnerable to rapid, adverse shocks than typical Wall Street banks. Because they’re small and undiversified, they can easily go under when they hit a blip in the market. Second, fintech companies are more difficult to monitor than conventional financial firms. Third, fintech has not developed the set of unwritten norms and expectations that guide more traditional financial institutions.

Many race registrations are happening by transactions going to the race registration company, and then payments are made from that company to the race. This is risky since the company may use that cash and delay payments of the money to races to pay their own salaries and other costs.

This is not a problem when a company is growing, as most race registration companies have over the past 5 years between shifts away from legacy vendors and the general increase in the number of races and registrations. There is more money coming in the door each day, so there is plenty of money to pay past races.

However, in a shrinking market, this can be a death spiral. Fewer races and fewer registrations means less cash coming in. This leads to downsizing of staff and more delayed payments to customers, especially if the company was funding operations with the “float” of race funds (the two weeks it takes many companies to pay out).

And, we are in a shrinking market as reported in our recent Registration Market Analysis. The number of races on RunningintheUSA.com fell by 4%. And the number of races on all vendors (except RunSignUp) we could get a hard count for the number of races in October fell from last year (ask your registration company for accurate numbers – these are what we could find by searching public calendars):

screen-shot-2017-09-07-at-4-16-11-pm

Races should be asking their vendors for financial statements and details on how their race funds are held, in addition to race and registration growth. RunSignUp is transparent on this issue, and has made large investments in becoming a Payment Facilitator. This means each race (and charity) becomes their own merchant with their own bank account. RunSignUp can not even use your money if we wanted to! The financial statement you want to ask for is their Current Ratio – in simple terms how much money the registration company has in the bank vs. what they owe races.

There are already signs of a shrinking of the number of registration vendors. The recent announcement of RaceIt being shuttered in November took many by surprise. They will likely not be the last – the margins and economics in this business are difficult, especially when combined with the need to stay on the cutting edge of technology. We do not mean to be fear-mongers, but races need to protect themselves against getting caught in the type of credit squeeze discussed in the Bloomberg article.

Child Privacy

To protect the data the races who use as as their online registration platform, we have made some updates to your race, event and club websites to better protect the online privacy of children, particularly those under the age of 13. Our updates are designed with the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Rule (“COPPA”) in mind and are designed to reasonably determine when we collect information about a child for a registration that we are collecting it from their parents.

Screen Shot 2017-09-20 at 2.34.32 PMThe first change you will notice is an update in the registration path. The first step of registering for a race will now ask if you are over 18 and either registering yourself or someone else over the age of 18. If you are registering someone under the age of 18 the click box will have you confirm that you are the parent or guardian of the person you are registering and that you are giving us permission to collect the information you provide about your child for the registration.

Secondly the profile we create for the child from the registration process will be a sub-account of the parent’s profile. We will store the full name and address for the child as well as other information used for race results. However, we will only store the parents email address and phone number as the contact information for the child. Our necessary communications to the child (such as a registration confirmation) will always be to the parents email address.

Screen Shot 2017-09-20 at 2.35.04 PMWhenever the child’s information is shown on a public facing part of the site, such as in a participant search or in results the name will be shown in a truncated version (first initial and last name) and will not be shown with other identifying information like their street address.

This is also true for our API – we deliver only the first initial of the first name to scoring and results software in addition to other applications accessing participant information.

In addition, for our Photo Platform, it is now required to have a date of birth in the profile that indicates you are at least 18 years old in order to upload photos.

Further, we log the following each time someone is authorized to upload a photo:

  • User ID
  • Reported Age
  • Access Timestamp

Finally we have updated the Children’s Privacy section of our Privacy Policy to include our new processes.

We would also like to take this opportunity to remind Race Owners, Race Directors, Timers, Partners and others who can access and download participant data from our site of your obligation to protect that data. It is your responsibility to restrict access to your RunSignUp account to only those that need to have access to your data. Further once data is downloaded from our site it is your responsibility to protect the security of that data and for your security and privacy policies to comply with applicable regulations like COPPA.

RunSignUp Analytics – E-mail Registration Source

We have released E-mails as the first source tracking for registrations in our RunSignUp Analytics platform – the equivalent of Google Analytics customized for races. This gives race directors new levels of visibility into their promotional efforts that were unavailable before. And it is easy and automated.

If you click the green line in the Overview graph on the Dashboard, you get a table below that shows the number of registrations coming from e-mails. In this case, they got 646 registrations from their 4 e-mails (352, 260, 34 and 0):

Screen Shot 2017-09-13 at 3.27.26 PM.png

The Non-Race e-mail is an e-mail that was sent from a different race in RunSignUp, and that participant eventually came and signed up for this race. This will happen if you have multiple races that you promote.

We will be making a number of improvements over the next month or two:

Email Marketing Reports. This information will also be available in E-mail Marketing Reports directly.

 $ Transactions. In addition to registrations, it will show the total $ from each source.

 Other Sources.  Right now we just show emails as a source for registrations.  Eventually this will be everything.  The general order will be adding a way to track things we know about already like referrals and affiliates.  We will also add a general “Create Tracking Code” that would be used for example to append to a Facebook ad link or running store email to track conversions very accurately.  Eventually this will also include non-attributed web referrers (someone does a google search and comes to the page for example).

RunSignUp Analytics will be changing the way Race Directors approach race promotion over the coming years, with increasing amounts of insight, automation and applied AI.

Customize “From” Address on EMail Marketing

You can now set your own reply email address for EMail Marketing. This is set in the Email Marketing Setup:

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When you set this, your emails will look like this to participants:

unnamed-1

For advanced users, we still recommend full white labeling. This option is similar to what most email marketing offerings do, but can impact deliverability rates some. This is due to the fact that the email is may not be verified against your website/email domain. For example, when an email is sent from RunSignUp, there are DKIM records that identify it. There is not the same capability in simple white labeling, only in full white labeling.

PunSignUp

punSignUp

We wanted to share an inside view of what really happens at our company. Last night Bob sent an email to everyone:

I know a number of you work in Moorestown, and a lot of others will be coming in another week and a half. PLEASE be careful with your shoes. There is a shoe thief loose in Moorestown.

“A person reported their left shoe was missing after they took them off while at the Moorestown Library on Sept. 6. When they went to put the shoes back on, one was missing. It is described as a purple and black Nike basketball shoe.”
The responses:
MattMo: “Just what we need, someone clogging up the system with petty crime. The thief sounds like a real heel. Somebody ought to sock them.”
Johanna: “I did end up with 2 left running shoes when I left to run today.”
MattMo: “The thief had no sole and was just being knotty.”
Kohart: “Those puns are shamelace. And that thief must be a pretty good sneaker.”
Natalie” “I love that this is on the core email chain. PunSignUp is the best!”
MattMo: “Thief last seen wielding a stilletto.  Not easily defeeted.”
Megan: “This is quite the Cinderella story.”
Kohart: “I’m flip-flopping on whether or not your pun is good Megan…”
Ryan: “Not sure what I stepped in to; this thread is laced with bad jokes.”
Megan: “I put my heart insole into that Ryan!”
Andrew S: “First of all… it wasn’t ‘purple and black’, it is more navy blue…”
MattMo: “I realized I could have done a lot better with my previous pun. On a scale of 1 to 10, I would give myself Asics.”
Sue: “That’s it. I quit!”
Matt S: “Puns can bring a New Balance to workplace engagement. Good thing we don’t work with a bunch of loafers.”
Kohart: “This is sandalous.”
Connor: “Am I too late to shoehorn in a comment?”
Marlise: “I am tongue-tied…”
Bob: “I just don’t want to step on anyone’s toes.”

U.S. Registration Market Analysis – September 2017

market-analysisWe do a US Registration Market Analysis every 6 months:

We try to make it better with your feedback (so feel free to send suggestions or corrections to bob.bickel at runsignup.com). We do this as part of our own internal market evaluation processes, but share it since there does not seem to be a good source of information like this. Last year, we also added our thoughts on Race Registration Market Trends and Race Registration Company Valuations. Expect some updates to these over the coming weeks.

It is tough to estimate market share since there is no one place that has ALL races, and races are open for only part of a year, and different vendors have different search tools for finding races, so we took several approaches to looking at things.

RunSignUp Numbers
RunSignUp has been very public about sharing our numbers. You can read our Year End Report for 2015 to see that we had over 10,000 races use us to process 2.7 Million paid registrations in 2015, and 2016 Year End Report to see we had over 14,000 races use us to process over 4.1 Million registrations. The trend continues positively – and we are estimating 16,000 races processing registrations on RunSignUp and over 4 Million paid (not including imported) registrations in 2017 even with the loss of URUN due to the Active lawsuit.

RunningintheUSA CalendarRunningintheUSA Market Share
RunningintheUSA.com is the largest calendar of race sites in the US with 47,936 races listed. This is down from 49,749 last year at his time – a decrease of 3.6%. This may be the sign that the growth of the number of events in endurance has peaked and is falling. RunningintheUSA uses Active.com’s, RunSignUp’s, and Race Entry’s automated API to load races from each of us – that is why you see the little logos for each of us on the calendar. This probably means that we are unfairly represented as they do not get every race from every other of the 100+ registration providers in the market.

We do a sample every 6 month and do a count of the total races for each vendor of 1,000 races in the month after the sample is taken (October, 2017 in this count):

Screen Shot 2017-09-07 at 1.53.42 PM

RunSignUp will be used by over 16,000 races this year for processing their registrations, which is 33% of the races in RunningintheUSA, so those numbers are probably fairly accurate for RunSignUp.

October Market Share
There are over 100 registration systems, and not all of them have race listings. For example we could not find a list of Chronotrack Live races, but know from their public statements that they processed over 1 million registrations in the first half of 2016 and that they have grown since then. Likewise, IMAthlete is much stronger than this list shows because of a number of large events they provide registration for like the LA Marathon. In addition, the search tools may include non-endurance race events in some cases (for example Events.com mixes a lot of different types of events and there is no advanced search filter). Some vendors like Haku and Race Partner, do not have a race calendar. And search methods change from period to period – so data available in previous periods is no longer available (hopefully not because they were avoiding this counting!). And a final caveat to this data is that some race calendars may include races that do not have registration on their sites (the RunSignUp data is accurate since we have a search flag internally we can use to look for races that are open for registration on RunSignUp):

Screen Shot 2017-09-07 at 4.16.11 PM

The number of races listed on RunningintheUSA fell by 8% from last October to this October, while the number of races on RunSignUp grew by 15%.

Turkey Trots
We also started tracking Turkey Trots. We counted the Active and RunSignUp races by doing the count based on doing a hand count of races on Nov. 23 on RunningintheUSA. For other providers we just used a manual count from their race calendars.

Screen Shot 2017-09-07 at 4.24.39 PM

Alexa Rankings
Alexa is a cool tool that shows the ranking of websites based on page views. It is approximate, but is fairly accurate. As above, there are lots of caveats to this. For example, EventBrite, Active and Events.com all are covering much more than the endurance market and their numbers are inclusive of those other markets.

These rankings among all US websites are from early September and will change depending on the time of the year (going lower in December when there are few races happening and growing largest around Thanksgiving for example). The other thing to note is that it is getting tougher to rank higher. For example RunSignUp has fallen from 4,615 to 5,864th place in the US even though our page views have grown by 16% over the previous 30 days as compared with last year (even with the loss of URUN). So the negative numbers are better than they seem:

Screen Shot 2017-09-07 at 4.27.40 PM.png

To put some context on these numbers, RunSignUp is doing about 3 Million Page Views per week now to get in the Top 6,000 sites.  As further context, another company Bob is on the board of has a page rank of 45,699 and has about 810,000 page views per week.

So What Does This Mean?

Our objective in doing this was trying to understand how far we had gotten with our growth. We are guessing that we are at about 12% market share with our about 4 M paid registrations in 2017 – assuming there are about 40 Million Paid Registrations in the US.

We are really proud of the impact we are having on the endurance and race market. Especially since RunSignUp is a lot more than registration, as we have grown to be a full race management platform supporting the entire race lifecycle:

 

lifecycle0220.pngThe integrated CRM database give participants a better experience with things like free results, notifications and photos, while races have better promotional and fundraising tools to maximize the impact of their efforts.

The Race Director and RD Scoring help Timers score and provide results for over 11,000,000 participants annually. RD Go, our Cloud based Scoring and Results system used by Timers and Races hosts results for over 5,000 races and sends tens of thousands of result notifications each weekend. RaceJoy is by far the leading race GPS Tracking solution in the market. RunSignUp for Clubs is used by hundreds of clubs to help with membership management and tie to races. And our free services like Volunteer Management, Check-In App, Race Calendar Widgets are used by many races beyond those who do registration with us.

Thank you to all of our customers who provide us great feedback on what is needed in this market, and who tell their friends about us🙂

RaceDay Scoring Alpha Release 0.1.3

As we continue to march toward Beta, we are getting more and more functionality into RD Scoring, the next generation of The Race Director used by timers to score over 11 Million finishers per year. We are also getting an increasing number of timers playing with the Alpha and giving us great feedback. We will do a webinar next week to show off the current status. Here are the latest improvements:

  • Continuous improvements to UI
    Added Panels to multiple setup screens to visually break up the UI better, increasing usability.

    • Added top bar to Race Frame to hold the Race Name and the Manual Sync button.
    • Scored Event setup is now much more clear
    • Scoring page is now easier to use and read. Created an “Actions” section which shows on a sidebar, so it is no longer hidden by a long listing list.
  • Add ability to send raw reads and count
    Internal mechanism to report raw read data added. Not added to the UI yet.
  • Fix Incorrect Field for Age Group Total
    Bug in “Total in Age Group” column addressed.
  • Allow question time entry without hours
  • Sync process cleanup
    • Allow sync to be disabled via Sync Settings page
    • Detected offline status (Electron only).
    • Make API less persistent when you cancel auth popup when multiple API requests need to be made in a sync cycle.
  • Fix duplicate participant bug
  • Default Participants to Event if there is only one Event
  • Sort Participant Timing Location Reads
    Addresses a reported issue where participant’s reads were not sorted correctly
  • Add Report Categories feature
    Now you are able to add a category to new reports, and select Categories from the dropdown to better organize your reports.
  • Allow duplication of existing reports
    We now support the ability to duplicate and existing report to more quickly create a similar report
  • Allow Report Column Sorting and Deleting
    Now you are able to more easily edit existing reports by deleting and moving columns by using the arrows and X’s.
  • Fixed bug which caused crash when switching Races
  • Connector will no longer start automatically – need to start manually from the settings menu in order to import times

[See the full post at: Alpha 0.1.3 Release Notes]