Smita Saxena: Stanza – Making time count in the age of constant disruption

Smita Saxana – Stanza

Betting enters a new decade, in which its product propositions and engagement capacities will be yet again tested by changing consumer demands.

Facing disruptions, SBC spoke to Smita Saxena Founder and CEO of Stanza, a fast-growth Silicon Valley enterprise seeking to revolutionise all dynamics related to user scheduling and time-keeping. 

Stanza has proven its engagement dynamics for US sports leagues and publishing incumbents. Forming an innovation partnership with Sportradar at the start of 2020, Stanza seek to optimise betting schedules next, making operators’ time count…Watch this space! 

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SBC: Hi Smita, thanks for the interview. Can you detail to SBC audiences Stanza’s calendar components and how they help diverse stakeholders optimize their digital properties?

Smita Saxena (Founder & CEO – Stanza): Our marketing software to date has helped media and entertainment companies promote their events. What makes Stanza unique, however, is our platform focuses on adding these events to fans’ calendars and thoughtfully re-engaging them as new content and events are released instantly. 

Our pitch to stakeholders, in as few words as possible, is ‘Events belong in the calendar‘.  Stanza’s product suite is designed with both the marketer and consumer in mind:

  • Building a ‘first-party audience’: Our Add-to-Calendar product makes it seamless for fans to subscribe to upcoming events with a few clicks and submit their information securely in the process. Here’s a live example from the Golden State Warriors and another from AC Milan.
  • Personalizing the user experience: We offer a host of integrations (tickets, streaming, ecommerce, stats and now betting) that customers can plug into their calendars. With geo-based targeting, marketing teams can customize calendar notifications and embedded products to ensure that consumers are seeing the relevant call to action at all times. 

 

  • Integrations with existing marketing systems: All of the data collected through our platform can be integrated into popular CRMs & DMPs allowing marketers to deliver a personalized experience for consumers across their ecosystem, as well as the ability to find new consumers. 

SBC: Timekeeping and scheduling are core functions of life. However, why do you feel that these dynamics have been underserved within current digital environments? 

SS: I think we’ll look back at the last decade as the era of content explosion. People now have more choices than ever on how they spend their time both online and offline. This also means that the problem has quickly changed from search to discovery. We’re seeing new winners emerge in the discovery space but in vertical-specific categories:

  • Netflix / Disney+ – videos
  • Spotify – music

I think events – both online and offline – are an underserved category as there is no standardized aggregation platform. That’s where we see the opportunity. 

We’re taking a unique angle where we’re building on top of an existing app and ecosystem – calendar – which is the #2 most-used app amongst users (email being #1). Digital utilities are playing catch up in this era as they weren’t designed for the scale and diversity of content available today. 

We’re also seeing this reflected in the numbers – over 13M calendar subscribers rely on us to help their calendars serve their personal life needs better. 

SBC: Stanza is a unique start-up, tackling very distinct and personal user engagements… How have you developed a product to be entwined with its users? 

SS: The original inspiration for the product was solving a personal problem – finding and adding yoga classes to my calendar. Once I realized that a) I was not the only person with this problem and b) this problem was far bigger than just yoga classes, Stanza matured from a project into a company. 

From day 1, we’ve been solving problems for consumers and that’s been the guiding force for our product roadmap.

What this has also resulted in, from a marketer’s perspective, is that users actually engage with our products. Our top customers have over 1M calendar subscribers and in aggregate, we’ve sold over $40M in tickets. 

We started off as a nice-to-have for our customers. However, as we’ve become a must-have for fans, we’ve also climbed the priority ladder for our customers. 

SBC: Industry ‘data gatekeepers’ Sportradar have sanctioned Stanza to develop new audience engagement capacities? Can you detail more insight into this innovation partnership? 

SS: This partnership started with a common vision – using scores and stats to engage consumers in a timely fashion. Timely being the key word there. 

Many of the folks on the Sportradar team had already subscribed to sports schedules through Stanza and understood the value of delivering content through calendar. This is really a two-pronged partnership for us: 

 

  • Access to scores and stats to deepen the fan experience: We ran a number of tests with our customers last year and proved conclusively that adding relevant stats to calendar events drives more ticket sales. We’re now scaling the learnings from these tests to our broader customer group. 

 

  • Data collected can be used to set up valuable betting segments: As betting becomes legal in the US state by state, we are helping our customers build a pre-vetted audience segment that would be interested in betting (once it becomes legal) given their prior engagement with Stanza products. 

 

With over 60M cookies collected to date, we’ve successfully scaled this partnership and are excited to work with our media and entertainment customers to activate against this user base over the next 12-18 months. 

SBC: Stanza functions have proven their capacities for publishing, sports teams and mass market retailers. Nevertheless, how do you see Stanza dynamics overcoming betting’s multiple intricacies?  

SS: From our perspective, the intricacies fall into two groups:

  1. Geo-fencing: Ensuring that betting-related messaging is shown to users in legalized geos 
  2. Responsible gambling: Ensuring that fans are seeing messages that they’ve explicitly opted into or fall within the legal guidelines

Since Stanza is a service that a user directly interacts with (vs a 3rd party cookie in the background), we have the ability to build user flows (for ex: within the Add-to-Calendar process) that allow for opt-in for betting and related content. At the same time, since a user is forever synced, we can keep track of their geo to ensure that the messaging being shown falls within the legalized areas. 

SBC: You have highlighted Responsible Gambling as a key area of focus. How do you feel Stanza components can help stakeholders with this intricate matter? 

SS: There are two aspects of Stanza’s product suite that help with building a responsible gambling strategy:

Ability to continually re-engage sports fans through calendar: Since there are now multiple (82+ for NBA subscribers!) touchpoints during the season, betting operators can focus on educating and building a long-term relationship with the consumer. This is a big shift from the current approach of churn and burn that can leave consumers feeling like they’re making irresponsible decisions. 

Ability to use data to personalize the fan experience off Stanza: By integrating Stanza’s data into internal data warehouses, betting operators can build the same long-term relationship across their other digital properties. 

SBC: As Betting enters a new decade, what future factor or dynamic do you feel will be the biggest disruptor for industry incumbents? 

SS: The largest market previously unavailable for sports betting is coming online…the US…in the next 12-18 months. That’s a massive change for all the incumbents and requires a new playbook across the board. The American consumer is very different from the European or Asian bettor/punter both in terms of spending power but also decision making. 

In our opinion, a brand is going to play a significant role in who earns the trust of the consumer and builds successful long-term relationships. We’re excited to be ahead of the curve through our partnerships with companies like Sportradar and feel there’s definitely room for startups in this changing ecosystem. 

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Smita Saxena Founder & CEO – Stanza:

 

 

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