Creating Better Digital Experience for Customers in Sports Goods Industry — How and Why?!

Digital technology is unleashing some mind-blowing opportunities for growth in the sports goods industry post the pandemic. The new approach is surely going to bring customers closer to brands by offering innovative and personalized experiences.

Companies will fail if they just try to implement this haphazardly as a part of the trend. Because, to monetize this opportunity, enterprises should go digital and implement it in every facet of their business — thereby empowering functionalities, technology, and people of course.

2020 was a year where the sports goods industry shrank for the first time ever since the 2007–08 financial crisis. Specific sports categories and team sports were impacted differently depending on how accessible they were in a locked-down environment. In spite of a slight bounce back to action after the first and second wave Covid-19 lockdowns, most companies ended the year in the red. Cancellation of certain sporting events also led to the toppling of sales.

By the end of 2020, companies started doing well especially bicycle and digital fitness equipment businesses. Outdoor individual sports and home workouts saw a rise. Sportwear enterprises were more resilient than other apparel industries. Activities like running, yoga, and Pilates gained momentum.

2020 was challenging but 2021 will be a bumpy ride with some opportunities for companies who have adapted to digital commerce, sustainable products and have centered consumers in their operations.

2021 — An Outlook

Enterprises are optimistic that the rest of the year is going to turn the tables in their favor. Sales are going to pick up and alternate options are under progress to make it more accessible and available for consumers. Companies are confident in the growth opportunities. As per WFSGI–McKinsey Sporting Goods Survey, 64% of enterprises have predicted better market conditions for 2021–22.

However, there are certain challenges that the companies should address. Issues related to supply chains, physical activities, indoor and team sports participation are the areas where organizations are struggling to get to normalcy. The greatest opportunities are associated with categories like outdoor individual sports, home exercise equipment, yoga, e-sports, and virtual races.

Digital Transformation — The Need of the Hour?

Change is the new constant. The world has been on a roller coaster ride since 2019. It is tough to rely on past performance predictions and move forward. The customer experience and the companies that cater to these customers have changed and how?! Every industry has been impacted and a lot of them are still recuperating. The sports goods industry or sports industry is no different. It is experiencing disruption and digital technology transformation has been their go-to option in the current scenario.

Sports companies today need a complete digital revamp. The transformation at an organizational level is not something easy and it takes time. But you need to find a middle ground where you save time and deliver bigger and better than you did yesterday. The three pillars that form the base of any organization are people, process, and technology. Strategize around these pillars and you are ready to stride forward.

Empowering People at Work

Digital potential can be leveraged when you give digital skillsets through ongoing training to your people. This will give them a bird’s eye view of the existing issues and aid them with a problem-solving approach digitally.

Adapting Business Processes into the Digital Era

Organizations must know that digital transition goes through the assessment of conventional business processes. Post that, the reorganization of processes happens. This supports the digital functionalities that are required to accomplish productivity and also adds value to the experience.

Upgrading Design Performance

Modern problems need modern solutions. Your design must be seamless at every touchpoint for customers. You need to have technology that supports your goals and meets your requirements. It will make more sense and bring positive results when content and commerce are merged to provide an exceptional eCommerce experience.

Adobe suite of Digital Experience products not only comes with simple license management but can give you access to the latest functionalities.

Adobe Experience Manager (AEM) offers greater design flexibility with its new features. Transformations are smooth and modifications can be done instantly. Adobe Experience Cloud allows designers to manage assets and helps in operations efficiency.

Magento (Adobe Commerce) is an exceptional commerce platform to meet your growing business needs. But it requires a dedicated CMS (Content Management System) to support it. Adobe Experience Manager (AEM) comes with DAM (Digital Asset management) proficiency and CMS, and can be easily integrated with Magento using CIF (Commerce Integration Framework).

These platforms bring in customer targeting, segmentation, content management, and improved business processes.

Go With the Headless Approach

The two platforms, — Magento and AEM, are interdependent and help in providing a headless commerce experience.

Headless commerce offers scalability, customization, and speed, all thanks to the mechanism where the functional business logic zone is segregated from the content zone. Headless CMS commerce has better flexibility than a full-stack solution any day.

A headless architecture adds new features and integrations to underperforming sections and aids in customized development. By offering an omnichannel commerce experience, it helps you to adapt to customer needs seamlessly.

Digitally Omnipresent

Omnipresent like God? Well, you should be present wherever your seekers/followers are. Make the most of technology and provide seamless experiences across all touchpoints. Use customer journey mapping method to know your customers better.

Companies need to ensure that operational processes are simplified, repetitive manual work is automated and issues are addressed immediately without disrupting the entire functioning of the processes.

This will also help you to understand any shortcomings of your processes, cut costs, save time, and aids in risk management.

To know more, read our in-depth article on customer journey mapping.

Customers Should Command their Digital Experiences

It goes without saying that your business goals should be set around the customer’s needs. It is certainly more important in the sports industry. Their experience is directly related to value creation and value addition from your end. This will only lead to long-term loyalty to your company.

Do Not Go Overboard, You Might Go Down

Having everything on the plate should not result in leaving things unfinished. It may become overwhelming for your team to implement everything at once. You must understand that digital transformation is a reiterative and constantly growing process.

A Step-by-step implementation allows companies to mature digitally, i.e., launch quickly, learn and iterate.

Start Small, Dream Big

Small beginnings can lead to scaling your business steadily. Initiate with an MVP (Minimal Viable Product) or small-scale digital schemes to validate the concept and secure buy-in within the company. Once people start noticing success from these small schemes, it becomes easy to scale and get everyone on board for a larger plan of action.

Sustaining the Next Normal

It is awe-inspiring to see that some sports companies have found path-breaking solutions to win in the post-pandemic era. They have re-defined the sports goods industry by setting the bar high amidst tougher market conditions and, pressure on physical retail stores.

In the next normal, the real winners will be companies:

  • Thriving in sectors like athleisure, running, and biking.
  • Offering a great D2C (Direct-to-Customer) business model.
  • Presenting smooth omnichannel capacity and subject matter expertise, quicker development, and release cycles.
  • Adopting innovative methods to stay in touch with customers through interesting loyalty programs and incentives.
  • Garnering in-built agility to re-examine supply-chain relationships and opt for more local sourcing/closer-to-home partnerships.
  • Leveraging influencer marketing innovations, an association of individual athletes with their brand values, and optimized marketing.
  • Quick to emerge with services that are trending with customers while maintaining agility in budgeting, design, and execution of plans.
  • Ready with some backup plans in case of any reemergence of a pandemic like Covid-19.

Successful D2C (Direct-To-Consumer) models embraced by the companies

D2C sales have proven to be profitable post-pandemic. Currently, not only a lot of startups but even big companies have come up as D2Cs. Nike is one such big brand that has gone the D2C way and gained a sizeable business through this channel. One of the main purposes that industry experts speculate is that D2C gives more control to a brand than mergers so, Nike stepped away from marketplaces for this particular reason.

Nike is not the only biggie that has reaped the benefits of selling to consumers directly. Addidas is planning to raise its sales to 50% by 2025. Under Armour company is also looking at exiting from wholesale operations. Apart from sports, other industries have also identified the importance of D2C sales and are working on this shift gradually.

Well, a point to be noted here is that Nike’s shift to D2C did not happen overnight and the success was not instantaneous. They were working on this model for the past few years. The timing has turned out to be profitable for them.

Based on a report by McKinsey and The WFSGI (World Federation Sporting Goods Industry), experts assert that brands should aim for at least 20% of their businesses in the D2C model for the next two years, in order to thrive in the market. This will give companies scope and scale to increase their growth.

Sustainability and Sportswear

Although sports industry nurtures spending quality time outdoors and health benefits, it does not always align with eco-friendly values. The apparels are not really environmentally good. Companies are now moving towards sustainability — both in the usage of raw materials and in operational processes. Sustainability can be enforced through supply chains as well.

It involves a thorough analysis of factory processes, sourcing materials that endorses sustainability, using suitable shipping services, and advanced planning of each product’s lifecycle.

It is a well-known fact that for sustainable production of high-quality, durable products, companies must invest in finite resources that are expensive. However, they are aware of its importance and impact on the environment.

The manufacturing process involves a huge amount of water, chemicals, workforce, and other resources. According to Realistic forecasts, by 2030 there will be about 4.9 gig tons of carbon dioxide in the environment. This is alarming. Hence, the production of sustainable apparel must be an imperative requirement in processes and supply chain inputs for companies.

Today there are few tools like Bluesign, Sustainable Textile Standards, ChemIQ, Sustainable Apparel Coalition, and the Sustainability Working Group by OIA available exclusively for sports companies. These branches aid sportswear companies to self-audit and ensure that their processes judiciously use water &, chemicals, and adhere to animal welfare standards.

All Roads Must Lead to Rome

Venturing into something new and sustaining a transformation will not happen overnight. You need to have a vision that can help you thrive in the current times and in the future. A future that should be decided on how competent you are with your products, services, processes, framework, and technology.

We learn from our customers, their needs, preferences, and concerns. It is time to assess every product’s sustainability and brand’s impact. It is the responsibility of retailers to prioritize sustainable sportswear and equipment usage and avoid environmentally harmful products.

When sports organizations are at ease with the dynamics of the market and accept themselves as digital enterprises, they will be able to bond better with their customers. This will not only help them widen and strengthen their customer base but also aid them in building innovative and personalized experiences.

There is no dearth of eCommerce platforms in the market today. Every service platform comes with its own pros and cons. But if you want to dig deeper into this then you should reach out to our whizz eCommerce team at sales@embitel.com.

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