Customer loyalty and innovative store features are key factors in sports retail. Shopping becomes an experience, whether that’s thanks to an integration of online and offline activities or brand-new approaches and technologies. What can customers expect? We talked to Genevieve Mulack, press officer to Decathlon and Carsten Schmitz, CDO of Intersport about the future of the sporting goods industry.
What do you offer your customers at the store that online retail is unable to present?
Genevieve Mulack, Decathlon: Our customers can take a virtual stroll through our store at Alexanderplatz in Berlin, and take a closer look at our variety of tents. Thanks to the HTC Vive virtual reality headset, they can walk around a 3D tent model in a space that measures nine square meters. Both the preferred environment (mountains, woods or desert) and the weather conditions are showcased in simulated nature scenarios. We also have terminals where customers can check out our entire product selection.
Carsten Schmitz, Intersport: Our retailers already use a number of digital POS tools, with in-store TVs and 3D foot analysis being the most popular ones for now. We pilot tested several other tools last fall, some of which are rolling out now like the multi-display digital signage or the cross-channel concept. The new feedback terminal that’s designed to digitally collect and analyze customer feedback will also roll out. Just recently, we have started to test a multi-sensory VR dressing room. As a perfect fit for the season, it engages all the customer senses for a great experience.
This doesn’t sound like another gadget for technophiles but suggests a real added benefit. It looks like you integrate and merge your brick-and-mortar business and the digital world and don’t necessarily consider online retail as competition.
Mulack, Decathlon That’s right. Digital elements and the combination of online and offline aspects have been an integral part of our standard product selection at our smaller Connect stores for quite some time. It also indicates that our customers are very open to digital elements and digitization in general, especially in major cities such as Munich or Berlin. That’s also why we have adopted similar elements like the digital screen displays at our larger stores. They are certainly growing in popularity with our customers. We increasingly notice that it piques our customers’ curiosity when other patrons order products on a screen. It prompts them to try it out themselves, while they ask our store employees questions. This, in turn, motivates us and our development teams to keep innovating.
Schmitz, Intersport: An integrated approach is crucial for a business to succeed in the future. As an omnichannel retailer, we strive to connect both worlds in a sensible manner. Linking information about the end-user and his/her buying behavior with area data already facilitates great forecasts to take steps to increase sales and lower costs. What’s more, this also allows us to better manage the flow of goods at the store, respond faster to seasonal cycles and reduce returns and write-offs. This creates a more demand-driven product selection and marketing. We provided our retailers with a benchmarking tool for example. Its dynamic assessment options offer a variety of simple analysis choices. This makes quick responses possible and results in real performance improvement.
What motivates you to digitize?
Mulack, Decathlon: Every generation varies in its media behaviors, and we are aware that our users are using more digital tools than ever before. Regardless of their gender or age, most of our clients share a basic technology understanding, which is why as a young, dynamic and innovative company, we want and must adapt to the needs of our customers and the market.
You are successful in merging your online and offline activities. How do your local salespersons manage these innovations?
Mulack, Decathlon: Our associates accepted and welcomed the technical launch and introduction very well. Both the technology affinity and its application was perfectly integrated thanks to regular training and education. We plan to further strengthen the merger of all distribution channels through our Connect stores.
Schmitz, Intersport: We distinctly notice how much our retailers are interested in digitization. Most of them say, “we must take part in this market." That's precisely what our mission is. It is important for us to work closely with our team members. We take an integrated perspective of all processes and develop tools that enable our retailers to smartly use aggregate data to prompt business success and be present in all channels in the best way possible.
What does the sporting goods store of tomorrow look like?
Mulack, Decathlon: Needless to say, we always try to keep up with the times and stay current and provide our customers with the best possible shopping experience, regardless of the channel, whether that’s at the store or on our online shop. The customer should be able to shop and test things. That’s very important to us. We are gradually working on expanding our digital services. We launched our same-day delivery service in Berlin and have since extended it to many catchment areas. And that's exactly the direction our development is headed: we are persistently testing and subsequently expanding our successful projects on a national level. It’s a challenge we gladly accept in the spirit of good sportsmanship!
Schmitz, Intersport: On the one hand, a store must fulfill the expectations of customers in terms of product availability and product selection, which have formed thanks to growing online retail and are expected to further increase in time. On the other hand, shopping experience and service will increasingly take center stage. We must fulfill these wishes and expectations, also by using digital tools.