The sports goods industry is one of the most dynamic sectors in retail. And for good reason: the search for well-being has never ceased to increase in recent years. This is even more the case today with the outbreak of the virus. This hype for sport is also encouraged by the media, which often report news related to this sector. There is also a tendency to divert their original use – which was that of doing sport with them – to turn them into fashion products: this is the “sportwear” style. And of course, the efforts made by sports brands to continue reinventing themselves are contributing to this boom, in an era marked by digitalization.
The phygitalization of sports retailers
The time has come for digital, or better, phygital. This is a combination of the physical presence of a store and the power of digital. Therefore, it is a union between off and online and not a split between these 2 channels. This practice is destined to become widespread, because the concept meets very specific objectives: optimizing the shopping experience and client centered. The physical remains essential because customers will always need to feel, touch and actually see the desired product. But in a period when physical contact is limited or prohibited, what are the solutions? The challenge is then to help customers to correctly project themselves with the products through experiential and immersive concepts. These have become a standard for not only innovating, but but also for reconnecting with customers who have become connected. Sports retailers need to make digital tools their own as well. These will help them meet new needs and offer new services such as a personalization module or unique and memorable experiences.
A digital personalization
Personalization is one of the best ways to build loyalty and engagement. Indeed, it means putting the customer at the heart of the strategies. Several processes are possible: personalized assistance via a chat, an online 3D configurator, a real time try-on of the object in augmented reality, etc. Currently, COVID-19 has been a catalyst for the adoption of 3D technologies – especially AR – while virtual testing is exploding by completely reshaping online shopping. This can be explained by the inability to travel to physical stores and the instantaneous nature of these devices. Brands therefore have a great opportunity to leverage them! To illustrate these words, Champs Sports, a subsidiary of Foot Locker, proposed try-on experiences in AR of Nike sneakers on Snapchat. Not only did they provide a direct preview on the feet of the users, but also the possibility to buy instantly on Snapchat with a “Shop Now” button. More than just gadgets, they were shoppable, taking the experience to another level.
And before the pandemic, Mountain Hardwear – a retailer specializing in mountaineering and outdoor clothing and equipment – created an AR configurator for the tablet. The aim was to attract a younger and a more technology-sensitive audience and to let them visualize the latest range of ski and surf clothing in life-size. The AR technology thus made it possible to interactively explore the technical fabrics and design features of the product. As a result, the customer was better informed and educated, leading to a more informed purchase decision.
Finally, customization will improve sales and customer satisfaction. Because it exploits all purchase data and behavioral signs to determine the right product range for each customer. In addition, the more satisfied the customer, the lower the returns, which are a real challenge for the retail sector. By the way, we had written an article on the importance of personalization in more detail if you are interested in this topic.
Towards a sports version of retailtainment?
Of course, the quality of the product is very important in the purchase decision, but it is not prevalent. The act of buying is also dictated by emotions, leading brands to re-enchant the buying experience. Sport is dynamic by nature. Therefore, it seems natural that this dynamism is reflected in the customer’s shopping experience. This can help to overcome the monotony and boredom of shopping to bring back pleasure in the act of buying: this is the era of retailtainment.
Retailtainment or the art of using entertainment to serve retail will feed the appetite and desire to buy through unique and emotional experiences. And it is through this process that some sports brands have been rethinking their online and in-store strategies. Generally, this trend takes the form of playful experiences based on immersion. And the technology frequently used for this kind of experience is virtual reality (VR). The consumer is no longer simply a customer, but a key player engaged in the brand. Moreover, it is through this technology that Shimano and North Face previously realized their VR experiences.
North Face, the outdoor sports brand, created an experience mixing the real and the virtual. Initially, customers were immersed in a polar VR environment where they were pulled by sled dogs. And when it was time to take off their headset, they were taken on a real sled dog race through the mall!
Shimano is a Japanese specialist in cycling and fishing equipment. The brand provided an VR simulation stand for customers to try the latest bikes. Reproducing different surfaces and inclinations, the experiment offered virtual excursions through mountains, woods and plains. And to enhance immersion, the simulator was also complemented by wind and sound effects. During the pandemic period, Nike transformed a New York store into a virtual adventure zone. The sports brand preferred to use AR as a tool to extend the brand’s storytelling rather than as a simple stand-alone solution. With their smartphones, shoppers could interact with the elements of the store using AR markers and QR codes. This allowed customers to move freely around the store space to discover special content from a distance that complied with safety and hygiene protocols.
Eager to find more information about 3D tech? LS GROUP believes in the potential of 3D technologies. We strive to better meet the needs of each of our clients, in order to provide them with a memorable virtual experience. Feel free to contact us for more specific information about our projects!