Customer personalization is one of the buzzwords in retailing and nowhere is it more important than in sporting goods.
Attendees at this year's ShopTalk conference in Las Vegas had the chance to hear what two of the country's leading sportswear and sporting goods retailers, Nike Inc. and Dick's Sporting Goods Inc., are doing when it comes to customer personalization.
Nike Live raises the bar
In July, Nike raised the bar with its first Nike Live store in Los Angeles, which offers digital experiences in a physical retail environment.
"We have to create both a digital and physical experience for them," said Michael Martin, vice president of digital products at Nike in describing Nike Live to interviewer Deborah Weinsing, president and CEO of Coresight Research.
The store, according to a Forbes article, is using data from online purchases to determine the location for the store and its product assortment. Customers, using a Nike app, can reserve an item for pickup at a locker in the store. They can also scan codes on products in the store to check product information and availability.
Martin said Nike selected the store's location based on its proximity to its customers using a process known as a "digital ecosystem." A digital ecosystem, according to Wikipedia, is "a distributed, adaptive, open socio-technical system" that allows self-organization, scalability and sustainability.
The scalability aspect, Martin said, is critical as scalable digital platforms provide a way to get to know customers better.
Digital initiatives support customization
Such digital initiatives are key to the company's customization efforts, which Nike views as crucial to success.
For example, the Nike Run Club app lets users track their exercise, access coaching insight and join with fellow runners, according to the company website, while a training club app offers 185 workouts and audio and visual guidance and goals.
These apps allow Nike to engage with customers worldwide, despite the fact that sports differ among nations and groups, Martin said.
Nike has even been able to create a shoe customized to a specific consumer community, Martin said. One such shoe that sold out in its targeted community managed to gain a worldwide following, he said.
Dick's Sporting Goods enters the fray
Dick's Sporting Goods, meanwhile, is also undergoing a digital transformation, said Vidya Jwala, chief e-commerce and supply chain officer. The company recently introduced an online concierge service with landing pages rich in content and imagery to allow athletes to find products in an enjoyable manner.
When interviewer Krystina Gustafson, vice president of Shoptalk, raised a question about pure play e-commerce versus legacy retailers, Jwala didn't hesitate to state that the legacy retailer's infrastructure gives the means to get products to customers faster, despite having higher overhead costs. The physical stores also provide a tool for building communities with their customers, he said.
Looking to the future, Jwala said he is optimistic about artificial intelligence, partly because it will enable the company to give customers more accurate delivery dates, as well as being able to better optimize inventory and customer recommendations.
The technology he is most excited about, however, is blockchain. Jwala said it will come into its own once it undergoes the cleansing process that all established technologies go through, such as dotcom technology providers in the 1990s.
The challenge of selecting a technology provider is especially tough when it comes to deploying technologies, he noted, as it underscores the importance of the retailer's own technology capabilities.