Trends & Features

Sports retailers that connect the in-store and online experience will see the biggest gains

By Paul Sherratt of Solutions for Sport

I’ve written regularly in this column about the rapid change of pace currently being experienced within our trade. The influencing factors are varied, but a new morality within which our lives are being deregulated, with more flexibility and varied working hours, is certainly one element driving this change.

Consumers have multiple tools to connect with brands and products, giving a greater power to the shopper and influencing the way in which business is being transacted.

Value hunters
We are becoming a society of value hunters – looking for the best bargain and sharing our experiences within our social circle to create a status within our peer groups. And, of course, we’re embracing online shopping in ever increasing numbers.

A report released by O2 in 2014 concluded that online spending will double by 2020 and account for over 20 per cent of retail sales – up from just under 11 per cent in 2012 – while physical stores will see their share of spending decline by 10.6 percent over the same period.

However, while increased online spending comes at the expense of sales in physical stores, this doesn’t signal the death of the high street. Instead, the report shows the extent to which the high street will impact overall retail sales and why it cannot be ignored.

As people shift from bricks to clicks, the relationship between online and high street retailers is evolving, as retailers create a world where experiences flow naturally between home and store, street and aisle, mobile and market. Technology is breathing new life into the high street. With more and more people shopping on their smartphones and tablets, stores are no longer just about buying.

As online sales increase, the role of the high street store will evolve, provoking counter-innovation from brands and an increase in the showrooming trend, where stores become experience rather than sales led.

The report shows 25 per cent of all shoppers are hitting the high street not to buy, but to socialise with friends and family. 51 per cent of us go to shops to be entertained, 33 per cent to eat out and 75 per cent to be inspired.

This shows there is an opportunity for retailers to introduce social spaces and turn shopping into a source of entertainment. As a result, stores will see an increasing focus on engagement, providing the shopper with tactile and sensory experiences that cannot be replicated online.

If we look closely at these conclusions and ask what impact they’re likely to have on the sporting goods industry, one obvious link is the relationship between sport as a leisure activity and shopping.

Can sporting goods retailers enhance their proposition in the same way cinemas and food outlets have evolved the shopping experience, whereby consumers populate destination shopping centres for the day and embrace multiple activities?

On a recent visit to Dubai I found myself embracing this very scenario where, in one of the world’s largest shopping malls, I skied in the morning, shopped in the afternoon and dined in the evening. The sports retailers were clustered around the focal point of the indoor ski slope and ice rink.

Increase interaction
Sports retailers can strengthen customer relationships and increase interaction by creating spaces and experiences that will inspire consumers to share their shopping experiences by commenting, photographing or broadcasting their in-store interactions via their social networks.

Whether it’s testing a demo racquet, shooting a football at a virtual goal while trying new boots or wearing the latest outfit while looking in an interactive mirror, all these experiences will enhance your experience.

There are already some examples of this emerging in our industry and sports retailers that seamlessly connect the in-store and online experience will see the biggest gains, with the savviest taking the opportunity to deliver timely, tailored offers and discounts direct to the palms of our hands.

The O2 report concludes that this seamless integration between online and offline shopping will continue to put the high street at the heart of customers’ online experiences, with 85 per cent of online shoppers returning products in-store and 75 per cent visiting stores to collect products bought online. The popularity of click and collect is also expected to increase, growing by 260 per cent to seven per cent of all retail sales by 2020.

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