Over the past few years, we’ve worked with a myriad of innovative sporting goods brands leading the way in creative retail display and visual merchandising, helping implement effective features and concepts in store.

While retail might not be the same as it was prior to the pandemic for a while, we’re eventually expecting to see a phased reopening of stores, and once again brands will need to give customers a worthwhile incentive to visit one of their physical stores rather than simply opting to order online.

sporting goods - Dan Williams, founder and managing director at 100% Group
Dan Williams, founder and managing director at 100% Group

Prior to the chaos, at 100% Group, we’d compiled an analysis of the sporting goods sector, comparing and contrasting the in-store experiences offered at the flagship and key stores of Nike, adidas, Patagonia and North Face in the UK and around the world. Here’s what we found is working well:

 

1Interactive tech

adidas ldn sporting goods

Interactive displays were incredibly prominent in the sporting goods sector. In fact, adidas LDN, the brand’s Oxford Street flagship, features over 100 digital touch points. How these interactive displays will be used when stores start to reopen remains to be seen, as both shoppers and retailers are likely to become more hygiene conscious. One theory is that the shopper’s smartphone will play more of a role and they’ll be able to connect to interactive displays and control it using their own handset.   

adidas LDN is already encouraging customers to interact with points at the store using their smartphones. They can use their cameras to ‘unlock’ augmented reality installations that trigger the different stories behind some of adidas’ products, and scan posters to learn more about the ‘adidas approach’ to product design. Similar experiences are offered at Nike’s London flagship store on Oxford Street. Using the Nike app while exploring the store, shoppers are sent prompts and nudges to encourage them to interact with certain products and information points.

 

2In-store events and activities

Our market research identified that many brands host events and activities at their key stores to encourage customers to engage. For example, Patagonia’s ‘Worn Wear’ store in Boulder recently hosted an ‘Ugly Fleece Party’, encouraging customers to bring their ‘craziest, loudest, most retro Patagonia Fleece’ and celebrate. It also hosts repair and upcycling workshops to encourage customers to expand the lifespan of their Patagonia items.

Nike is another example, and alongside its events and clubs designed specifically for customers, it provides activities and experiences throughout its store on a daily basis, for example, an area to shoot hoops, and an in-house DJ to provide a soundtrack to the shopping experience.

However, the brand we found that was doing this particularly well was North Face, through its ‘basecamps for exploration’ retail concept, which was debuted in its Soho store in Manhattan. It offers experiences and resources to educate shoppers, not just about their products, but around the pursuits their customers enjoy. Visitors can access resources and recommendations for local areas to explore at its ‘campfire’ area, which includes a library with various books and maps. It also plans to host shopper tutorials moving forward, for example, a ‘how to pitch a tent’ workshop. Not only does this give shoppers another reason to visit the store, but also encourages loyalty and customer interaction. 

 

3Product customisation and personalisation

sporting goods custom

Nike and adidas offer shoppers the opportunity to personalise and customise products in-store. adidas LDN offers a ‘running lab’, where customers can run on a treadmill which records their gait and suggests the trainers best suited to them. It also features ‘The Creators Court’, where customers can create a movement pattern, download it, and have it pressed onto a t-shirt. Similarly, Nike offers a run analysis service so customers can ensure they’re choosing the best trainers for them, as well as a running coach service where they can receive a bespoke running programme. The store also incorporates football shirt printing services and a boot trial section. These additional services provide added value to the customer and help to enhance brand loyalty.

 

4Sustainability

Through research we conducted with 200 retail professionals, we found that 86% of brands believe that sustainability is important to customers when making a purchase decision.

When analysing our four sporting goods brands, it was encouraging to see so much consideration given to this. adidas LDN’s digital touch points are all powered by green energy, and throughout the store consideration has been given to respecting and protecting the environment by using a large range of sustainable and responsibly sourced materials. Patagonia’s whole ‘Worn Wear’ concept is based on selling second-hand products and its ‘ReCrafted’ collection; clothes made from apparel beyond repair. North Face also makes a big effort to recycle and use old products. Its Soho store features seats made from recycled duffel bags and information points where customers can learn which products have been made from which recycled materials. Similarly, Nike has information points situated around its London flagship displaying the company’s impressive sustainability credentials and information about the materials used for its products.

As sustainability becomes increasingly important to consumers, it’s crucial that brands are able to effectively demonstrate their commitment and effort to the issue.

 

5Ultra-convenience

Another key theme noted from our market research was how some brands have begun to offer the convenience of online shopping in store. Using their smartphones, adidas customers can scan products to check stock, request sizes and purchase on the spot without needing to queue. Staff can then locate the customer in the store to bring them their requested product. Similarly, the changing rooms feature smart mirrors with RFID technology to recognise items of clothing and the display relevant information. Customers can also use the mirror to request alternative styles and sizes.

The Nike app provides a similar function, allowing shoppers to access more information at points and order products to a specific location in the store. A customer can scan a pair of trainers, for example, and request to try them on in their size. The Nike app tracks the process; from the request being received to when the pair is available to try on. They can request for items to be left at specific points in the store while they’re browsing, and if they wish to go ahead with their purchase, pay on the spot.

This ‘best of both worlds’ approach allows customers the hassle-free transaction they’d expect from e-commerce, but the ability to see, touch and experience the product in person before committing to the purchase, eliminating the often-complicated online returns process.

While the sporting goods brands we’ve highlighted all offer something very different, overarchingly, their creative concepts and installations are all incredibly effective because they turn customers’ passive browsing into memorable experiences and deepen their connection with the brand. When stores can safely reopen their doors, I look forward to seeing the innovative new ideas and installations that will undoubtedly emerge as the resilient retail sector rises to its new challenge.

Terry Clark
Author: Terry Clark