For a company founded in the summer of 1924, Adidas has done a remarkably good job at staying relevant. Steadily growing into one of the biggest sportswear brands in the world throughout the 20th Century, the German giant has navigated the delicate balance between staying true to your traditions and innovating when necessary. It has embedded itself fundamentally in sports, has managed to become a 'cool' clothing company in its own right, and pervades the world of modern music.
It has done this by keeping a keen eye on developing trends, being bold in its branding, and knowing which parts of its history to keep and which to evolve - the wildly popular Originals range is testament to this. It has managed to make itself synonymous with underground music scenes whilst also stocking the biggest and most wealthy soccer clubs in the world with kit. Adidas is, as much as anything else, a master of plate spinning. Currently, it's having to deal with the same predicament many established retailers find themselves in: how best to marry the online and offline shopping experiences.
A particular problem that Adidas suffers from is the fact its products are stocked by a wide range of stores, both on the high street and online. These stores will, often, undercut the official Adidas prices, making it difficult for it to compete in terms of value. This is where positive customer experience comes in; if Adidas can find a way of marrying online and offline which results in a memorable experience, it will be able to establish itself as the best place to buy its own products.
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This means changing the way its stores work entirely. “Stores will change, there will be less products, there will be more interactions in stores. For bigger brands like Adidas it will be about providing more and more of those interesting, creative experiences that actually mean something to the consumer,” explains Adidas' global director of digital and retail marketing, Swave Szymczyk, in conversation with Marketing Week. “And we will genuinely use technology as an enabler for that, but we won’t use technology for technology’s sake. It should be there to help and be the full experience.”
Building a great experience means that Adidas shouldn't be forced to lower its prices to compete with its stockists. “We know on our site and in our stores we’re never going to be the cheapest but that’s fine because that’s not where we’re looking to win. We’re looking to win with experience, telling a genuine Adidas story from start to finish – that’s our playground and that’s where we need to win,” Szymczyk said. “Some retailers will trade on volume and that will be it, but other retailers will be more premium in that space and they will really look at how they can make people’s lives easier and build affinity for their brand.”
One example of Adidas thinking outside the box to improve the experience of its stores is in its new stadium-inspired London outlet. The store, which opened earlier this year, is in London's Westfield Shopping Centre. It includes a players' tunnel through which customers enter the store, locker rooms for trying on kit and clothing, and stadium-style seating facing out of the store overlooking the shopping centre. It stocks both Adidas' performance ranges and its Originals, and has interactive zones in which it showcases product benefits and allows customers to use features like running machines which analyze gait and suggest trainers accordingly, or football goal simulators for testing boots.
Oliver Fehl, senior director of retail concepts at Adidas, explained the concept to Drapers Online: "We take [customers] to the Test and Create areas throughout the store and ask them, 'What do you need? What are you looking for?' We take runners to the treadmills and ask whether they normally run 5k or 10k, and how often. It is about engaging and finding what consumers need to ensure their best performance." Adidas' brand marketing director, Barry Moore, described the store as "a new standard for in-store experience, creativity, and sport in retail concept."
It's difficult to assess the affect of the improved in-store experience on Adidas' bottom line, given it has so many arms to its business and is so wildly successful in areas other than the high street. For reference, though, Adidas reported earlier this month an 18.6% rise in net income for the first quarter of 2018, compared with the previous year. Adidas keeps its high street stores not because it expects the physical store to provide incredible revenue vs that which it gets online, but because it provides positive experiences to its customers. Online sales are driven by positive experiences, and Adidas understands the need for the high street to reflect that.