Véronique Le Bansais
Focus | 13 juin

When sport stores become the new social media
Nowadays everybody is an athlete, and fond of outdoor activities and yoga. Or would like to be.

When sport stores become the new social media © Lulu Lemon
In today’s world, it seems everyone is an athlete, an outdoorsman, or a yogi. Or wants to be. Or at least wants to look like one.
Sport has never been such a big part of our lives before… and retailers are enjoying it wholeheartedly. Although e-commerce for sporting equipment has been gaining ground – especially due to a surge in mobile, ease and speed of delivery, wide product choices and attractive prices – the physical space offers some unique advantages at a human and experiential level that some brands have learned to leverage to boost their image and retention of customers.

Willing to try a new sport?

Canadian-brands Lolë and Lululemon specialize in yoga clothing. Every week, their stores turn into improvised yoga classes and mats are laid on the floor. Teachers come from nearby cities to give free classes that are open to everyone, even non-customers: a beautiful way to democratize yoga.
Do you live too far from one of the many Lululemon stores? No worries, two classes are available online for free.
These meetings provide countless benefits to these two brands: recruitment of new customers by inspiring them, an opportunity to receive their feedback and know their needs in a relaxed and intimate environment, enabling the brand to create products that are always more fitted and more functional, and finally, creating a ritual. Here, the staff is not just in charge of selling products… they become trainers and advisers.

The store as a gathering place

Lolë and Lululemon have another strength: strong community spirit. They give like-minded people an opportunity to meet and live their passion together.
The world’s finest cycling equipment supplier, Rapha, is one of the few brands that have successfully built an authentic and durable connection with their audience. Although most transactions occur online, Rapha has rolled out multiple points of sales in major capitals (New York, London, Amsterdam, Tokyo, Sydney…) that are interactive and community-driven. Rapha Cycle Club is the place where bike-lovers and fans of the brand gather to share a cup of coffee or a snack in a warm atmosphere.
 © DR
Here, bikers’ art of living is celebrated. Points of sale turn into meeting spots, exclusive channels of choice, and an opportunity for the brand to build strong and durable relationships with customers.

The store as a socially responsible player

Let’s focus on Nike and the opening of their “Community Stores” where the brand turns into a major social player acting for a great cause: integration and social cohesion. How is this strategy conveyed into the store? There are 4 major objectives:
 Recruit at least 80% of staff within a 5 miles radius of the location
 Capture the spirit of the city with the store’s curated local design and product offerings. For instance, the Detroit location showcases photos of iconic sports venues as well as photographies by Neil Tasker, a local artist. Detroit Lions t-shirts and Detroit Tigers are exclusively sold at that location.
 Sales associates, also called “store athletes”, have an opportunity to give back to the surrounding community through the “Nike Community Ambassador Program”. They are also allocated additional volunteer hours to support groups in their backyard.
 Beyond their on-ground community activation, Nike Community Stores offer annual grants to non-profit groups via the expanded « Nike Community Impact Fund »
 © DR
We know that we are in a transformative time for retail, where the advent of revolutionary changes in technology, society and the lives of consumers will continue to impact on our sector. Sports brands have understood one fundamental aspect of it : as we continue to shift to digital methods, the human factor can’t be simply forgotten.
Whether it be educative, playful or committed to a cause, the customer experience of sports retailers embodies the need for deeper human connections.
Véronique Le Bansais
Partner MADnetwork
Véronique Le Bansais est Partner chez MADnetwork, en charge du pôle cosmétique. Elle accompagne également des maisons horlogères et joaillières à imaginer leur concept boutique de demain, associant le rêve et à une efficacité commerciale redoutable.
Crédits photo : Nike, Lulu Lemon, DR
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