A retail wreck ensued earlier this month when over a thousand stores from brands like Radio Shack and Michael Kors closed their doors for good.

The retail apocalypse seems real with no signs of stopping soon. Wall Street firm Credit Suisse expects 25 percent of US malls to shutter by 2022.

With the retail industry contributing more than $5 trillion in economic impact per year, brick-and-mortar retailers are rapidly reshuffling their business decks to keep their piece of the pie by optimizing customer experiences and creating cohesive experiences with an omnichannel strategy.

New brand strategy shifts include everything from experiential retail pop-up shops to introducing artificial intelligence, augmented reality and IoT in order to enhance the shopping journey and further harvest customer loyalty.

Under Armour (UA) is one of the brands feeling the retail reverberation. Earlier this year, the athletic apparel company reported their first quarterly loss since going public in 2006.

Sid Jatia, vice president of omnichannel digital at Under Armour, joined AListDaily to share how the Baltimore-bred company is tapping into data-backed health and fitness tracking insights and influencers to satisfy online and offline consumer expectations.

Sid Jatia, VP of omnichannel digital at UA

Why is it critical for UA to have a digital-first sensibility in retail?

With the size of UA’s digital community, currently more than 200 million members worldwide, and a large part which is primarily interacting with us in digital, we have the responsibility to think digital-first. The UA Shop app is one example of how we’re leveraging our large community on the Connected Fitness Platform and providing an elevated personalized shopping experience. When it comes to commerce, we’re using digital as our backbone—how we understand the customer cross-channel and having a better understanding of what they want, their interests and then connecting the dots to experiences in a physical retail store and on digital commerce channels such as UA.com and our health and fitness apps. As we think about the role of the storefront evolving, we realize the opportunity to make these locations more of an experience center—making sure our customers see content that is relevant and products that are contextual to their needs, all still possible because our data backbone.

How is UA cultivating desire and engaging in a way that culminates into a transaction?

What our team strives to deliver is truly understanding customer motivations and mindsets through the information we have—a treasure trove of data. Through our Connected Fitness communities, we can think strategically about how to sell them shirts and shoes as an interaction of mutual value. An example of this would be to look at a consumer who’s using MyFitnessPal to chronicle their weight loss journey—they might not be interested at first in buying UA products or be engaged with the brand at all. We have to understand their motivations; possibly new workout clothes once they have hit a milestone, or new shoes if we know they’re running and have achieved a replenishment threshold. We don’t want to intercept at the wrong time. We use our data to make sure it’s the right time, and the appetite is there to have a commerce conversation. We have also found the best ways to communicate to these communities is through triggered rewards—reaching out to people once they’ve hit milestones or specific thresholds in their health and fitness journey. This type of communication has seen four-to-six times more responsiveness, leading to higher conversion rates.  

What are some of the major industry shifts you’re focusing on to combat the e-commerce effect that companies like Amazon are forcing onto the industry?

We’re excited about what Amazon is doing in the retail innovation space, as they’re a strategic partner of ours. However, our team in the direct channel is focused on creating a more elevated experience, perhaps the best the brand can offer across touchpoints. Our customers come back to UA’s channels because of the rich content we can offer that portrays our brand in a way that is relatable—whether it’s through exclusive drops of our Stephen Curry basketball shoes, or a studio collection from our women’s line. We have an extensive product line and unique storytelling capabilities that differentiate us from retail channels like Amazon. At the end of the day it’s about personalized experiences, extensive product choices, deeper content and elevated conversation being the reward for shopping in the direct UA channel.

How is UA tackling omnichannel communication internally to ensure that content creation is consistent across all channels?

As an organization we excel at joining all of our teams together and making sure everyone is aligned around the opportunity, medium and channel to distribute the message and outcome we expect. There is a lot of collaboration cross-functionally, whether it’s product, design, creative, e-commerce or marketing, to make sure our strategies are in sync and focused on both consumer and business goals. One example is the collaboration between the UA Shop app and UA.com teams, who on a weekly basis jointly decide on merchandising, launch strategies and experiences they want to deliver to the audiences in the two channels. We believe in access for all, but at the same time, recognize that users who’ve volunteered to download the UA Shop app have raised their hand as brand fans and it’s our responsibility to make sure to provide them distinctly incremental value.

How are you using retail and social data from the UA apps to better connect with consumers?

Over the past two years, UA has heavily invested in technology that will better allow us to connect the dots between our customers and their digital behaviors. We have partnered with SAP to create a single view of the customer (SVOC) to amplify our ability to recognize, acknowledge and have tailored conversations with our customers across a variety of touchpoints. We now have the platforms to bridge retail purchases, Connected Fitness activity and other purchasing behaviors, giving us the ability to make each interaction more valuable for the customer.

How are you marketing to the elevated levels of newness and customization that are expected from today’s consumer? How do personalized products come into play?

Customization is an important strategy for us and something that consumers have now come to expect. Customizations can be about products—but equally important is experience customization. Specifically looking at digital though, UA Shop is wholly about customization. By utilizing the data we have available, we’re able to curate content and recommend products specifically based on your wants and needs. We can use this information to produce content through our athletes, campaigns and new collections based on your interests. Every consumer will have a different experience.

What are the omnichannel growth opportunities for UA in the next 12 months?

As our Connected Fitness community continues to grow, we have the opportunity to tap into this data to make stronger merchandising decisions. We will also be investing in the retail experiences, particularly in our brand houses, to ensure customers are really connected to who UA is as a company. UA Play is a perfect example of this. Customers can download the UA Play application, where they can scan bar codes across the store to learn about product details and seek artist information from the various artist graphics. We want to find ways to keep people engaged in our product in a fun way. In terms of building more foundational connections between our channels to drive improved productivity, we will keep our focus on initiatives which help drive efficiency in fulfillment and supply chain side while also keeping a focus on changing consumer landscape to provide elevated customer experiences.

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