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How Under Armour is connecting fitness with retail using digital tech

After acquiring MapMyFitness, Endomondo and MyFitnessPal for $710 million, Under Armour not only gained three highly-regarded digital fitness platforms, but a community of 165 million potential retail customers.  

Sid Jatia, VP digital, direct to consumer at Under Armour, said the retailer was founded 20 years ago, focusing on how athletes dress, now its mission has changed to address how these athletes live. 

“Among all three apps we have the largest digital fitness community on the planet, adding around a million users per week,” he said, noting 25% of people in North America are using one of these applications to track their activity, food and nutrition intake. 

“All our users are health and fitness minded – a marriage made in heaven,” said Jatia. “And in countries where we don’t have a lot of retail stores, our handshake with the digital community is the first handshake we make, before they know what Under Armour is, they might already be on our fitness platform.”

The American sports clothing retailer, which has seen 19 years of continuous growth and 23 quarters of consecutive 20% growth, is famous in the US but still in its infancy in Europe. But Jatia said the digital communities are a big driver for Under Armour’s expansion plans. 

“We’ll be getting to saturation in the US pretty soon,” he said. “But when you talk about acquiring new customers internationally without spending 100 stores in each country, this is the way we’re going to do it.”

Millennials

Speaking at the Millennial 2020 event in London last week, Jatia was keen to stress the digital channels are not about pure commerce and selling, but activation of customers and personalising content. 

“Millennials are all about indulgence, self-recognition, living with a purpose – we take that essence and blend it into our channels,” he explained.

“We couldn’t jam in a storefront to try and sell to them – when you’re working out that’s the last thing you want to see, so we have to think about commerce a bit differently.”

Jatia said Under Armour ensures it weaves content and commerce together within its mobile apps, for instance a yoga workout video would be automatically tagged with products, which Jatia said is making a moment shoppable. 

“We’re not creating a shopfront, we’re enabling commerce versus selling,” he said. “And millennials want everything on their own terms.” 

Under Armour will be launching Healthbox over the summer in Europe, which is a range of fitness hardware, including a tracker, heart rate monitor and digital scale. Jatia said while a lot of people already have trackers, they need to be synched to various applications available on the market and are not ‘plug in-and-play’, like Under Armour’s offering. 

“Millennials have no patience to deal with a brand which can’t create a seamless experience.”

While Jatia admitted conversion rates from community platforms are “drastically lower” than eCommerce, he said that is to be expected because customers come to UnderArmour.com with the intention of purchasing, unlike the users on the app who are there to predominantly work out. 

“But we’ve had a 100-200% growth in conversion [from the apps] since last year, and part of it is brand awareness.”

Retail store

Under Armour is also digitising its stores and improving its customer experience to provide a fitness service for its shoppers. 

“The retail space is not just a place where we sell stuff – it’s a place for experience,” said Jatia, who explained the Under Armour product is now the experience customers get in the store. 

“Don’t over indulge in your product, because the experience will ultimately become your product,” he added, noting if customers can buy products online, they are looking for something extra when they visit a store. 

The newly designed stores include fitness trackers and weighing scales, as well as monkey bars. While the retailer is also testing an interactive store-front window display which can track customers walking (or running) by, and inform them of how many steps and calories they burnt. Customers can then scan a QR code which downloads the fitness app with their mini “workout” already logged. 

“We’re basically taking 100% concierge approach towards fitness, and apparel and shoes becomes part of the conversation,” said Jatia. “It’s really not about selling stuff if you want to grow as a brand. The conversation should surround the engagement with the product – don’t separate product and experience.” 

 

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