How sportswear brand Asics played catch up with digital

Online sales have surged at sportswear band Asics: up 130% in the first quarter compared with last year. “Digital is huge,” says Rick Hoving, eCommerce manager for EMEA at the company. Although that hasn’t always been the case: “I have to say we were late to the party.”

In the last two years Hoving says the company has been upping its game. In 2017 it moved to Salesforce’s Commerce Cloud, to unify nearly a dozen platforms across different regions and gain a better view of the customer, and align its campaigns.

“We have been working on product side for two years, where we have really improved the user experience. So we were taking it forward.. the next step is to also look at the post purchase experience,” says Hoving.

To that end the company recently partnered with package tracking company Narvar in Europe, after already working with the business in North America. When checking out customers can see when their package will arrive before they hit the buy button, after that they get proactive tracking information so they don’t need to constantly call and ask 'where’s my order?'. The service is offered in 11 European markets in eight languages.

Services like Amazon next-day delivery have raised customer expectations, he says. “People just expect more transparency and a better experience around delivery.” He says not only is it about improving the experience but “if we don’t do it, we lose customers… you have to run that extra mile these days, especially in the digital world.

Getting physical

The company also recently unveiled a brand new headquarters in Amsterdam, which include internal staircases to encourage movement, gym facilities, an atrium with 1,000 glass panels, and low-toxin natural materials including 20,000 bamboo panels.

“It’s all about making the experience better for the inside customer and outside customer.”

He says the ethos of the site goes hand-in-hand with its digital strategy: to showcase the company’s “premium brand” status. “Digital, in my eyes, is the best way to do that, because it is your biggest shopping window and it is where the journey starts for a lot of our customers.”

The company has a few flaghship stores in central London and the rest of the UK is covered by factory outlets. “We are focusing more and more on the endless aisle, which means we bring tablets to our store staff if they can’t offer you the range of products… you can buy it in-store online and we will deliver to your house or a store nearby,” he says.

"Omnichannel is very important to us: making sure we bring the digital experience to the store. But we also want to bring the store experience to digital. Personalisation is an important one... to see what we can do in terms of persuasive profiles, what we can do to improve the customer experience."

Although the business reported bumper online sales, overall revenue fell 9% for the quarter. Hoving says the overall sales drop was a “natural dip” that “you would expect if you are late to digital.” He adds: “We have to look at how we can bring the digital world into the retail stores.”