How Under Armour Is Redefining Retail, And What You Can Learn
When the pandemic hit SA, businesses were given a brutal ultimatum: adapt or die. Here’s how Under Armour (UA) flipped the script to survive (and thrive) in the face of an unprecedented crisis.
As digital ed for Men’s Health, I tried out UA’s latest virtual shopping experience and I could not be more impressed. “We will at all times look to support our community, from a customer health, staff and societal point of view,” the brand said in a statement.” In doing so, the brand thought up four new ways to shop in South Africa:
- VIRTUAL SHOPPING: available to consumers wishing to take a virtual walk through the store with a tech specialist as a personal shopper. BOOK HERE.
- PRIVATE STORE BOOKINGS: for customers who would like to book out a store for a private shopping experience, between 9 am-10 am, 7 days a week. BOOK HERE.
- DRIVEWAY NINJAS: an at-home service that allows consumers to book a private shopping session in the comfort of your own space. Through the process of booking, a tech specialist will be made available to meet you in your considered safe space. Pre-requirements will be shared with your Ninja and up to 25 items (10 shoes and 15 garments) will be brought to you for consideration of purchase. BOOK HERE.
- SHOP AT WORK THROUGH PRIVATE CORPORATE SHOPPING EXPERIENCES: In an ode to mobile libraries of old, Under Armour will bring a mobile store to corporates for a limited period. This option will allow a 1-day set up at the corporate residence including a tech specialist on-site to advise on key Run | Train looks. BOOK HERE.
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We spoke to Under Armour South Africa to find out how they made their genius plans, and what you can learn.
The virtual shopping experience done by Under Armour is genius. How did the concept come about?
Quite soon after lockdown, Gareth Kemp, the Managing Director of Under Armour SA, challenged the team to look at solutions to the new retail limitations set on South Africa and the world. The brief was a quick turnaround and to utilise existing business structures and tools. We put our customers’ needs at the centre of the problem, and quite quickly realised the Virtual Shopping Solution.
What was the main driver behind it as there is an online store already?
Under Armour is a technical performance brand which means not only is it required to look good, but to make athletes (customers) perform better. This is critical in the purchase decision, and it can be very intimidating to a customer on what is the correct technical solution for their requirement.
Our store staff are more than sales consultants, they are tech advisors and so Virtual Shopping facilitates this technical support / advice experience which is limited on an e-commerce platform. So, with Virtual Shopping, you get the service level of a full retail experience but online.
With the at-home shop, what are the precautions taken by the brand to ensure both staff and clients are safe?
Safety in all of these solutions are essential and our Ninja’s follow all the safety protocols and ensure the customers do the same. All the product is sanitised before and after each visit. More than this any business action take from this point on, has full compliance to the business protocol 4 C’s:
Before any action is taken, we will ask: Is this considerate to all consumers needs as well as to their fears and concerns around contracting and spreading of the COVID-19 virus?
We will respect space and will not push boundaries in any communication or behaviour.
We will at all times actively practise and over – communicate full safety protocol.
We will offer convenience and next-level service in terms of shopping methods, payment methods and delivery methods.
Is this a temporary shopping experience during the pandemic?
We believe consumer behaviour will change forever and therefore there is no going back. With this, there is only opportunity for more solutions that suit the customer and brands need to embrace and adapt accordingly. The days of browsing through malls is possibly a distant memory. So the fun part is trying, tweaking, adapting and innovating for the new world.
What were some of the challenges faced by Under Armour to set this up?
Our principle was to get it out there, learn and adapt as opposed to spend vast amounts of time and money perfecting something which we had no reading on the need. So our turnaround was approximately 3 weeks from concept to launch, and now we are fine-tuning. Technology is the enabler and therefore also the major challenge around integration to existing systems for ease of use and business management.
It’s so important to stay innovative during these times. What’s your advice to other brands and businesses trying to stay relevant during the pandemic?
Think big, act small. And don’t be afraid to try. The challenge is to stay nimble, real and in touch with the customer. Customers don’t need brands to have it all figured out, but they do recognise brands who relentlessly seek to be better for them.