Gunnar Jans ist Chefredakteur von ISPO.COM
Gunnar Jans

Digitalization in the sports business: More VR, fewer showrooms, retailers as consultants

Adidas: What Digitalization Means for Retail

What does the future hold for the sports business and sales? What requirements will there be in the future for the sporting goods industry and specialty sports retail? The subject of digitalization is becoming increasingly important, and Adidas wants to be the number one in this field, too. Adidas Executive Board Member with responsibility for Global Sales Roland Auschel explains in an interview why showrooms will be a thing of the past soon, how virtual reality is being implemented in B2B, what role retail is taking on, and which retailers are facing existential challenges in the field of digitalization.   

Adidas' strategic business plan "Creating the new" also addresses the question of how the sporting goods giant and industry as a whole will position themselves in the future.
Adidas' strategic business plan "Creating the new" also addresses the question of how the sporting goods giant and industry as a whole will position themselves in the future.

Adidas Sales Director Roland Auschel in an interview

Roland Auschel has worked at Adidas since 1989, and has been a member of the Executive Board and responsible for Global Sales since 2013. In the first part of his interview with, Roland Auschel explained 

Part 2 of the interview is about digital transformation and its consequences. Roland Auschel says: “The sporting goods industry needs to wake up and face digitalization.” He explains what this means for sports retail and the industry here.

Adidas: New B2B platform by the name of “Click”

Mr. Auschel, how do you see the future of sales?
Completely surprising: digital. Just think of the enormous range of options we already have today when communicating with consumers on all the e-commerce platforms. There are many things that we’re already testing with consumers and can then bring into our B2B division. Right now we’re building a digital order platform by the name of “Click” – a self-service portal for specialty retail. There, our customers can download information, find out what they want to know, leave orders and see where they are – all for the purpose of transparency.

Read here: 4 billion euros revenue with e-commerce – that’s Adidas’ plan

Adidas is focusing on VR, not showrooms: Faster and more affordable

You’re convinced that there are going to be fewer showrooms in the future, right?
Instead of relying on Excel lists, catalogs or samples, we’re going to implement a new digital form of presentation with the “Virtual Reality Sell-In Tool.” People can then view products in high-resolution 3D quality in a virtual world, take them off the shelf and rotate them 360 degrees. In addition, things like displaying article numbers, segmentation, price overviews and videos will also be possible. In other words: Our regional showrooms can thus be digitized.

Why should a retailer still have to drive to a remote showroom when we can bring everything to them in a single box? Nowadays, we transport hundreds of thousands of products throughout the world – that’s something we can save on. And it be done faster. For the customer and for us.

Zwischensohle aus dem 3D-Drucker: Mit dem Futurecraft 4D geht Adidas revolutionäre Wege. Bald kann ein passgenauer Schuh innerhalb eines Tages individualisiert hergestellt werden. 
Adidas is leading the way in terms of digitalization. Examples: the Speedfactory and the new Futurecraft 4D. Adidas Executive Board Member Roland Auschel explains in an interview what this means for production and processes.

Roland Auschel: Digital Readiness Check shows the truth

To what extent is retail positioned for these changes; how ready is it for transformation? After all, this is the result of a survey conducted as part of ISPO’s Digital Readiness Check– only one in three retailers has their own social media account, and one in three still doesn’t have their own website. Isn’t Adidas going too fast for retail?
The Digital Readiness Check by ISPO definitely produced some unpleasant and definitely undesirable truths for one or two retailers. We’re still far from having everybody on board. We’re convinced that we will continue to do business with the right customers.

Adidas: Better business with fewer customers – why not?

Does that mean that you’re expecting a major retailer death?
It’s not about the number of customers for us. If we can do the same or even better business with fewer customers – why fight it? But we also say that we as a market leader have a shared responsibility for how a market develops in the future. And that it’s definitely also part of persuading our retail partners to engage constructively with the subject of digitalization. It’s not our approach to say: Rest in peace; we at Adidas have a lot of alternatives in e-commerce. We helped shape and design the market. And that’s why we also take some responsibility for it.

“The retailer should take on a consulting role”

To ask provocatively: What place is there left for retail?
The Internet doesn’t reach consumers alone. It’s fast-paced and extremely hectic. And there’s a deluge of information. The retailer should take on a consulting role: I’ve scoured the market for you, dear consumer. I’m well-informed. I can give you a recommendation – and a recommendation from a good retailer is, to a certain extent, security. Provide security, assume the role of a consultant, be a service partner – the retailer can and must do all of this. However, to achieve this, it is also necessary to face the challenges of digitalization and see them as an opportunity.

“Market leader Adidas always takes responsibility”

You know the complaints of some retailers – for example, let’s take the promotion with the World Cup jersey that Adidas initially sold exclusively in its online store.
We discussed this with our customers far in advance. We also aren’t saying that we’ll have to do it again next time. But we are convinced that we need to try out new things to see what the consumer wants. Partnership also needs to exist if you’re treading new paths.

That said: How can digitalization be managed for all retailers?
Once again: A market leader like Adidas always take responsibility. But it’s a foregone conclusion that our industry is going to change. We have the opportunity to redefine the rules of the game. And for that, we need partners. The associations and large customers are just as challenged as our competitors. We don’t have the exclusive right of determination here. The sporting goods industry needs to wake up and face digitalization.

The store question
We opened numerous new stores in the past. The question today is: How many of these stores will we as a brand really need in the digital future?
Roland Auschel, Adidas Sales Director, in part 1 of the interview

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Gunnar Jans ist Chefredakteur von ISPO.COM
Gunnar Jans