Lars Becker

Leading sports retailers talk about the hurdles of the digital transformation

Digitalization: The Challenges in Sports Retail

Money, time, and the right personnel – these are the key challenges that sporting goods retailers face when it comes to digitalization. Before the ISPO Digitize Summit (June 28/29, 2018), we asked sports retailers about the digital transformation in a major survey. Part 1 of our series deals with the biggest hurdles currently facing retailers.

Intersport customers can get digital advice at Alexa in Berlin.
Intersport customers can get digital advice at Alexa in Berlin.

According to a survey, 63 percent of all SMEs do not yet have a suitable digital strategy. The right answer to the rapidly changing world of shopping, where you have to survive even against online giants like Amazon, is essential for the existence of sporting goods retailers. This is emphasized by Marcel Altenfelder, Managing Director of Intersport Wohlleben, in the survey: “For a mid-sized company like ours, manpower and necessary budgets are naturally the bottleneck of the digital transformation. We have created the conditions for a high implementation speed that’s essential for survival by strongly expanding our ‘digital department.’”

Digitalization: Change in corporate culture necessary

Of course, this requires money – major sports retailer associations such as Intersport or Sport 2000 have long since recognized this. “Digitalization affects the entire company, independent of structures and departments. This results in a multitude of projects and changes that require new ways of working and thinking. On the one hand we’re challenged in terms of the resources for implementation, and on the other hand in terms of the associated change in corporate culture,” says Andreas Rudolf, CEO of Sport 2000. So the staff has to be involved – otherwise digitalization won’t be possible.

Obsolete merchandise management system as a “growth brake”

“Good change management is key, as the process of digitalization can only work if you take all (or almost all) employees with you on the journey,” explains Marcel Altenfelder. In addition to “suitable personnel and high capital requirements,” he sees the “aging merchandise management system as the greatest brake on growth.” In retailers’ minds, a rethinking in the sports industry is also necessary in order to be able to deal more flexibly with the ever-faster changing trends and the wishes of customers.

Sports retailers lack standardized interfaces

“The lack of standardized interfaces and the gathering of the necessary information to this end requires a great deal of effort – especially when overcoming the concerns and grandfathers that still exist on all side,” is how Joachim Kiegele, owner and CEO of Intersport Kiegele in Geisenheim, explains the problems. The necessary changes for the new age of digitalization are costing the individual retailers energy and time. “Today, it’s almost inconceivable to run a stationary trading company and dedicate yourself to digitalization at the same time,” says Nicole Kälber, owner & CEO of Intersport Schrey in Pforzheim.

Investments in digitalization are worth it

Nevertheless, she considers the company’s investments in digitalization to be indispensable for every retailer. However, time and money are well invested if you take your staff with you on the way:  “Then the funds provided are also worthwhile because everyone believes in the project and supports it. Not everything is all that expensive! Even if you want to put that forward as a reason why you haven’t come to grips with the project yet. However, it is difficult to separate what’s necessary from what’s superfluous in digitalization. Kälber: “Which agency has the overview? Where is the central theme? And once you’ve found it, only briefly is it valid in this rapidly changing world.”

ISPO Digitize Summit gives answers

This is exactly where ISPO Digitize comes into play – this is where you’ll find the answers for the topic of digitalization, for both small retailers and large companies in the sports industry. The first ISPO Digitize Summit on June 28/29 at the International Congress Center ICM in Munich will therefore offer “best practice” examples on the subject of digitalization at all levels.

A great tool to check how much progress a company has already made in digitalization is the Digital Readiness Check. Professor Karl Peter Fischer developed the free online tool together with ISPO and sees a lot of catching up to do in the industry.

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Lars Becker