Joining the Movement with Stadium

Today, I am “joining the Movement” and I am speaking with Pino Roscigno, who is the Commercial & Brand Director at Stadium, the leading sporting goods retailer in the Nordics.

I would like to understand how market and technological dynamics are rewriting the rules of competition in one of the most competitive industry in the world, forcing brands to rethink the way they work. I mean: The changing consumer shopping behaviour and the trend towards increased digitization.

This is not a big surprise if I dare to say that, globally, digitization and e-commerce have fundamentally changed the way retailers sell products. The whole value chain has been impacted. Main brands are under pressure, obviously.

Customer interactions have increasingly gone digital and becoming less controllable. Online and offline retailing have converged, as all retailers nowadays manage both online and in-stores activities. Pure digital players have become physical too, indicating some sort of convergence. Then, very recently, Amazon entered the Swedish market.

With Pino Roscigno, we are analyzing the impacts of those elements on 3 key areas.

  1. The link between shopping experience and brand identity
  2. The transitioning towards a “hybrid” shopping model
  3. The role of technology and data in this journey.

Pino, it is really good to have you here!

Q.

Tell us about Stadium and your role…

Pino: Stadium is a Swedish, privately owned, sports retailer that started in the mid 70-s by the sports passionate and competitive brothers Ulf and Bo Eklöf in Norrköping. They were inspired by the LA Olympics -84 and created a unique and, for the time, bold concept with race tracks in store,  a cool image, the Stadium brand and a broad range of global and inspiring brands at good price. Stadium was early out when it comes to combining Sports and fashion. Sports & Sports fashion was the positioning and it still is.

It is still by far the strongest sports retail brand in Sweden. Stadium Group operates today in Sweden, Norway and Finland with three concepts: Stadium, Stadium Outlet and Sneakers Point. We have 180 stores, online sales and approximately 5,000 employees. Our headquarter is located in Norrköping with a branch in Solna, Stockholm.

My role as the Commercial & Brand Director is to commercialize the offer and build the Stadium brand, regardless channels and markets, together with a fantastic team on Commercial & Brand in Solna.

Q.

Before Stadium, you have worked in other industries, what do you think is specific and different with sports retailing in comparison to other industries?

Pino: Still after three years I am struck by how passionate and interested people, our customers, actually are about their activities and training. People, including me of course, identify themselves very much through their sports even if they don’t practice them all the time.  I believe that is something unique for the category. The trend of an interest in a healthy and active lifestyle is still strong and I believe it will continue to grow even stronger the more insights and fact we get. Even if it is sad to see and be reminded of that people actually don’t do what the say they do. We are more enlighted and knowledgeable about the importance of an active life but there are very few signs that shows that we, as a population, actually are becoming more active. There is a big segregation.

Didier: When we read the media, the case against retailers seems clear. However, a more careful analysis shows that the picture is not as dark at it seems.

Q.

What do you think are the main sources and levers of competitive advantage for sports retailers in general?

Pino: On a brand level what we read in the media is correct. There is a continuous shift to something new as in most industries. Certain retailers are struggling and suffering, that’s a fact but the underlying volume and growth is still there. People are still willing to consume both low price and volume as well as high end and sustainability.

There are many so called gurus out there predicting the future but only time will tell. You have to be prepared to live under continuous change in order to adapt and that goes to Sports retailers as well as everyone else.

There is a strong global trend towards an active life, sports, training and healthy living but that doesn’t mean you’re safe and sound as a sports retailer. You still have to manage a never ending change of consumer behavior towards sustainability trends like renting, circular production, second hand and a never ending offer of global and local brands online and in store.

On shopping experience and brand identity

Didier: In recent years, retailers have invested heavily in a number of specific areas, such as branding, revamping existing stores, creating new concepts, optimising fulfillment system, or integrating digital technologies.

Q.

What does a good shopping experience mean to you? What are the building blocks?

Pino: For me a good shopping experience is when the process of “the building blocks” works smoothly. Navigation online and in store, shopping carts, paying methods, deliveries and, in worst case, returns. Processes you can design and predict.

What actually wows me is when the unexpected and unwanted happens and the retailer surprises me positively by handling the situation in a personal way. Put more effort in to handling the unexpected.

Didier: On the topic of branding specifically, I have read that consumers increasingly favour brands that are “mission-driven”, with a “personality”, with sense of belonging to a “community”.

Q.

What is your view on the relationship between brand and Customer Experience? How important is branding for Stadium?

Pino: Customer experience builds brand so they cannot actually be separated. Just through our own channels we have more than a hundred million meetings/year and at Stadium we consider them all as brand building and it is something that we take in consideration when managing the customer journeys.

I have also heard about the conclusions that value- and purpose driven companies are more successful and wanted by the consumer than others. Even if I am a bit skeptical about the analysis and the conclusions drawn, I can relate to the feeling of prioritizing companies where staff is obsessed with the products and the employer. When the staff and the company share the same values. It adds on to the customer experience in a good way.

As a brand I believe in being clear and transparent about who you are and what you believe in, openly take a stand and with that the consequences of your believes.

For Stadium authenticity is very important. We say no to brands that don´t follow our code of conduct with clear guidelines around sustainability, we say no to motor sports because of our vision of activating the world and we say no to collaboration with teams that don´t share our efforts and believes in enabling sports for women.

Q.

At Stadium, your motto is to “activate the world”. How does this translate into your daily operations? What are the benefits for the customers?

Pino: It reflects how and who we recruit, their interest in an active lifestyle, how we meet and interact internally and with our external partners, always with an activity on the agenda.

It is reflected in our sponsorships and event partners. Inspiring and nudging towards activities such as Stadium Sports camp each summer and the activity bag to first graders. Our terms for sponsorship supports equality and inclusion in training.

The customer gets Stadium staff that is extremely loyal to the company, that shares and believes in the company values, with a passion for an active life. The benefits for the customer is knowledgeable and passionate staff and an assortment that supports “Sports & Sports fashion for everybody”

Q.

Was it more difficult for a multi-product sports retailer like Stadium to create such a strong brand in comparison with other industries?

Pino: Multi brand is great for creating buzz and interest around innovation but as a marketer I sometimes envy the single brand retailers like IKEA who has a tonality and a visual identity that goes like a red thread through the assortment and the value proposition year after year and from market to market.

The sports mega-brands have worked very closely together with Stadium during the years and they are part of todays success together with a unique offer of brands created by Stadium.

On transitioning towards a “hybrid” shopping model

Didier: One of the things I am interested in is how you are leveraging this brand promise across online and in-store shopping experiences. The buying process has changed dramatically in the last 20 years. Some retailers have restructured their distribution networks, redesigned store layouts, optimized the supply chain in search for smaller sq meters, smaller SKU, or less inventory. In other cases, the focus has been on showrooms, pop up stores, or concept stores…

Q.

First, let me ask you about the impacts of those changes on the actual physical stores? How have you responded at Stadium?

Pino: The work of optimizing operations and the store porfolio is an ongoing process. We categorise the stores in various levels to adapt to the local market. We have converted to Outlets in changing locations, added concept stores (Stadium Ski) and closed concept stores (Stadium Junior). We have upgraded the concept in some locations like Drottninggatan in Stockholm. We also work with pop up stores together with our large event partners.

The stores are very important to us and we believe in them for the future. That doesn´t mean we believe that things will stay the same. Things are evolving, the needs differ from market to market and from location to another and there is not a one solution for all concept. For the moment there is a trend towards smaller stores, a long and strong trend for outlets and concept stores on certain locations.

Didier: You are managing several channels: Stores, outlets, online shop, click and collect features. For years, the debate was on the conflicting relationship between physical stores and e-commerce. Today, the focus has shifted to deliver experiences across multichannel touchpoints, online and offline.

Q.

Could you give us a glimpse of the kind of challenges you are facing?

Pino: We haven’t seen the ultimate solution for picking up and returning goods in a customer and staff friendly way. We haven’t managed to make the impressingly wide online assortment as known and clear to the consumer as the assortment in store. We have so much more cool stuff than people actually know intuitively and it has actually just started, there will be so much more. Did you know we have an increasingly large Horse assortment or that we are big on snowboard and paddle online?  

Q.

How do you understand the influence of a specific channel in the buying process?

Pino: By studying the customer behavior and trying to understand the role of the channel in the buying process. We work with attribution analysis to understand and take actions.

Didier: I believe we are discussing segmentation. Some customers want to be served in the traditional way, while others expect more interactive or innovative connections. Some wish both: The convenience of digital and the advantages of physical stores.

Q.

How do you anticipate what clients expect from their experience with Stadium and identify what touchpoints they want to use across the buying process?

Pino: Staff, store and customer services have important roles of giving insights to take actions upon and we follow NPS closely.

Didier: When we look at what is happening in the industry, we see that some retailers are trying to find new models, re-imagining the customer journeys. They are turning towards “hybrid” shopping experiences that combine together online and offline. I am talking about “web to store”, “mobile to store”, “mobile in stores” journeys.

Q.

What do you think of those hybrid models  – Half online, half in-stores – of engaging with customers? Do you think they work practically?

Pino: The true answer is that I don´t know but my strong believe is that in order to be sustainable in your business model you have to be profitable otherwise you will start to panic, listen to the wrong advisors and make bad decisions. Complex situations benefit from simple solutions.

Q.

How do you combine the buying process in stores with the buying process online?

Pino: By providing the store staff the tools for using the wide online assortment to satisfy the client, reminding of online possibilities in store and by using the stores as a pickup and return point for the online buyers. More services for a good shopping experience are coming through our app member app.

On the role of technology and data in this journey

Didier: Turning to the role of technology and data. It is obvious that they are crucial enablers. It is about attracting, converting, keeping customers but also about increasing the purchase frequency, etc.

Q.

How important are technology and data in supporting your operations at Stadium?

Pino: We have close to four million members and more than one hundred million yearly visits. Every purchase and visit gives us insight on what works or not when it comes to our operation. We have a competent team of analysts drawing conclusions and provide insights to support decisions in the buying process, in logistics and in the marketing process.  

Q.

This is indeed a large volume of data available. Could you give us an example of how you are leveraging this data? What type of data do you collect and analyse?

Pino: It could be external data such as weather data or seasonal variations to get insight on external factors. Combined with media spend and data from all of our touchpoints.  

Q.

What types of KPIs are you following?

Pino: KPIs that helps us to take action in our production and our business model. Like sustainability data, consumer behavior data, consumer opinion data (how we are perceived as a brand) and market share KPIs.

Didier: Going back to the stores. Some retailers are exploring ways to offer, in stores, experiences that cannot be delivered online. They are experimenting interactive displays, Augmented Reality, or Virtual Reality in their stores.

Q.

How important is technology in reshaping the in-store shopping experience when selling sport products?

Pino: Technology is playing an important role when it comes to eliminating bottle necks and supporting the consumer for a smoother buying process as well as supporting staff in doing a more efficient and customer friendly work. Some solutions work others don’t.

It is a constant trial and error ongoing but the importance of tech is increasing. It is a clear trend towards digital tools and guides apps to support assortment in store.

Q.

To sum up, the focus on delivering the ultimate shopping experience to customers is a continuous change. Which areas, do you think, will receive more attention in the near future?

Pino: After this strange year I believe we will have to take a step back and just summarize what happened in order to understand in what ways things are fundamentally changed but solutions for a more sustainable consumption and new ways of delivering and returning goods is my prediction.  

Q.

So, a final word, what advice do you have for marketing and sales executives who are experiencing similar challenges?

Pino:

  1. Be curious about trends but not carried away. Does it really excite the customer as much as it excites you?
  2. Stay true to the brand you´ve been given the responsibility to manage for a time of its lifetime, don´t experiment to much with it but let it evolve to stay relevant
  3. Be proud of your offer and put it in the forefront

Finally make sure you are in a place where you share the values of the company and that you are appreciated for who you are and what you do.

Didier: Thank you so much Pino for this conversation, and for sharing some very good lessons learned!

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About the Author

Didier Dessens

CRM and Digital Experience Advisory

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