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How Nike and Athleta Are Conquering Omnichannel

Hilary George-Parkin

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Today’s top retailers don’t rely solely on either digital or brick-and-mortar, and a new report says Nike and Athleta are leading the pack in terms of delivering a seamless shopping experience across channels.

NewStore, which provides retailers with a mobile platform to run their stores, analyzed the omnichannel capabilities of more than 200 luxury, premium and lifestyle brands and found that Nike came out on top.

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This isn’t an accident: On a recent earnings call, Nike CEO Mark Parker called “the fusion of digital and physical … a huge priority [and] source of investment for us.” In the 2019 fiscal year, the sportswear giant invested over $1 billion in evolving its app and NikePlus membership platform, launching new digitally integrated store concepts and deepening its data and analytics facilities — and that was before it acquired Celect, a company specializing in predictive analytics and demand sensing, in August.

NewStore’s report highlights Nike’s six-story New York City flagship, which features digital pick-up lockers, customization studios, instant checkout stations and a Speed Shop that leverages local data to determine the inventory stocked on shelves.

Athleta, Gap Inc.’s fast-growing athletic brand, earned the second-place slot for being “one of the first brands in its parent company’s portfolio to run its stores on mobile, connecting shoppers with high-demand products and demonstrating its commitment to socially responsible activity.” Currently, store associates can process transactions on mobile devices from anywhere in the store, including mixed-cart and endless aisle purchases.

The company recently tapped former Sephora and Nike exec Mary Beth Laughton as its president and CEO. Gap CEO Art Peck called out her “strong background in digital operations, keen understanding of customers and ability to deliver innovative experiences” in the announcement.

Many retailers that have invested in omnichannel strategies have found that it has paid off. A 2017 Harvard Business Review study determined that omnichannel shoppers “spent an average of 4% more on every shopping occasion in the store and 10% more online than single-channel customers,” and with every additional app, digital tool and shopping channel they used, they spent more on average in-store.

According to NewStore, there’s been momentum in several areas of retail over the past year: 51% of store associates can now access organization-wide inventory from a mobile device, up from 39% last year, and 58% can see customers’ omnichannel purchase history, up from 32% last year. Still, many retailers are lagging behind.

“The brands that really struggle are those that operate online and in-store in silos, on systems that were never built with other channels in mind,” said NewStore founder and CEO Stephan Schambach. “The key to omnichannel is having a single system for real-time omni data — inventory, customers and orders. And more importantly, putting this in the hands of store associates.”

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