Will Sports Direct be able to deliver on digital innovation?
It's been a troubled Christmas for a few big high street names as they struggle to adapt to the rapidly changing demands of a digital-first customer, yet instead appear to be burying their heads in the sand by blaming the weather on their poor performance.
Sports Direct's recent release of their trading figures have compounded the effect of the significant negative press around their treatment of their staff and their HR practices, and have wiped an astonishing 45% off their market valuation between the 1st December and the 11th January 2016 (Yahoo Finance)
If they are to recover to, i use the term loosely, their 'former glory', then solely focusing on ramming their stores with cut-price trainers and tracksuits will certainly not be enough.
With the digital ecosystem taking an ever increasing play in the run-up to Christmas then putting their customers expectations back at the core of their business is going to be critical.
The Customer dynamic continues to shift.
With November's Like for Likes (LFL) on the high street dropping 0.4%*, high-street footfall down 2.1% year on year and online sales on non-food up 11.8% LFL the UK consumer is ever shifting it's attention to a digital shopping journey.
With this comes expectations of a seamless journey between online and stores
Is launching a multichannel offering in 2015 too late?
Sports Direct have certainly been late to market with some key multi-channel initiatives such as launching their Click and Collect service only in the second half of 2015 and only recently removing the £4.99 charge. This has left them exposed to those competitors who are clearly placing 'omnichannel' as the core to their operating model and are a step-ahead in joining up that all important unified shopping experience across channels.
JD sports have, in their 2015 annual report and accounts, dedicated a significant amount of time to discussing their future strategy clearly illustrating how both their retail and digital operations now merge into one focal point for both their business and the Consumer. Omni-channel.
A focus on 'connection' will be key to return to success in 2016.
To be a high-performing retailer in today's market is no longer pre-determined by you being able to fill a store, sell it cheaper than the rest, and still make a profit. Consumers will take their business elsewhere if you cannot deliver a joined-up, cross-channel customer experience that they not only want but now expect.
A Study of 22 retailers carried out by the Connected Experience specialists, Red Ant and RSR, 72% of them agreed that ‘understanding customers on a truly one-to-one basis’ is vital for success. But when it comes to actually taking the steps necessary to align their service with customer expectations, there remains a lack of confidence in their ability to deliver - 61% believe that their existing tech infrastructure is preventing them from moving forward, while 67% believe that IT projects are never delivered on time, in scope or on budget, and that too much time is spent on maintenance rather than innovation.
A telling result came from the less successful retailers in the survey - 60% stated that their company does not have a focus on understanding or tracking new technology innovations, which may suggest why they are lagging behind their competitors.
Sports Direct's future performance will increasingly require a shift towards an unwavering and single-minded focus on satisfying the needs of these customers and their digitally centered lifestyle.
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