During the pandemic, one of the sectors which remained relevant to customers was definitely sports, particularly, sports accessories for outdoor activities or anything useful to recreate a gym at home.
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In cities, we have seen more stores popping up despite the decline in sales of traditional retailers, more accessories have been populating marketplaces, and specialized retailers have strengthened their omnichannel strategy to meet the needs of customers.
Retail in Asia had the pleasure to interview Si Ting Wong, Affiliate Lead at Decathlon Singapore to learn more about how Decathlon has been adapting to this new reality and new activities in place in Singapore.
RiA: Which trends have you noticed in the past year in terms of consumption in Singapore?
Si Ting: As Singaporeans have not been able to travel due to COVID restrictions, we have seen a real uptick in both outdoor and indoor sport activities. Many Singaporeans are picking up cycling as their hobby so we have seen a sharp increase in sales for bicycles and related accessories. Many are also keeping fit at home, home gym equipment like fitness machines, dumbbells and yoga mats are our hot sellers.
RiA: What is your customer profile in the market? Has it changed throughout the years?
Si Ting: It does not sound that precise to say ‘everyone’ but that is the truth (and what makes it such an opportunity – and a challenge – for Decathlon). In Singapore we have over 60 sports and 5000 products so our customer base comes from all walks of life – adults and children, male or female, beginner or intermediate sport users.
Our user base is constantly growing as we continuously add new sports and constantly innovate products for our customers. This is where our partnership program really augments our more traditional sales and marketing channels as it allows us to reach out to new communities of partners as we continue to expand.
RiA: How has the customer experience changed?
Si Ting: Post pandemic, we have definitely seen that Singaporeans are getting more comfortable with shopping online. When all of our retail stores were closed for three months last year, we saw a spike in our e-commerce sales – but online sales figures haven’t declined since physical retail reopened.
A lot has been written about how COVID accelerated digital transformation by several years – and it is certainly been our experience that Decathlon customers are now much more confident to buy online.
RiA: In your sector, do you think e-commerce is the way to go or an omnichannel integration with retail is best to boost brand awareness as well?
Si Ting: We are progressively working towards an omnichannel ecosystem. Both e-commerce and retail stores are actually complementing each other and we have found that together, they elevate the customer shopping experience. Here are a few examples of how our omnichannel activity does this.
Firstly, Click & Collect is one of our strongest omnichannel shopping experiences. When a customer shops online and sees something they like and would like to get it quickly, Click & Collect is the way to go. Customers can collect their purchase in two hours from our stores nearest to them. We have 12 stores, four experience stores and 8 Click & Collect stores, island wide in Singapore. Between them, there’s one bound to be convenient for the user.
We also recently launched our Decathlon App which you can use in-store too. With the app, customers can skip the queues at the kiosk and even order items that are not available. We have QR codes on the price label in stores that allows users to scan and find out more information online.
When it comes to big ticket items like bicycles or fitness machines, customers usually go to the store to test it out, touch and feel the physical product and go back home to do their research. If they decide to purchase, they can purchase it online. All these can only happen when both the online and physical store work together.
RiA: How does Decathlon use partnerships to drive sales across Singapore?
Si Ting: Partnerships fit really well into our mission, which is to bring the joy and pleasure of sports to as many Singaporeans as possible. By working with a diverse range of partners we are able to extend our reach to customers outside of our orbit.
We only partner with those who share our core values and so we are able to drive both brand and product awareness as well as foster brand trust. We see it as a form of brand extension. In terms of who we work with, the sky’s the limit. Currently, our partnership network includes banks, sport clubs, content creators, loyalty programs and coupon/cashback sites where our sport users and potential customers are.
RiA: Has the way it has used partnerships changed at all throughout the pandemic?
Si Ting: Like many brands we have had to tweak some of our executions. An obvious one for us is that there are some instances where gyms had to close as the government had to tighten the restrictions. This means many of our gym partners have been forced to tap into an omnichannel strategy where they host livestreams and workout videos.
This in turn has changed the way gyms recommend products from the offline to the online world.
RiA: Can you give an example of your best performing partnerships over the last year? How do you measure their value?
Si Ting: That would be like picking a favourite child as we collaborate with a variety of partners and every partnership is uniquely different. The best performing partnerships are created when there is a win-win situation for all parties involved and we measure by new user acquisition and return on advertising spend (ROAS).
Since we implemented a partnership automation software platform (Impact Partnership Cloud), we have been able to grow our partnership network by 192 percent, and our quarter-on-quarter growth is up 156 percent. This is in part because we can more easily see which partners are performing well for us and which partners need optimising. It also means our team is freed up to nurture and expand our partnerships – we have found that the most successful partnerships are those where we have a close human relationship!
RiA: What is next for Decathlon?
Si Ting: We are going to be adding to the new Decathlon app with some enhancements to provide an even better shopping experience. Plus, keep an eye out for some more store openings in Singapore. We are also very proud and excited to continue to develop Decathlon Activities. This is a platform for sport enthusiasts to come together and share their passion for sports. Think of it like Airbnb but in the sport scene where the public can attend and organise sport sessions in their local community (and beyond); it really delivers on our brand promise of connecting sports lovers.