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The sports good industry is becoming digital

To start off, the ISPO Digitize Summit is a fledgling event that cannot yet be compared with the more established trade fairs, such as ISPO itself. However, it is already possible to see the beginnings of something that will help it eclipse standard retail trade shows.

The deeper significance of every digital product that is released cannot be perceived, because who really needs trainers or fitness equipment that connect to the internet. And I’m still not very clear quite how the whole eSport industry (computer games with competing characters) can be integrated into the rest of the sports world. But looking closely, there are some really cool things happening that are definitely going to prevail and either make life easier, or turn it upside down. Here are couple that have impressed me.


  • Conventional online stores are so yesterday. The digitization of products is going much further with items now being connected to a database throughout their lifetimes. A digital price tag that is centrally controlled can be altered uniformly across all channels to reflect price changes and discounts regardless of where that item is currently located. NFC chips enable customers to look at product descriptions, reviews and price comparisons on their smartphones. And they can buy that item, because with the product now on the phone’s screen they can hold the device to the payment terminal and cheerily bypass the cash register altogether, making queuing pointless. Even after purchase, the user has a profile with the brand and by association with the item bought, a buyer history, through which the guarantee and user instructions can be accessed as required and with equal ease. And of course, the customer can then be kept informed about which products fit him.  Progressive brands will be the ones leading these digital changes, but as a rule it will be the SaaS (Software as a Service) providers who will be administering the digital services and maintaining all existing or future systems so that data flows. With these service providers in the background, user data collected across brands will result in services getting even better.


  • Branded stores alongside online stores alongside separate dealers. What was considered unthinkable for a long while and specialists had warned us about has now become a reality.  The competition is clear to see as everyone vies for the same customer- but they all have their own right to exist.  The user / buyer is the one who decides and the  grounds for this decision are manifold, but hinge ultimately on what is most convenient for the individual. In many cases, the system is pretty much geared towards helping itself anyway. If the item is not the right size or color in the store, you can get it delivered to your house and if you want to take another look at things in more detail, you can visit the nearest dealer.


  • Products are increasingly being packaged and purchased in the context of an experience. Just as an informed salesman can advise a customer on the specialized equipment required when preparing for a bike trip or multiple-day hike, advice on that same equipment is now becoming more and more of a digital ‘experience’ by being presented as content. Outdoor and sport platforms take the data already available to them about the users / customers and can present them with the products that are suitable to them. Equipment field tests join forces with price comparison sites, whilst bloggers are writing about their favourite products- which are also available in the market.


  • Sport, fitness, health, experience. These are things that can no longer be viewed in isolation. The human and his digital profile are uniquely different and at the moment remain very separate worlds. A person actually has many different digital identities. This great complexity is not accepted, but if you want to be truly digital, you will need to network your products and services on many different platforms.


What we can learn from this for tourism: The world is becoming digital, and tourism must go that way, too. And things are merging, with the holiday experience also being an exercise in health and fitness. The digital world and how it is managed on site needs to be locally focused.


It was fun to have a wholly different group of people attend my lecture / workshop. And we will continue to in our drive to merge all those involved in tourism, including those in the world of sporting goods- especially now it has become digital. We will be back again next year.