Hanson: Under Armour aiming to be Facebook of connected fitness
CHICAGO—Under Armour now has more than 200 million registered users for several different connected fitness mobile apps and is aiming to become the Facebook and LinkedIn of connected fitness, according to George Hanson, VP North America Commerce and Brand House Stores.
“We want to own the connected fitness community in the same way that Facebook owns the social media community and LinkedIn owns the business community,” Hanson said at the Internet Retailer Conference and Exhibition in Chicago Thursday. “This is a massive community, and we can use the data we gain from it to drive product innovation, and to sell more shirts and shoes.”
Hanson reassured retail partners that they will continue to be a main conduit for sales of Under Armour shirts and shoes, among other products, even though the brand has increased its direct-to-consumer sales efforts in recent years. Under Armour still sees a very high percentage of sales occur through retailers, Hanson said, and has “an open kimono in regard to what we share with our retailer partners about what we now understand about consumers, and how products are selling. We share that to help our partners perform better.”
One of Under Armour’s paths to community domination is to give customers tools to increase how personalized an experience they can have with Under Armour. Evidence of this effort can be seen in the company's development of chip-enabled athletic shoes that track an array of performance data; in the new Athlete Recovery Sleepwear powered by TB12 (which Hanson told the audience he wears, and that it works, so Tom Brady isn't the only one);and in Under Armour's UA Shop app, which asks customers questions about their sports interests and the athletes they follow on social media to shape a more personalized shopping experience.
"Personalization is not a myth, but it needs to be threaded through all of your digital and physical properties," Hanson told the IRCE keynote session audience.
"Personalization is not a myth, but it needs to be threaded through all of your digital and physical properties."
VP North America Commerce and Brand House Stores
Under Amour's efforts to leverage personalization also extends to granting customers greater ability to customize products. The brand last week announced a design-your-own-shoe capability, with the first shoe in the series being the UA Curry 1 Icon, from Under Armour shoe partner and two-time NBA MVP Stephen Curry. Last year, the Curry 3 shoe was poorly reviewed on social media, and sold slowly after its release, so maybe customization is part of the answer to such complaints (although to be clear, Hanson made no such connection during his keynote speech.)
In any case, granting customers a role in product design is part of the overall effort to make them feel more connected to Under Armour as a brand, which in turn will help bring Under Armour closer to realizing its connected fitness aspirations. The company probably would like to see those aspirations pay off soon, as Under Armour is now lagging behind adidas and Nike in North America, and could use a bit more pep in its step.