'It was embarrassing': Why Reebok's digital strategy changed
Global Head of Digital Matt Blonder took over a website that was "angry," "dark" and "hyper masculine." Now, the retailer is addressing those problems.
Sometimes the need for change is gradual and other times it's a smack in the face. For Matt Blonder, Reebok's global head of digital, it was the latter. When he arrived at Reebok in 2017, he was struck by how far the company needed to go in terms of digital.
"I took one look at the website and it was embarrassing," he told Retail Dive in an interview. "We no longer had an experience that the organization could be proud of and that our consumers could love. Before we can start to build a really robust digital strategy, we have to have a digital home that feels as though it's aligned to the current state of our company and its future ambitions — and we just weren't."
With its new digital strategy, Reebok is working to address that. The brand's new website is faster than the last — something Blonder said was by far the top concern of customers — and will feature user-generated content, along with a younger overall vibe.
A personalized e-commerce experience is also top of mind for the brand, and data from the retailer's newly announced loyalty program, dubbed Unlocked, will help inform the experience. The goal is to make the site more valuable to shoppers and also ensure that Reebok's brand image is reflected across all of its channels — something Blonder said wasn't happening before.
"I say this half facetiously and half in all sincerity: it hadn't been touched in eight years," Blonder said of the e-commerce site. "It was muddy. It was angry. It was dark. It was hyper masculine. It didn't follow best practices in any way, shape or form. There was no true differentiation or interest built into the experience. It just didn't speak to who we actually were and wanted to be. It spoke to who we were, four, five, six years ago — and it hadn't evolved at all ... It was time for us to give it the love that it deserved and that our consumer demands."
Some of the same logic can be applied to the retailer's new loyalty program. Reebok is just one of many brands to launch or update a loyalty program in recent months, and many of the company's decisions track with larger trends. Rather than being based solely around financial incentives, Reebok's Unlocked program offers a range of experiential benefits, including workout videos, training programs and several others offered through partnering brands.
In addition to the obvious — giving customers a reason to shop at Reebok, or as Blonder put it, a "reason for consumers to fall in love with our brand" — the athletics retailer is optimistic about the feedback loop a loyalty program will help create. The retailer was careful about offering a range of rewards at each tier so customers can find something no matter what they're interested in, which should lead to more signups, which in turn leads to more data.
The more Reebok learns about what a given consumer wants, the more personalized product recommendations that shopper will receive on the website, and Blonder noted that the data will also inform product creation. While collecting data is all well and good from the retailer's perspective, it's a sensitive area for many shoppers. Blonder sees Reebok's loyalty program as a way of asking permission to gather that data, as well as being transparent with shoppers about what they can expect in return.
"At the end of the day, it just starts with the recognition that we created a space that's very welcoming to one group and maybe not welcoming at all to other groups."
Global Head of Digital at Reebok
"The entire program is predicated upon the notion that we wanted to build value and we didn't want that value to come at the expense of the consumer experience or at the expense of product or ultimately the business," he said, noting that Reebok's team set out to find benefits that core customers would value and then tested the truth of those guesses. "We were happy because we were 70% right. More often than not, our hypotheses that were created based upon data have proved out correct, but 30% of the time we found out that something we anticipated being meaningful to a consumer wasn't, actually."
It's those learnings that Reebok is hoping to evolve into a more holistic digital strategy going forward, and rightly so, given the competitive pressure from rivals like Nike who are increasingly incorporating digital (and loyalty) into store concepts and iterating off of them for future models.
Not everything about the revamp is data-driven, however. Among the problems Blonder saw in Reebok's approach to e-commerce was a — perhaps unintentional — gender exclusivity reflected on its website. The prior iteration was isolating to female shoppers, especially in light of the fact that brands like Lululemon and Nike have made concentrated efforts to snap them up. Some of the changes to the site are geared at shifting that brand messaging and, in the long term, helping to "close the gap between her and him."
"At the end of the day, it just starts with the recognition that we created a space that's very welcoming to one group and maybe not welcoming at all to other groups," he said, noting that a welcoming space is one of Reebok's focuses. "As we double down to close that gap in equity between men and women, we're also asking ourselves the question of: 'but there's more than just the two genders, so how do we think about others in the future and create a future that is welcoming and feels comfortable for all folks?' It's not something that will end with this next step, but certainly where we are in our journey is the recognition that we've got work to do to treat her better and to close the gap that the industry has created and we're committed to doing that in all touchpoints, of which digital is a primary."
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