Under Armour


Image source: Sid Jatia

With experience at Razorfish, Electronic Arts and now sports apparel company of the moment Under Armour, Sid Jatia knows more than most about the development of a successful e-commerce and omnichannel strategy. Ahead of his appearance at our NYC Summit next month, we caught up with the Under Armour VP (Direct-to-Consumer/Digital) to thrash out what exactly a digital-first sensibility should mean in today’s retail landscape, and also to ask him to predict the technologies that could change the game altogether in the future.

Could you connect the dots between previous roles on your CV, and how they led to your current one at Under Armour?

The last 15 years of my life have had a very strong influence of Customer Experience and Technology, starting with the graduate programme at Parsons and a series of fortunate opportunities at Electronic Arts, Razorfish and now at Under Armour. Specifically in my tenure at Razorfish, I led several global retail and e-commerce clients through business transformation utilising technology as the great facilitator and customer centricity as the major outcome, whether it be optimising online businesses, creating new business models or making the hottest customer experience in a retail store.

What brought me to Under Armour was the forward-looking vision that was in the works around connected fitness and how a traditional manufacturer – now a retail and e-commerce player – can transcend to become all about the athlete’s (customer’s) goals vs. their own. On top of that, former clients and colleagues who now work at Under Armour have inspired me. Their swearing by the authenticity and fervour of the brand certified the decision for me.

In your view, what does it mean to have a digital-first sensibility in apparel retail today??

In my mind, digital first in apparel is all about putting the athlete as part of the conversation in the full lifecycle: design/manufacture →plan/buy → merchandise →shop→feedback. It doesn’t preach e-commerce over retail. It is all about enabling convenience and personalised experiences for our athletes.

On the more interesting side, this sensibility has given rise to a new category in apparel focused on ‘wearables’. Right now, this category is dominated by technology companies, but slowly we will see more and more retailers becoming the centrepiece of that conversation. A perfect example is what Tory Burch is doing with Fitbit, which makes perfect sense in my mind. It allows for two brands which have their own unique strengths to come together on a digital-first sensibility, and create great products for the marketplace.

You have a lot of experience in shaping omnichannel strategy. What are the biggest tools and techniques that retailers should be using to optimise their omnichannel output?

It’s extremely important for retailers to focus on what really matters for their customers, vs. all the things they could do. Stop the search for a perfect recipe of flawless customer experience across all channels, and focus on how each experience can become incrementally better. Can you bring efficiencies of online such as deep product information, peer validation and searchability to the store? Or can you bring immersive experiences to the web? But the ability to execute this is still limited due to organisation silos and workflows which have been designed for a non-omni world.

Looking ahead, which new technology do you think could be the biggest game changer for the retail landscape in the future?

Honestly, getting to scale in a retail setting is extremely challenging due to integration and operational challenges, so no one technology can really drastically change what retail is. But if I had to put my money on a couple of things, I would really give a closer look to sensor enablement in retail.

The current landscape is a little fragmented, with different types of sensors ranging from BLE to RFIDs to NFC – but once we figure out which sensors are versatile enough to be embedded in all products, and can be streamlined during the manufacturing process, it will give the products a brain of their own. When combined with native mobile phone capabilities on consumer devices, emerging interactive touch/gestural technologies in-store and the new age of content distribution systems, we might see a different face of retail sooner than we expect.

To hear more from Sid Jatia, book your ticket for the Decoded Fashion NYC Summit on October 28-29.

Reported by Claire Healy

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“Nike has ruled the sportswear sector for years. But Under Armour has slowly been eating into Nike’s market and is now the second most-popular athletic apparel brand in America. Adidas lags behind at number three.”

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Decoded Fashion - Fashion Tech Daily - Under Armour x Sportswear

Decoded Fashion - Weekly Stories - Gisele
Image source: AdWeek

Looking at the fashion retail landscape today, storytelling hasn’t been this fashionable since we were still being tucked into bed every night. Telling effective stories has become the key strategy for fashion brands, for whom it is now essential to negotiate the online and offline worlds with ease. Omnichannel success might mean approaching customers from all angles – digital marketing, social networking, data collection, in-store technology and point-of-sale innovation – but there’s little point if they don’t come together to tell a seamless story for your brand.

At our Autumn Milan Summit, taking place from 17-18 November, an expert panel including representatives from Mr Porter and La Repubblica will debate the art of effective storytelling. In the meantime, we take a look at the red-hot storytelling successes of the summer so far – where digital storytelling and real-life engagement are seamlessly combined for a (hopefully) happy ending.

Amazon Fashion

Once sniffed at by some in the industry, Amazon Fashion is demanding to be taken seriously as an e-tailer to be reckoned with. This summer heralded surprisingly high quarterly profits for the e-commerce giant, demonstrating that relative gambles like investing in its fashion business could be paying off.

After opening a massive photo studio in Williamsburg, Brooklyn in 2013, this summer has seen Amazon Fashion repeat the trick in London: the city’s own Amazon Fashion studio launched in Shoreditch last month. But more than an essential bricks-and-mortar powerhouse to build its fashion business – helping to create more than 500,000 images for its site every year, says Amazon – the company has leveraged the studio to emphasise the story it wants to tell.

If photos of cool girl Suki Waterhouse – the new face of Amazon Fashion – in the studio weren’t enough to convince you, the studio has already hosted a Fashion Forum event with Dazed & Confused magazine to inspire young people starting out in the industry.

Under Armour

Winner of a Cannes Lions award, the sports apparel brand Under Armour’s ‘I Will What I Want’ advertisement with supermodel Gisele Bundchen is surely the campaign of the summer.

Demonstrating an amazing use of the bad side of social media as well as the good, the video campaign sees Bundchen kicking and punching a large boxing bag with gusto. Meanwhile, real social media comments posted by the public in response to news of her signing days earlier, appear on the walls around her. Many are negative – “stick to modelling, sweetie” and “Gisele is sooooo fake” – while her workout demonstrates she has just as much right to be there as any sportswoman.

But it doesn’t just work on TV and YouTube – the campaign includes an immersive web experience, ‘Will Beats Noise’, that shows Gisele working out while real-time social commentary streams in. What’s more, the campaign has driven sales.

Catch Under Armour’s Vice President, Direct-To-Consumer, Digital, Sid Jatia speaking at our NYC Summit in October.

Burberry Snapchat & Periscope

Snapchat and Periscope offer huge scope for brands to tell unique stories that cut straight to the interested consumer on the move – but they can be difficult to negotiate. As usual, you can look to Burberry as an example of a brand that is doing the trend right.

Last month, it announced that its early moves on the apps have been a success, with a live fashion show beamed from LA and the promotion of its last menswear show through the two channels producing a record number of impressions: both topped 100 million for the first time.

You can book your ticket to the Milan Summit here.

Reported by Claire Healy

Decoded Fashion - Weekly Story - Ralph Lauren Polo Tech
Image source: Gizmag.com

With the hype over Apple Watch and Google Glass coming to define the wearables scene as 2014 draws to a close, it’s time to examine the industry’s trajectory and predict which trends are due to explode in the upcoming year (we’ll leave aside the inaugural selfie hat, for now). If beauty really is only skin-deep, it’s time to get up close and personal: commercially viable, truly technological materials are just around the corner. Sophisticated and scientific, here’s our pick of the most exciting developments in a material world.

Washable fabric circuit boards
With the most sure-fire way of identifying designer clothing still being those fatal three words, “Specialist-clean only”, one recent invention by engineers at Hong Kong Polytechnic university might be about to turn the standards of washability inside-out. The fabric circuit board (FCB), made of pre-stretched elastic yarn and polyurethane-coated copper fibre, has electrical wiring knitted in and can be worn, washed, folded and even shot with bullets. Stinky computer shirts, be gone!

Smart gloves
Need a helping hand? Awarded third place in Intel’s Make It Wearable competition on Monday, ProGlove is a smart glove more designed for industrial use than your below-freezing morning commute (hello, November). The glove can track the worker’s movements, heart rate, mood and productivity, as well as identify tools as the fingers touch them during the assembly process.

Under Armour
Founded in 1996 by former American football player Kevin Plank, Under Armour is the original game-changer in performance clothing. Trademarked technical fabrics for sports apparel might be fairly ubiquitous now, but UA are still making the news for their latest innovations – they timed last week’s launch of their latest running shoe, with soles made with the brand’s ‘Charged Foam’, just days before the NY marathon. Their Armour39 self-monitoring system combines a small Bluetooth LE-enabled pod in a distinctive chest strap, connected to an app, to track levels of exertion.

Ralph Lauren Polo at the US Open
Polo-branded wearable technology is here. A select few ball boys at this summer’s US Open wore tech “smartshirts” with biometric capabilities. In snug black compressed nylon, the polo shirts were developed by OMsignal and included conductive threads with a small snap-on module to relay health information to Bluetooth-connected iPhones or iPads.

Digital Skins?
The logical next step up from materials on the skin? Wearable tech that feels like skin. A new gen of start-ups are exploring wearable options that adhere to the skin like temporary tattoos or plasters – including MC10, a company based in Cambridge, Mass., who are currently testing ‘attachable computers’ that include wireless antennae, temperature and heart-rate sensors and a teeny-tiny battery. The infinite possibilities of the technology makes it equally exciting for health professionals as it is for style aficionados who are looking to combine fashion and tech through body art.

Our NY Summit will play host to material girls (and boys) in our panel discussion on Smart Manufacturing Transforming Fashion Today on November 18th: speakers will include; Bradley Quinn, Creative Director, Stylus Fashion; Sabine Seymour, CEO, Moondial; Dr. Amanda Parkes, Chief of Technology & Research, Manufacture NY and Francis Bitonti, Designer.

Reported by Claire Healy

Decoded Fashion New York will take place on November 18-19, 2014 at Metropolitan West. The full agenda can be found here.