I recently wrote about the opportunities of bringing mass customization into stores and selling the experience as much as the custom product (see the DNA Style Lab posting). Now Adidas, a premier example of mass customization in my talks and lectures, has expanded its in-store presence with a huge new mi Adidas retail outlet in its new Paris flagship store.
The 1,750 square meter Paris adidas Sport Performance store occupies two floors on the Avenue de Champs Elysees and features a wide selection of adidas products. The core part of this store is a pimped mi-adidas sales system, called mi Innovation Center (mIC):
"The "mi Innovation Center" will change the way consumers shop and their expectations at retail. It is a true first and we are thrilled to premier the mIC in Paris offering customers a whole new dimension of interaction with adidas products," Karen Feldpausch-Sturm, Senior Vice President of Global Retail for Adidas, is quoted in a press announcement. Adidas, headquartered in Herzogenaurach, Germany, plans to roll out the new high-tech concept stores in major cities worldwide, including one in China in the run-up to the 2008 Beijing Olympics.
Features of the new customization unit in the mIC include:
# A large glossy, black cube is the focal point of the center. Here, customers can customize their own "mi adidas", using now a larger flat-screen configurator to alter the details of the shoes by simply pointing a finger to the screen. Laser and infra-red technology then translate the gestures into commands. Foot scanning and pressure scanning is done as in the mi adidas stores before.
# New is also a virtual mirror where users can see their personalized shoe on their own foot without even removing ones shoes!
# But customization is not only high-tech: Customers are accompanied by specially trained "adidas experts" who, like a personal trainer, advise on nutrition, exercise and products. With a portable hand-held PC, the sales associates record a consumer's personal data and desires, creating a user profile that he/she can view at their convenience via the internet.
# In addition to the cube, the center also provides some insight into new approaches of selling standard products: At a table, a sliding carriage can be moved over a desired shoe and then specific product information will appear on the screen via Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) technology.
Update: On YouTube is now a Video showing exactly the new mi adidas customization process (thanks to Rebang for the link).
I don't had the opportunity to visit this store in person, but a sneaker enthusiast posted a nice review on the BKRW blog (the reviewer seemed to have not heard before that Adidas is offering basically the same service since 2001, thus not in such a fancy retail outlet):
"Well, to be honest we were really impressed and can't wait to test it for real (don't worry we will be in the first row…) ! The concept is really simple, it's a kind of NIKE ID applied to performance shoes. It means that you can customize our own performance shoes, according to the way u need it. You can change the design, change the colors, add some words or some special tags, but most of all you can even materials of the shoes : sole, mid-sole, chassis, uppers, studs… The truth is that ADIDAS is pushing the whole performance concept with the even way of customizing your shoes, because even being in MI INNOVATION CENTER is a travel into the future: as we said you are running on a video carpet, each salesman has a touch screen tablet to change into real time your adjustments and preferences, while you are directing your mouse on the menu screen by the means of a laser system of pointing…"
Is all this just another marketing gimmick?, asks Business Week in a report about this store.
My answer is yes and no. Regarding customization of the product, it is just a pimped up version of the mi adidas retail units that are in place since years. But regarding the overall strategy of customization, it is a large step forward. For the first time, the company is not focusing on the custom product, but on the custom service and experience users get when purchasing the shoe. The custom nutrition program and fitness guides offer much more value as yet-an-other color-option at NikeID. So while Nike had an easy win with the Ipod-Nike-combination offering individual tracking of your running behavior, I think Adidas has beaten its competition with this integration retail innovation by far – if they are able to scale up this system and deliver what they promise.
Business Week quotes Fiona Fairhurst, director of Zero Point Zero One, a sports consultancy in Nottinghamshire, England, on this:
"These days if you look around the gym, everyone is their own fitness expert. People know how to use heart-rate monitors and measure their own level of hydration …An individual will steer clear of a brand that doesn't fit properly, no matter how exclusive that brand is. If you know that Adidas fits you perfectly and comfortably then they have a customer for life."