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