Wednesday, March 24, 2021
Written by:
Digital Boutique

8 lessons 2020 taught us about the future of sports ecom

2020 was a year like no other for retail. Physical stores saw their sales decimated, while UK online sales grew by 36%. Some brands limped through lockdowns, while others saw little to no impact on overall sales. What did sports retail's success stories do well? And how can you use those lessons to propel your ecommerce brand beyond the pandemic?

1. The Winners Adapted Fast

Lockdown caused a massive behaviour shift. With this came a surge in demand for home workout equipment and leisurewear. Smart brands were quick to react. Even smarter brands had buyers who could get huge quantities of these products on digital shelves within weeks.

2. They Shifted Their Messaging As Well As Their Service

While shoppers were keen to keep on shopping, they also had worries. Successful brands reassured their customers about the safety of their factory workers, any impact on delivery and how they could contact customer support, should they need it. In today's market, this kind of transparency matters.

3. The Change Wasn’t a Shock

The likes of JD Sports, Liverpool FC and Leicester City FC saw these changes to buying habits coming.  The rise of ecommerce –if not the sudden and catastrophic way it happened – was in their sights long before Covid-19 was in our collective vocabulary. And they already had the infrastructure and the logistics in place to adapt, fast.

4. Omnichannel Retailers Had a Head Start...

Trends from pandemic prove what ecommerce experts have long been saying: we can’t afford to view online, mobile and in-store experiences as separate entities. Retailers that had cultivated a seamless experience across every touchpoint had an easier time shifting their customers from in-store to online shopping.

Case study: Creating an omnichannel experience for a Premier League football club

5. ...But They Didn’t Assume Every Customer Was Ready

The jump from in-store to online was a significant mindset shift for some. Forward-thinking brands recognised this and provided gentle nudges to make the switch more appealing. Some offered online incentives for customers who traditionally purchased in-store, while taking care to avoid cannibalising margins when stores reopened.

6. Customer Relationships Came to the Fore

Lockdown abruptly limited the ways brands could communicate with customers – bus ads and city centre billboards become worthless overnight. Brands that had already forged valuable relationships with consumers were able to easily pivot to more personal channels, such as WhatsApp, email, SMS and apps. Those that hadn’t were less able to stay front-of-mind.

A phone screen showing a selection of social media icons


7. They Reacted by Adapting

Retail trends data shows no signs of consumers returning to 2019 habits when restrictions lift. Resilient retailers predicted this early, built it into their crisis strategies and were careful to invest in measures that will continue to serve them after the pandemic has passed.

8. They Realised Competition Would Get Tougher

More brands shifting their focus to the digital space means the world of sports ecom has never been more crowded.

Those looking to compete need to commit. Customers have become accustomed to the polished retail experiences offered by Amazon and ASOS – both brands that have intentions of moving into the sports market. The challenge for sports retailers is now is how you will raise your ecom site’s functionality to within striking distance of the major players to avoid getting left behind.


We’re experts in sports omnichannel ecommerce.
Let’s talk