Innovation in the Sporting Arena: How E-commerce is Revolutionizing the Game


It’s clear to see that every industry has been impacted in some way by the Covid-19 pandemic. While many have suffered, and continue to do so, there are some areas where the state of the world has spurred innovation – and the companies that have been able to pivot in line with the changing landscape and the start-ups accounting for the new world order in their business models are set to reap the benefits.

This is certainly true when it comes to sport and recreation. Sporting activity has been impacted in varying degrees, depending on accessibility, but it’s not bad news for everyone. Despite the cancellation or postponement of major sporting events across the world – like the delay to the Olympic Games for the first time in its history – outdoor individual sports and home workouts have seen increased participation. According to the McKinsey Global Fashion Index, sporting apparel sales have outperformed the rest of the apparel industry, perhaps only partly due to an increase in home workouts – it doesn’t seem like a coincidence that working from home is on the rise at the same time as an increase in the sales of comfortable sports clothing.

Naturally, e-commerce is booming. In general terms, consumers spent $861.12 billion online with U.S. merchants in 2020, a massive 44.0% year over year, according to estimates by Digital Commerce 360.  That trend is also being seen in sporting goods retailing, with major sporting goods retailers like Dick’s Sporting Goods and Hibbett Sports reaping the benefits.

Evidence of the sector’s success is in the numbers. The Hibbett’s chain reported an increase in comparable brick-and-mortar sales of 65.2%, while e-commerce sales grew 212.2%. Over the same quarter, Dick’s Sporting Goods reported a 200% increase in online sales. That’s a clear signpost to a digital shift. Move over Amazon, traditional brick-and-mortar stores are moving into the online space.

The digital shift is not only about the big players, either. There are a host of emerging sports tech start-ups that are driving a revolution of sorts, from German start-up B42, the first app-based performance and rehab training program for amateur soccer players, to Danish brand Hubbster, which supplies equipment for 28 different sports in on-site lockers called Hubbs, with users able to hire equipment, find out if Hubbs is already in use, and connect with others through an app.

In the U.S., Cadi is transforming the traditional golf industry, with an innovative retail automation platform that merges physical kiosks and online shopping, giving golfers the freedom to demo, compare, and purchase products via an app and on-course kiosk. Big Data and Artificial Intelligence make an appearance, too, in a curated product selection that crafts a personalized experience for each customer. Cadi’s online marketplace gives golfers 24/7 access to the fully connected omnichannel, meaning golfers can interact using any device from any location. And that’s what the tech revolution is all about.

E-commerce’s pandemic-induced boost in consumer adoption is far from over – online penetration is predicted to stabilize at around 25% in 2021 , six times higher than before the pandemic. Throw in Big Data and A.I. and there’s little doubt that innovative ventures willing to capitalize on technology and ride the digital commerce wave will carve up the $126bn sporting goods retail market. It will be down to the big brands and retailers to adjust their business models quickly to stay ahead in this game.


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