As I sit here enjoying my summer holiday I allow my mind the chance to wander a little.
I’ve just read the latest results from JustEat – The company, which listed on the London market in April of last year, said that sales had increased 62pc to £157m as the company processed takeaway orders worth more than £1bn for its 8.1m customers last year.
So whats’ that got to do with the sports trade I hear you ask.
Well, the core issue that JustEat addressed within the fast food market, and the reason why it has grown so rapidly, was the simple fact that whilst most local independent takeaway businesses knew that they should be online to attract a greater share of the market, most did not know how to manage this process or did not have the resources or expertise to implement such a strategy.
Which got me thinking. How many of our sports retailers face exactly the same issue?
I lost count of the number of conversations that I was having with sports retailers who could see that the sporting goods industry around them was changing faster than ever and yet they felt, for various reasons, unable to adjust and adapt to these changes to such an extent that I launched our own Solutions for Sport New Media division to address these demands and now continue to see an ever increasing number of clients come knocking at the door looking for simple eCommerce solutions.
Whilst each new business is different they all share a common requirement – supplier data. They need, as a minimum, images and product descriptions to ensure that their sites are up to date with the latest products.
Of course as we create more and more sites then this data becomes common to an increasing number of clients and as such we are slowly creating our very own in house database of the latest product information from multiple suppliers using this as the basis for site updates and effectively building our very own central database which holds supplier product information.
One giant database
If we think on a bigger scale lets imagine a database that could hold article numbers/product codes, product names, bar codes, images, descriptions, and perhaps even stock availability from the majority of core sporting goods suppliers.
One vast system that represented sports industry data on such a scale that subscribing members could access this data to use for their own purposes whether it be to populate their stock system, or even their own website.
For the forward thinking eCommerce retailers much of this type of information is already being requested and is already being supplied by many within our industry.
Lets take Intersport, for example, who are requesting supplier data to enable them to drive forward their central stock information strategy.
The ultimate objective is for all Intersport members to have an EPOS system enabling Head Office to better analyse, amongst other things, sell through and top sellers, however this system can only be effective if ALL supplier new product information is uploaded to the EPOS system.
And, of course, this is exactly what suppliers are, logically, being requested to assist with.
OK, it does not include product images or descriptions, however if one takes this principal forward and it did include such information, then in theory, each individual Intersport member could tailor an eCommerce offer specific to their store and to the lines that they stock.
One could imagine a website where the marketing of the site would be done centrally (as is the JustEat model) and the actual set up of a site for each individual member would be as simple as checking a few boxes.
In reality this is not the route that this particular business has chosen, instead deciding that a central site would be more effective, however what’s to stop another collective, STAG for example, taking this route and providing an exciting member benefit. Encouraging suppliers to submit this data and members to support the lines that are listed would be mutually beneficial for all parties.
Lets imagine a scenario where a retailer could set up his own online store by simply registering a domain name, adding his logo/colours etc and then choosing from an already preloaded database that has the bulk of all the latest products from his core suppliers.
No time spent uploading new lines – simply choose which price to sell at, select the lines that he has chosen to purchase, and hence have in stock, and amend any other element the retailer sees fit.
As easy as listing an item on amazon marketplace where, by simply inputting a bar code, all the required information is already to hand.
OK- maybe the infrastructure would need to be a little more sophisticated i.e. enable a huge variety of shop fronts, fonts, styles etc to allow the retailer to maintain a point of difference and reinforce their identity, but if the data was gathered then this future could be conceivable.
The biggest hurdle then is data.
Or is it.
As our eCommerce retailers become more demanding will it become every day practice for suppliers to simply provide a .csv file to our retail partners containing everything they need?
If so then a simple upload of these to the central database would provide everything required.
So there you have it.
It all seems so simple when you allow your mind to wander and to think what the future may hold -when I get back from holiday I might just start building that database!