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Sports & Outdoor Retailing Trends To Embrace In 2021

Sports & Outdoor Retailing Trends To Embrace In 2021

Today is already the last day of 2020. It has not been a favorable year, but it’s finally time to move on and look forward to all the good things in 2021. As our last-minute present for business owners and operators like you, in today’s article, we’ll unveil the 5 most prominent sports & outdoor retailing trends to embrace in 2021.

Technology changes the way people shop for sports & outdoor merchandise 

Sports & Outdoor Retailing Trend: Technology changes the way people shop for sports & outdoor merchandise

Social distancing, as well as the fear of touch, has huge, negative impacts on physical sports & outdoor retailers. Additionally, customers nowadays are demanding more and more as there is an increasing desire to navigate retail spaces on their own terms. With all that being said, it’s necessary for merchants in this industry to facilitate technological innovation across retail design and integration. 

And this has been emerging as a prominent sports & outdoor retailing trend. There are already sporting goods brands are leveraging consumer apps to empower customers to have more independence and control over their shopping. At its core, with a consumer app, buyers can do self shopping in-store, get personalized product recommendations, and save time thanks to a self check-out feature.

ConnectPOS PWA consumer app
ConnectPOS PWA consumer app

Furthermore, retail extension apps like HERO are capable of connecting retailers directly to customers. Sports & outdoor merchants can actively bring their products closer to customers through real-time engagement. Buyers can shop virtually via video, chat, or text. 

Another technology that is currently on-trend Artificial Intelligence (AI). For example, AI shopping carts act like a mobile check-out counter, which helps reduce queueing time and minimize human interaction as well. 

An AI shopping cart
An AI shopping cart

In fact, consumer apps and AI applications (like AI facial recognition and AI shopping cart) have been around for a while. However, with the COVID-19 showing no sign of ending any time soon, this trend is expected to thrive in 2021 as a helpful way to improve customer service, encourage in-store purchasing while still ensure proper social distancing. 

Sustainable wear is receiving more attention

The sports & outdoor retail space is witnessing a growing sports & outdoor retailing trend when customers are demanding a more close-knit connection with our nature. They have developed “the desire for sustainable products, including local, organic, recyclable, and pronounceable ingredients”, according to Trend Hunter

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The term “sustain wear” has emerged since years ago. After quite a period of time being forgotten, sustainability in the sports & outdoor industry has been extremely popular online lately. Lyst witnessed an increase of 37% in the searches for sustainability on their platform. The related keywords are “upcycled fashion”, “second-hand” and “pre-owned” with an increase of 42% and 45% respectively. Additionally, according to Sprout Social’s Listening tool, 41,000 messages on Twitter around sustainability were recorded. Meanwhile, “eco-friendly living” and “zero waste products” are the 2 keywords that have been searched for 93% and 108% more respectively on Pinterest.

Sports & Outdoor Retailing Trend: Sustainable wear

Besides, according to Wunderman Thompson Intelligence’s SONARTM research in 2020, 90% of the respondents believed that it was companies’ and brands’ responsibility to take care of nature. Thus, 2021 is now a high time sports & outdoor retailers paid more attention to the environmental aspect of their bottom line. There are some prominent brands with strong sustainability morals like Kathmandu and Patagonia.  

Patagonia is known to be an OG in the fashion industry, founded by Yvon Chouinard. Although the product line itself is simply high-quality outdoor clothing and gear, Yvon Chouinard is widely acknowledged as an active environmental activist because of the nature-centric morale of Patagonia. Lately, they have defined themselves as a business to save our planet.

Worn Wear is Patagonia service in which the brand fixes broken Patagonia gears and clothes for free
Worn Wear is a Patagonia service in which the brand fixes broken Patagonia gears and clothes for free

Athleisure wear becomes an important new trend in sports retailing

2020 is a boom for the athleisure category of the sports & outdoor industry. Athleisure wear fuse the boundaries of sportswear, fashion, and casual wear. It means that clothes specifically designed for athletic activities (yoga pants, joggers, sneakers, hoodies, etc.) are worn for other purposes such as work clothes, casuals, to school, or social occasions. Just like that, working clothes are becoming less and less formal. 

In 2020, this trend is going strong and is the fastest-growing category. The accelerator of this rapid growth is celebrity endorsement on social media and the growing wellness culture. Celebrities like Beyonce, Kanye West, Billie Eilish, and Dua Lipa are the big names who are “rocking” this trend. They usually appear wearing athleisure in the public and on their social media. That leads to a crowd of trend followers, making athleisure dominate 2020, and many more upcoming years. 

Sports & Outdoor Retailing Trend: Dua Lipa appears with athleisure wear
Dua Lipa appears with athleisure wear

According to the Global Athleisure Market Report from Allied Market Research, athleisure is indeed still on the rise. In 2018, the athleisure market size was valued at US$155.2 billion, and by 2026, it is expected to reach $257.1 billion. Thus, athleisure will definitely be an accelerating sports & outdoor retailing trend that is worth paying attention to in 2021. 

Point of Sales is shifting toward Point of Engagement

A worth keeping-in-mind sports & outdoor retail trend in 2021 is that physical stores will transform into entertainment and experience centers. Stores will be no longer merely where products are being sold anymore. In other words, the concentration of sports & outdoor retailing is gradually shifting from POS (Point of Sales) to POE (Point of Engagement). In 2021 and many more upcoming years, the primary purpose of brick-and-mortar stores will no longer be making sales, but entertainment, consultancy, education, and experience instead. The reason is that advanced technologies and COVID-19 pandemic are changing the way people shop for sports & outdoor merchandise. People now prefer online shopping to in-store purchasing.  Instead, they expect to be able to experience and be educated about the products, somethings that virtual platforms can’t offer. 

Sports & Outdoor Retailing Trend: Point of Sales is shifting toward Point of Engagement

Sports & outdoor merchants are already experimenting with different formats that entertain their customers to improve customer engagement in their offline stores. Trying new shoes out inside basketball courts, testing a new canoe with a water basin, or seeing yourself trying on a new outfit on technologically-advanced touchscreens, etc., we’ll leave it to your creativity. Even better, high-level technologies can facilitate a counter with 3D printers so that you can customize your own pairs of shoes on the spot. Besides, virtual reality (VR), yoga classes, specialized workshops, etc. will also become common things in the very near future. The possibilities are endless and beyond our wildest imaginations!

virtual reality (VR) in sports & outdoor retail stores
(Source: VRScout)

Engagement, entertainment, fun, experiences, in the end, will convert into sales, that’s the ultimate strategy for the future.

Gamification is going strong

Gamification refers to “the integration of game mechanics into an internal business process, website, or marketing campaign”. The global gaming market is experiencing rapid growth of approximately US$180 billion by 2021. What that being so, the market for gamification is also estimated to rise to US$40 billion by 2024. This form of customer engagement has been gaining a lot of love from both retailers and customers.

Sports & Outdoor Retailing Trend: Gamification

The dizzy growth of gamification has been driven by increased demand for new customer experiences. Although shopping itself is quite fun, a touch of gaming aspects makes it much more interesting and intriguing for customers. The application of gamification can cover from driving discovery and engagement to building brand advocacy and loyalty. Especially when 2021 will be the era of “point of engagement”, leveraging gamification makes a great sports & outdoor retailing trend. 

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A successful example of in-store gamification can be seen in the shoe retailers Stride Rite. Their campaign in which kids are given incentives to try on shoes is marvelous. After choosing a pair of shoes, the kid would try them on. Then they would imitate dance moves appearing on a big screen, as accurately as possible. At the end of each game, the little customer would receive a score. Indeed, they could share their scores on social media. 

Stride Rite gamification
The application of gamification in sports & outdoor retail store: Stride Rite

Such a seemingly simple tactic helps extend the time customers spending in-store. Additionally, it also increases the likelihood of them purchasing the shoes they have tried on.

Our last words… in 2020

As you’re reading this, a whole new year is coming close knocking at your door. To make sure that next year will be your year, here are some 5 sports & outdoor retailing trends. We believe that these trends are going strong in 2021 and many more years to come. In a summary, they include:

  • Technology changes the way people shop for sports & outdoor merchandise 
  • Sustainable wear is receiving more attention
  • Athleisure wear becomes an important new trend in sports retailing
  • Point of sales is shifting toward Point of engagement
  • Gamification is going strong

We hope that you like this little New Year present from us. Feel free to leave a comment to share your thoughts with us! We, ConnectPOS, wish you all the best in 2021!

Happy New Year from ConnectPOS


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About the Author

Hann P.

Hann P.

Hann P. is a digital marketing executive at ConnectPOS. Being fascinated with Fintech and E-commerce, she has been keeping an eye on particularly how technology has been changing the game in the fields.

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