Under Armour Takes The Lead With New Experiential Flagship
From Underdog to Challenger
American sports retailer Under Armour has been facing tough competition in its home market for a long time, yet in Asia, they are heralded as a cutting-edge brand, prompting an aggressive expansion strategy in many Southeast Asia markets. Its recent stock price has also surprised investors as the brand had exceeded its usual sluggish performance, as the demand for athletic wear in line with strong e-commerce growth over the pandemic period had helped the brand rise from ashes.
Last month, Under Armour had debuted a new interactive experience centre in Hangzhou, China within the YinTai in77 shopping development. Spanning across three floors at 1,111 square meters, the shop sells its most extensive apparel range including the most coveted Stephen Curry collaboration — the Curry Brand — rivalling against Nike and its Jordan Brand.
Products aside, the store breaks from the traditional retail environment by encompassing stories, lifestyle, and the integration of digital technology and social media in the build of its New Retail flagship. Mirroring the transition of the brand from founder Kevin Plank to newly appointed Patrik Frisk, the underdog of a brand had shifted from purely just products to personifying the brand and its culture as a respected athlete.
A Community-based Brand Culture
The consumer is attracted to a brand based on the persona of whom it would like to be affiliated with. Over the years, Nike has been gaining ground with the elite and fashionable demographic as a result of their premium collaborations, such as with Off-White, Dior, and the likes. Meanwhile, Under Armour had struggled to penetrate the athleisure market though stayed true to their functional apparel thus upholding its high-quality performance capabilities — a brand for athletes.
Leveraging this, Under Armour had dedicated the top floor of its flagship with a community workout area, as part of their ‘UA STAR’ programme. Professional coaches and secretive special guests of the season will come together at the Under Armour store to host classes as well as hold meet-and-greets to which consumers can book through its WeChat Mini Program. Through this, the brand can drive online engagement into physical stores and build a community to help permeate the brand culture. Placing consumers into situational experiences such as workouts can also help inspire purchases, and eventually increase brand stickiness overtime.
An additional part of its experiential element is its personalisation station, allowing consumers to customise and hot stamp their item of choice. This activity is commonly used by brands as their unique ‘flagship experience’, providing the opportunity to embellish with an exclusive design as a proud souvenir. Some brands often opt for a workshop style where consumers can DIY the process, whereas others would provide a digital solution for consumers to virtually design on screen for a swift experience.
The Digital Touch
Hangzhou, home to Alibaba’s headquarters, has long been renowned as a technological hub (China’s answer to Silicon Valley as some might call it), as it also happens to reign as China’s leading smart city. That being said, Under Amour’s flagship fuses nostalgia and the future under its roof, featuring a retro mechanical flip-board that doubles as an interactive game station for consumers to play and earn rewards from a digital voucher, retrieved through a QR code on the screen.
Meanwhile, its fitting room features endless-aisle technology. Customers can scan their products through the barcode reader to view more information on the item, whilst also allowing them to browse or call for additional items to its cubicle to prompt further product discovery and add-on purchases. Call for assistance is also naturally embedded into its solution. Fitting rooms are where decisions are made to which brands need to capture customer’s instant liking to reduce barriers and optimise customer’s journey to seize the sales opportunity.
Why It Works
The Under Armour Hangzhou in77 flagship was designed as a new starting point for the brand to fully exert its professional sports brand image and improve the regional layout for future stores.
Where China has radically recovered post-pandemic, brands are racing to build elaborate flagship experiences for the people. Many studies have confidently depicted that consumers are, and will be more inclined to visit retail stores as lockdown lifts and normality continues — proving yet again, physical retail will not meet its death.
However as new cautious shopping habits have evolved (evidently from the rise of contactless payments), consumers will still carry the concern of shopping safely in-store. This is where technology steps in to aid the shopper’s journey and is used to optimise the customer experience, enhanced through digital means. As many consumers have migrated to online shopping, they will also be well equipped and adapted to using technology in-store (such as the case with endless aisles) and will expect an omnichannel shopping experience nonetheless.
(our thanks to Tiffany Lung, Research Analyst and Contributor at Forbes and Inside Retail, for helping us with the research and production of this article.)