“The global pandemic has accelerated the shift away from physical stores to digital shopping by roughly five years”, according to a study by IBM. Even B2B companies have experienced an acceleration in digital commerce as the need for online transactions has increased. The best companies are tapping into the power of experience-driven commerce to keep competitive in this online revolution -- to engage buyers, differentiate brands and create lifelong fans out of customers. A great example of this strategy in action is ASICS, who has combined the content orchestration and personalization capabilities of a hybrid headless CMS with their commerce platform, making it quick and easy to execute individualized, content-driven commerce experiences.
We invited ASICS' Director of Marketing Technology Programs, Melanie Sisk, for a conversation about the power of content + commerce, and how ASICS is leveraging personalization for better digital experiences. Please see below for a paraphrased excerpt of this interview as well as the full interview on video between Michael Gerard, CMO of e-Spirit and Melanie Sisk, ASICS' Director of Marketing Technology Programs.
[Melanie, Director of Marketing Technology Programs, ASICS] “I was originally tasked with replatforming the direct to consumer CRM at ASICS. This was just one part of ASICS’ digital transformation effort. I started building up that competency at ASICS, and today we are a fully staffed, cross-functional team supporting this effort. We are delivering one-to-one personalized messaging and content at the right time, to the right consumer. Through all of this, we maintain our focus on ‘the runner’ (as our target customer), their journey, and how we help them along this journey.”
[Michael, e-Spirit] “How important is experience-driven commerce to ASICS, and what role is this strategy being leveraged to better engage with your customers and to create lifelong fans out of them.”
[Melanie, ASICS] “The ASICS acquisition of (and continued investment into) Runkeeper has been a key indicator of our commitment to experience-driven commerce. Runkeeper is about a fitness tracking app and partnering with the runner on their journey. We have intentionally reduced our focus on our products or ecommerce conversions within Runkeeper, knowing that our products and our customers’ running experience is of primary importance, married together within the customer’s overall journey. ASICS has really delved into the direct to consumer space, knowing that the activewear space is actually one of the more advanced direct to consumer spaces especially in retail. As a result, you have to be ‘experience’ focused to compete . . . at this point it's ‘table stakes’. Understanding the importance of creating an experience for customers, ASICS also recently purchased Race Roster. (Race Roster offers a comprehensive set of tools designed to meet the unique needs of running event organizers, timers, and fundraising coordinators everywhere.) Similar to Runkeeper, Race Roster focuses on the full lifecycle of the runner’s journey, and we're trying to deliver a better overall experience for the runner. Yes, it does result in them purchasing products that we make for them, but ultimately we focus on delivering a great experience in terms of their life long journey as a runner or an active person. So once again, it is table stakes right now to deliver an experience in this activewear space and retail space; however, delivering this type of experience has always been at the core of our company. That is, it’s not just about conversions and how many shoes we move in a day, but did we engage our customers and help them along their runners journey.”
[Michael, e-Spirit] “As part of our Horizon DX customer event, David Meerman Scott spoke about the concept of ‘transformative fandom’ when fan activity is directed by your customers, as opposed to the more traditional model of ‘curative fandom' when it is directed by brands. Can you share more about ASICS’ secret in enabling transformative fandom?
[Melanie, ASICS] “When I worked on the agency side, you completed projects for several clients and brands at a time; and the reason I made the switch to ASICS was to be devoted to a single brand, enabling execution of a brand strategy from end to end versus just project focused. Execution of this end to end strategy has been key to our success at ASICS.
Just as important is our people: A lot of the employees that work at ASICS, Runkeeper and Race Roster are genuine fans and runners themselves. This helps in terms of fans making tools for fans, or products for fans. In addition, ASICS has sustained a high level of fandom over the course of its 70 years of history, most recently deploying a loyalty program for its fans. The goal of this program is to give back to the fans. The program, called OneASICSTM, is specifically meant to reward and respect our fans. Personalization plays a big part in what we’re able to deliver within our loyalty program.
[Michael, e-Spirit] “In our prior conversations you had mentioned that delivering personalized experiences to your customers to build this fandom has become easier and quicker as a result of integrating e-Spirit’s Digital Experience Platform (DXP) with your Salesforce Commerce Cloud (SFCC). Can you please describe this technology journey and how it has impacted ASICS?”
[Melanie, ASICS] “It’s been a number of years since we began focusing on the DTC (direct to consumer) business, even before Demandware/Salesforce Commerce Platform. I know a lot of longstanding retailers that have shifted from that wholesale strategy to a direct model, which has certainly impacted our ability to grow and nurture our fan base. As part of this process, very early on we focused on a cloud-based model for our customer-facing applications. The acquisition of Runkeeper facilitated this strategy. We’re just now completing our multi-year, global implementation of SFCC, and the addition of e-Spirit’s DXP with your Intelligent Content Engine (ICE) will enable us to achieve delivery of personalized digital experiences. It’s interesting to note that in this situation we’ve been using technology as a change agent with people and process coupled with this strategy. Technology is helping us to push the boundaries of our strategy. We’re still early in this journey, but very interested in leveraging e-Spirit’s Content as a Service as well. [What is Content as a Service] These technologies will continue to force us to change, and we’re excited about that.”
[Michael, e-Spirit] “Please provide examples of how you’re delivering content-driven commerce experiences with the FirstSpirit CMS and SFCC?”
[Melanie, ASICS] “Our goal is to enable our business stakeholders, who don’t have engineering skills, to deliver the best content to their customers at the speed they need for all of our commerce pages. SFCC does require coding in order to manage content, and the FirstSpirit Content Management System (CMS) has enabled us to leapfrog our content management capabilities. Business stakeholders (using FirstSpirit CMS integrated with SFCC) no longer need to rely on deep assistance from engineering or operations talent to create and deliver content-driven commerce experiences. This has resulted in much better cost effectiveness and efficiencies of scale. Our business users have much greater flexibility for writing on our product detail pages (PDPs), which is one of the most sought after pieces of real estate on our site. This will now be fun, (easily) modifying our PDPs, enabling a tremendous amount of testing and learning and delivering truly custom experiences for our end users. This is where ICE (e-Spirit’s personalization solution) really comes into play. We're using the FirstSpirit CMS to correct that experience (for our business users) to enable content editing, and then ICE is that next pillar of advancement for that one to one personalized experience.”
3 Minute Demo of Creating Experience-Driven Commerce with e-Spirit's Hybrid Headless CMS and Salesforce Commerce Cloud
[Michael, e-Spirit] “How do you intend to leverage personalization for experience-driven commerce?”
[Melanie, ASICS] We’ve completely coupled our roll-up of e-Spirit CMS and ICE. We’re doing this at the page template level within SFCC, and we plan to integrate with additional systems outside of the e-commerce platform stack. This will be especially exciting to see how ICE handles personalization, not just within e-commerce, but how it enables personalization when jumping between experiences. That is, we have an ecosystem of experiences, including Runkeeper and Race Roster, and personalization across this entire ecosystem will be extremely valuable for us. As I mentioned before, ICE is a change agent for us, helping to dip our toes into segmentation-based personalization. Once we start to ramp up in terms of content development or creation, then we really want to go into multivariate, truly personalized experiences. This will include compiling a one to one experience for our customers. All of this is of course not only technology-focused, but it's helping force a (more holistic) personalization strategy. (i.e., into people and process areas as well)