Insights into the digitalisation strategy of the Intersport Group


(Published in The Produktkulturmagazin issue 4 2017)

All journeys start with an initial step, this is also the case for the digitalisation journey that virtually all companies have to embark on today. And Intersport – the largest medium-sized retail cooperative within the sports retail sector – is also making swift inroads in terms of digitalisation. The business has meanwhile found its ideal route to ensure it reaches its milestones in the best possible way and without major diversions.

But why is an established enterprise setting off on this precise journey? After all, the strategy in place to date has been working for 60 years, and has been successful. With 1,500 sports stores, Intersport is the market leader in Germany, none of its competitors has more branches. The sports retailer’s physical and personal proximity to its customers is a huge bonus. So why e-commerce?

The answer is obvious: as in many other sectors, declining customer footfall in bricks-and-mortar retail is having an impact. 50 percent of customers visiting stores have already acquired information regarding the brand or the product they wish to purchase in advance online and only then come to the store – if they come at all. As many purchase decisions today are no longer made in stores but online, Intersport has no choice but to enter the huge online market.

Those wishing to join the ranks of the major players will not only come into contact with fans and support, they must also skilfully beat their competitors. Because the sports goods market is fiercely competitive. For instance, customers can choose from 600 different brands at Intersport; in bricks-and-mortar retail, this huge choice is a massive bonus – but business partners immediately become competitors in online retail. All brand manufacturers want to establish their own online shops to generate sales without using intermediaries. In addition to this, online retailers such as Amazon and Zalando are courting customers, as are platforms such as eBay. The salient question within the context of the very first step is where Intersport still has room for expansion in this market. This question was answered by Carsten Schmitz, CDO at Intersport Germany, talking at the 2017 Contentserv Marketing Power Conference: “One could be forgiven for thinking the market is already full. But we actually believe that there is still space for us to grow because we provide decisive benefits. Firstly, brand diversity – brand know-how. Secondly, daily customer contact. And thirdly, we enjoy a high level of credibility within the sports equipment sector. There is a huge amount of counterfeit branded sports merchandise online: needless to say, the credibility that Intersport enjoys plays a hugely important role here.”

The e-commerce strategy implemented by Intersport in 2013 proved to be infeasible. As the market leader, the plan was to launch a multichannel concept with a central online shop for the entire retail cooperative. Here, the biggest tools were just about good enough for the job. Using an enterprise shop system, enterprise PIM, EDI wholesale processes and of course experienced implementation partners, we initially felt well-equipped in terms of our online business. However, it transpired that the systems were not suitable for the demands of e-commerce. They were insufficiently user-friendly, too large and lacked flexibility. Intersport has learned from this. Non-athletes attempting to run a marathon should set themselves step-by-step targets before attempting a 10-km course, following commensurate training. In the case of Intersport, this meant going back to the starting line. New systems and a new strategy – no longer a central online shop, but a cooperative retailer platform. The ideal solution for the possibilities demanded by e-commerce today was found in June 2017: with its product information management (PIM) system, Contentserv provides precisely what is required for flexible working. The software was customised and adapted to the special requirements of the Intersport Group, evident in the fact that the system is designed specifically to cater to end-user processes. By providing smart tools, Contentserv makes Intersport more adaptable and equips Intersport with smart tools that offer the fast reaction possibilities required for e-commerce. This enables the retail cooperative to be more flexible.

In conjunction with the Contentserv software, Intersport is now able to optimally exploit its decisive advantages, because combining the stockrooms at the 1,500 affiliates offers a product assortment depth that is virtually unbeatable. The PIM system now provides support above all in centrally collating the content provided by more than 600 brands – such as Adidas, Puma and Nike – in one single place and distributing this to the various channels from the so-called “single-point-of-truth”. Here, the information is not only used for product ads, but also for campaigns. And our local retailers also benefit from Contentserv. They are provided with the data – hence allowing them to operate their own websites, social media activities and campaigns independently of each other. Centrally bundling the product data can also provide the basic prerequisite for successful sports retail e-commerce – namely high-quality content that turns prospective buyers into customers. Optimum data quality is an absolute necessity for retail cooperatives in particular, as the product data are not required for a central online shop alone. Data errors also have an impact on bricks-and-mortar retail and hence on the 1,500 stores that create offers and initiate advertising campaigns on the basis of these data. With dire consequences.

In addition to its still strong bricks-and-mortar retail, Intersport has – following brief diversions – meanwhile also found the ideal route for successfully mastering the digitalisation marathon in terms of its online business. In contrast to track-and-field sports, you are unlikely to ever be able to cross the finish line in this master discipline, as this discipline is dynamic. However, the right equipment featuring smart IT solutions levels the path – consequently enabling milestones to be reached more swiftly and more easily.

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As a marketing software manufacturer and product information management and digital asset management technology leader, CONTENTSERV simplifies the marketing work of thousands of international users each and every day with its marketing content platform. We have been a market player for more than 15 years, drawing on vast expertise acquired from hundreds of projects.




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