Decathlon drives a unified commerce strategy and transforms the role of physical stores with VTEX inStore
Focusing on customer experience, the sporting goods chain invested in the implementation of the tool and now uses the endless aisle feature and the fulfillment module in all its stores
The French brand Decathlon has over forty years of history and excellence in retailing sporting goods, selling a wide range of men’s and women’s clothing, footwear, and accessories for various sports. Currently, the chain has about 1,600 physical stores in more than sixty countries and more than thirty brands for each sport. Decathlon has been in Brazil for twenty years and is still expanding, with 45 brick-and-mortar stores in eight states, in addition to the ecommerce platform, launched in 2013, showing a pioneering digital spirit in its industry.
In search of a flexible architecture with integrated OMS, a customizable front-end, and a platform that enabled a better flow between ecommerce and physical stores, Decathlon migrated its online store to VTEX in 2017. After the re-platforming, the brand’s digital strategy underwent a maturing process. Flows and operations were restructured to increasingly think about the customer journey in an integrated way. In 2021, the time came to take the company’s biggest step toward an omnichannel strategy: the deployment of VTEX inStore.
The new role of physical stores
We know that digital transformation requires an increasingly integrated and unified customer experience. Omnichannel is no longer a trend but a reality within large corporations. Before thinking about tools or technologies, omnichannel is a mindset that needs to run through all areas of the company to become a successful strategy.
Integrating all sales channels is the basis for successful unified commerce, in which the experience revolves around the customer from the beginning to the end. It is not just about the buying experience but also about exchanges, returns, relationships, and communication.
In this scenario of digital expansion, spread of new technologies, and connected and demanding customers, the role of brick-and-mortar stores needs to be updated quickly. The companies that understand these places’ potential in the relationship between the clients and the brand, adopt solutions, and modernize their processes end up standing out. That is why Decathlon bet on VTEX inStore and the transformation of its 45 physical stores across the country.
“With the omnichannel system, it was the products that actually found the customers, and the stores began to play a key role in our digital strategy, expanding and strengthening our relationship with customers, consolidating the brand image, and adding value to the consumer. Brick-and-mortar stores have increasingly taken on a role as experience venues, besides functioning as mini-distribution centers.”Luciana Comenale, Sucess Account Director at VTEX
VTEX inStore and a unified commerce experience
Aligned with this strategy, in May 2021, Decathlon started to implement VTEX inStore, VTEX’s solution for unified commerce operations that enables the integration of digital and physical sales channels, placing the customer at the center of the business.
The VTEX InStore app is available for smartphones and tablets and provides the physical store sales associate with the integrated background of each customer, gathering data from their journey with the brand on digital channels.
With VTEX inStore, the shopping cart is integrated, persistent, and shareable. This means, for example, that the brick-and-mortar store sales associate can see the products the customer abandoned in the ecommerce cart. With such detailed information, they have more resources to complete the sale, increase the ticket, and strengthen the relationship with the customer.
“With VTEX inStore, our physical stores became dependent on the integration with the other sales channels, which triggered a structural change in the company. Today, the result analysis of a physical store does not only consider the sales of that store, but every purchase it may have influenced.”Tiago Zambetta, Technology Leader at Decathlon
To incorporate these changes into the routine of the store teams, there was a series of training sessions and a learning period. This process was led by a multidisciplinary team from Decathlon.
“The team brought together tech, sales, operational management, and concept professionals. Our goal was to create a knowledge basis to train the stores’ teams and pave the way for more than 1,200 salespeople to start using these new technologies.”Tiago Zambetta, Technology Leader at Decathlon
The project scaled quickly, reaching dozens of stores with the new technology. Using the infinite shelf capabilities and fulfillment module of VTEX inStore, Decathlon now has a solution that centralizes the customer journey, empowers its sellers, and takes the unified commerce experience to another level.
Infinite Shelf: when the stock does not run out in the store
One of the VTEX inStore features that drive Decathlon’s omnichannel strategy the most is the endless shelf. With it, even if the customer cannot find the product in stock at a particular store, the sales associate has access to the whole inventory of the ecommerce and even of other stores, completing the sale through his own smartphone.
For a large chain like Decathlon, which has more than 15,000 SKUs, the solution unified the customer experience and ensured more chances of conversion, since the possibilities of completing the sale are expanded when you can count on the entire stock of the ecommerce platform and the more than forty physical stores. In addition, the solution empowers the stores’ sales teams, which, having a significantly larger number of products in their hands, can transform the customer’s visit into a more complete and personalized experience.
“The physical store is at the heart of Decathlon’s strategy and will always play a key role in presenting products to customers, strengthening their relationship with the brand and offering interactive experiences.”Sebastien Franquet, CTO da Decathlon
Fulfillment: centralizing the end-to-end operation
After the orders generated on Decathlon’s ecommerce platform are completed, the Fulfillment module ensures a frictionless fulfillment experience for the seller and/or picker, ensuring that the customer will get the product correctly and on time.
“The VTEX inStore Fulfillment Module offers a native solution to unify the entire operation within the brick-and-mortar store: picking, preparation, and invoicing. Today, Decathlon has a single solution that can generate orders and enable the whole fulfillment process.”Leonardo Santos, Head of Growth at VTEX Physical Stores.
This is how Decathlon is able to track the customer’s end-to-end operation with a single tool.
“A unified commerce solution like VTEX inStore totally transforms the routine of a physical store, which is usually not the place for a logistics operation. The challenge is adapting these new technologies to this new role of the sales associate and the stores.”Sebastien Franquet, CTO at Decathlon
Vision for the future: event sponsorship, marketplace, and regionalization
Seeking to be a reference in the sports industry, Decathlon sponsors sport-related events and plans to explore the potential for sales and attracting new customers. In 2021, the brand set up a point of sale at the Beach Tennis World Championship, which took place in Rio de Janeiro and sold out its stock of racquets using VTEX inStore to make on-site sales. This year, the brand’s goal is to continue using the tool to boost this strategy.
Following this trend, Decathlon also plans to expand the penetration of its products in sports venues, such as gyms, sports courts, and clubs. The goal is to strengthen the relationship with sportsmen and women and create a network of brand promoters qualified to sell Decathlon products in these places through VTEX inStore.
Decathlon already uses the native VTEX marketplace system, selling on its ecommerce website a series of third-party products complementary to its portfolio, which can be easily integrated to the VTEX platform. This year, the brand intends to integrate these products to the VTEX inStore, thus being able to offer even more SKUs to consumers in the physical stores.
“We already use the marketplace strategy in our ecommerce system. We’ll now integrate it with VTEX inStore so that third-party products that complement ours will be available in all our physical stores for our customers.”Sebastien Franquet, CTO at Decathlon
Regionalizing the product mix and using dark stores to strategically assist each region of the country is another of Decathlon’s goals that can be made possible by VTEX inStore.
“Today, in São Paulo, our clients can receive the product within an hour. In Manaus, it takes at least five days. With a regionalized catalog and dark stores, we will be able to bring the right stocks to the right audience, focusing on the most practiced sports in each Brazilian region.”Sebastien Franquet, CTO at Decathlon
New possibilities create new trends
After nine months of using the solution and offering its clients more convenience and new possibilities for the buying journey, Decathlon saw an increase in sales. With the new strategy, in-store digital sales accounted for up to 5% of physical store sales. That is: the product is not physically in that store, but the customer checks the infinite shelf and completes the purchase, receiving the product at home or picking it up at another brick-and-mortar store.
These new possibilities are made possible because of VTEX’s partnership with AWS. AWS provides customers with a scalable and reliable platform, so that they can deploy applications and data quickly and securely.
Decathlon has also identified a change in the behavior of its customers with the new options. After one month of the new operation, customers requested Express Pickup in 30% of the purchases with VTEX inStore participation. In this delivery method, a customer in a physical store sees on the infinite shelf that the product is available in another store, completes the purchase, and goes to the other location to pick it up right away.
The Fulfillment module also showed positive results in operationalizing logistics processes in physical stores: about 80% of the VTEX inStore orders are fulfilled with store items.
“With VTEX’s technology, we were able to connect our sales channels with transparency and flexibility. Today, our inventory is available to the customer the way they want it, which has always been a major business goal for Decathlon.”Tiago Zambetta, Technology Leader at Decathlon
To remain relevant in an ever-evolving market, it is necessary to tackle challenging projects. For Decathlon, being able to count on the right partners is crucial.
“Three years ago, we revisited our entire ecommerce architecture with VTEX, and that’s what made this whole turnaround possible. VTEX is the partner that understood our business model, where digital and physical stores complement each other and improve the customer experience across all channels.”Sebastien Franquet, CTO at Decathlon