Today’s design workflow is broken. More and more teams are collaborating across distance, and traditional presentations often lead to poor decision-making.
At a recent talk at the International Retail Design Conference, Brooks Clemens at adidas shared how he has integrated virtual and augmented reality into their retail design process, empowering their teams to work better together. With The Wild as a foundation for the mutual understanding of complex ideas, adidas retail has realized a better return on their investment.
The following is a transcript of his talk.
I’m Brooks Clemens, and I work in the digital activation group at adidas. My job function sits within a community of science-based disciplines known internally as advanced analytics, which puts my background as a behavioral economist to good use. We have been working with The Wild for over a year and a half now, originating from a conversation between our retail experience team and their account-facing colleagues. The discussion began by considering the workstream we used to deliver retail experiences to customers. We quickly realized portions of this workstream were making siloed decisions, despite a clear mandate to work in collaboration, and as a result, we were running into complications around cost overrun, inefficient workflow, and process, which resulted in inadequate products being delivered to our wholesale partners. We decided to kick off a case study to investigate potential solutions for these problems. Through a mutual acquaintance and colleague of mine, we were introduced to Gabe Paez and were invited to explore the possibility of using his 3D collaboration platform for our case study.
Now that you have a bit of context, I'm going to walk you through the details that went into our case study, to give you a sense of the steps we took and the resulting outcome, both for us internally at adidas and for the retail partner we teamed up with for this exercise.
If you take a look behind me on this screen, you’ll see a live feed from Portland, where a couple of people from The Wild are helping me out for this presentation. This is the platform as you would see it in a virtual reality headset. We built out a space that represents how we progressed from realizing our need to realizing the power of The Wild’s solution. Mischa and Taylor are going to demonstrate how we went about this process.
Kicking off the Selling Season
We’ll start at the beginning of our working process at adidas. What you see here, virtually, is typically what happens at the start of a selling season. We’d have a big auditorium, and we have a lot of people sitting in forward-facing chairs trying to digest a lot of information about how the product was created, what benefits the product creation teams were trying to relay, and why the product was created in the first place, all while someone presets to them off of 2D slides. Additionally, the attendees of this meeting are required to remember some information around why the product concept exists in the first place. For instance, on the left side, you'll see a wall of posters that display the Parlay (ocean plastic thread) product concept, which is about removing plastic from the ocean and turning it into thread that you can then use to manufacture shoes and other products.
The rest of the walls demonstrate overarching concepts, as well as concepts we want to tell stories around during specific times in the selling season. All of these get thrown up as slides as well, and everyone has to sit there and digest all of this content in the thirty-minute meeting and remember as much as they can in the coming months. These are product merchandisers, trade marketers, and salespeople who are aiming to understand: Okay, what are we trying to sell? What messages are we attempting to convey about the product? What are the reasons to consume this information? How does this all fit into the year-long, non-stop stream of content and products we are putting into the marketplace? This essentially plays out as everyone taking notes as best they can and hoping they can convey enough of what they heard and saw back to their broader teams.
To have a chance to build out different scenarios in one space, stand back, and ask, “Is it the best we can do?” with the opportunity to then change course with no costs incurred, is very significant.
Confronting the Inefficiencies in the Spatial-2D-Spatial Process
This way of working was a case of poor translation. We were trying to go from 3D spatial to 2D translations, back to another re-translation to 3D spatial, and what resulted was not the most efficient outcome in the ideal amount of time and budget spent. We also saw a lot of complications at the end of this process, mostly as the result of our own self-inflicted inefficiencies. As we transition into the next room (representing the beginning of the experimental 3D collaborative process The Wild facilitates), you can see how we started to change the process entirely. Instead of having a designer or someone else on the product development side present the information to the next team in the go-to-market (GTM) process—like how I am presenting to you now—we decided to re-envision the process as a single space for collaboration.
Here, someone in marketing communications could go into a library and take out communications assets for a specific product for the year, and someone else in merchandising could start to pull out a product that was curated by the design and product development teams around the story attempting to be built. Oftentimes, the inspiration and reason behind why a product was created don’t match up to the story being told in retail experiences. The Wild gave us a chance to collaborate using 3D visual representations of all the components, and we could now sit down together as a collective GTM process and say, “Alright, for the story we are trying to tell and the products we have available to tell this story through, this is going to be the best single piece of the total product offering to tell a strong story around.”
And then, we’re able to include elements around how we would like to tell these stories—avenues such as a running community we support or large cities that hold vast potential for reaching customers. This helps complete the loop of information we need to convey to key stakeholders in order to bring products and their stories to market. Before the case study, this process was basically conducted like a track meet. Someone would create a product, then hand it off with some of the information that went into creating it, then it would continue down the path of merchandising, storytelling, and selling. Meanwhile, a lot of the information that was gained by making decisions in every one of these steps got lost after each hand-off to the next group. The Wild allowed us to utilize a collaborative platform that immersed key stakeholders in an environment with more complete information to work from, as well as a chance to work together to make changes in the same virtual space. As a result, we set ourselves up for a better chance of delivering a better overall experience to customers interacting with our stories and products.
The Wild allowed us to utilize a collaborative platform that immersed key stakeholders in an environment with more complete information to work from, as well as a chance to work together to make changes in the same virtual space.
Bringing Design, Merchandising, and Communications Together (for real)
Once we began to see that our storytelling and product offerings were coming together more quickly and with better curation of the details, we started to flip roles. For example, someone in a communications role could now have a passive role, and a merchandiser could play an active role in building the assortment in the same meeting. This translated into a quicker representation of the eventual assortment in a physical retail space. We started to initiate the design of a retail space as a function of the story, rather than just a function of the store space, and what’s more, we could start far earlier in the process than we had been able to before.
The most significant opportunity that The Wild has provided—not that what I just presented was insignificant—but the ability to visually conduct a lot of our work in one collaboration space, assess, change, and then reassess all in 3D significantly reduces the problems we were experiencing with information being lost in spatial translation. To have a chance to build out different scenarios in one space, stand back, and ask, “Is it the best we can do?” with the opportunity to then change course with no costs incurred, apart from time, is very significant for a mature company like adidas.
We haven't found any other platform that can allow us to be as agile, creative, and iterative in a process as The Wild.
Getting it Right the First Time
Ultimately, we want to have the best relationship possible between adidas, our marketing and design agencies, and our customers. Because at the end of the day, if we miss the mark on product storytelling, customer experience, and satisfaction, it’s a wasted trip for the customer and a waste of resource expense for us. It also erodes the customer’s perception of us for the future, something that is much tougher to regain than to maintain.
So what does all of that actually culminate in, when all of the functions are working together towards the same outcome? What happens is that this 3D digital representation of physical retail space, with all of its storytelling elements, product content, and product iterations, starts to come to life much earlier for everyone who’s trying to “get it right.” By being able to include an agency partner earlier in the process and put significant context to a retail space build like never before, everyone now has more room to think about what more we can do to make that space an impactful experience. We can even begin to test these experiences before they are physically built and uncover potential flaws we never would have noticed otherwise.
Reduce Risk with Better Decision-Making
The case was built around a specific portion of the adidas running product category and a key retail partner of ours, along with a number of design and marketing agencies that do this type of space planning work. Initially, we set out to see if we could take all of the job functions involved in the category and reimagine them in The Wild. Essentially, we wanted to test the idea that a massive company like adidas could start to reshape its ways of working, into something that is very new, while realizing a net cost savings rather than a significant investment and reorganization. Truthfully, we haven't found any other platform that can allow us to be as agile, creative, and iterative in a process as The Wild. We’re always making decisions. As these decisions on top of decisions on top of decisions begin to add up, the risk of an expensive miscalculated decision that has a significant impact to the business increases—not only in terms of financial cost, but also in terms of externalities we have yet to realize or measure.
So, everything that you saw on that screen was live, and it was hopefully a clear demonstration of the way that we are beginning to work with a number of our retail partners, agencies, and internal business partners. The Wild has proven to be a tool that is quick to adopt, and it has provided us with a better overall product for our customers, full stop.
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