adidas’s Jonathan Muir on Creating Customer Communities Through Retail Activation

On today’s episode of the Retail Experience podcast, Bobby speaks with Jonathan Muir, Director of Retail Activation at adidas. They discuss what retail activation is and how it can be used to increase acquisition and engagement by focusing on the products, stories, and experiences a brand presents to its customers. They also discuss ways to achieve true omnichannel engagement, how to measure retail activation’s success, and how the future of brick-and-mortar will be found in one-to-one experiences.

Topics discussed:

  • How Jonathan created Baseline, a niche sneaker business, and worked for Nike on ways to increase personalization before becoming the Director of Retail Activation at adidas.
  • What a day in the life of a retail activation director looks like, from connecting with retailers on the ground to overseeing how customers perceive the brand, its products, and its stories when they walk in the door.
  • What retail activation is, and how it can ignite product, marketing, and operations to create a blaze for a brand.
  • Why brands need to constantly be creating and iterating around retail experiences for their customers — not just do something once a quarter or year.
  • Advice for brands who want to lean further into retail activation, and how brick-and-mortar can be used as an acquisition channel to create brand fans.
  • How to achieve true omnichannel marketing through data collection that drives customers back into the store.
  • Why the future of retail will be found in brick-and-mortar retailers creating communities for customers that they can’t find online. 

Guest Quotes: 

“When somebody walks over the threshold into a retail space, your ability to convert that individual to a brand fan or even a lifelong follower of the brand is just lifted so much further. And I think if individuals and brands start to look at their retail spaces less with this revenue, like, okay, this is our DTC strategy, we have to make X amount of money — and shift it more into a brand space where it’s actually a marketing expense. We’re prepared to spend a little bit on the experience in order to gain that consumer as a lifelong brand fan, whether they buy something in store or not.” (15:54)

“So for us, it’s on a weekly basis, connecting with teams across the globe in those retail doors. We’re following the adidas brand calendar and we’re really looking at how those stories that adidas is creating, the product and stories are landing inside of retail, and how a consumer in Fifth Avenue in New York or a consumer in London in Oxford Street is perceiving the brand when they walk in the door. What are they seeing? What are they looking at? What are they feeling? How are they interpreting the campaigns that we’re launching?” (7:45)

“In retail, you’ll have product, you’ll have marketing, and you will have operations … Where retail activation for adidas sits is in between all those three. A nice way to look at it is, I always see it as like ignition, right? So if we were lighting a fire, I guess it would be like all those pieces together on the barbecue and then it’s that match, hopefully, that lights it and takes it on fire.” (9:35)

“It’s all great having many millions of followers and having many millions, hundreds of millions of people on your membership platforms and communities, but once you get the know how of how to direct that traffic back into retail for some kind of value play, then that becomes the true — we’ve had omnichannel as a buzzword for several years, but that’s true omnichannel, where you’re really closing that circle and taking all that information from consumers, exciting them with something, and then driving them back into retail.” (18:53)

“And to be honest, the only way that you’re really going to win in that space is to create that emotive connection. And how better to do that than in retail? I think the penny has dropped and it’s just realized, okay, great, there is no better way to create that community and that connection to consumer than by a physical one-to-one experience. So that’s really the future of retail for me.” (20:29)