The Intersport Group
The Intersport Group is a world-leading sporting goods retailer, with over 5,600 brick-and-mortar stores in 44 countries. The company’s outlets handle over 600 different brands of sport-related apparel, footwear, equipment, and accessories. With an annual turnover of over one billion euros, they are the world’s largest football (soccer) retailer, with a strong presence in running, winter sports, fitness, and outdoor activities.
In addition to the challenge of supporting a vast retail supply chain, the company also manages and maintains data on each of the products stored shipped, and sold. With the total number of SKUs growing by a factor of 10 over the last two years, the sheer volume of product information, pricing, and digital assets are staggering.
Although Intersport is a recognized leader in traditional retail, its leaders recognized the need to grow in the area of e-commerce. This was necessary in order to counter formidable competitors like Amazon and Zalando and to offset online offerings from the brands themselves, while still maintaining good relationships with those brands.
Intersport knew they had advantages. Intersport Chief Digital Officer Carsten Schmitz noted, “There is still space for us to grow [online] because we offer a clear and differentiated value to our clientele. First, brand diversity and brand know-how. Second, daily customer contact. And third, 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.”
Even with such a strong focus, the task of launching and managing a comprehensive, global e-commerce presence — without affecting existing business — is a formidable one. Vast amounts of data from suppliers must be collected, reconciled, and, in many cases, supplemented to work with the PIM, DAM, marketing, and fulfillment systems that form the core engine of an enterprise-level e-commerce platform. After a long search for the right data management partner, Inter- sport selected Contentserv in June 2017.
The desired e-commerce implementation had many requirements, not the least of which was the merging of product and inventory data from multiple warehouse facilities and suppliers. Each SKU had to encompass complex data that reflected not only the product and its variants (e.g., description, size, and color) but also its location, quantity, cost, margin, and other variables such as available inventory levels – which equated to 2.5 million objects. Data imported from suppliers were often categorized differently from other data sources and, in many cases, was missing data points necessary to the e-commerce workflow.
Another requirement was to ensure the automatic flow of data from suppliers’ ERPs to Intersport’s PIM so that new products or changes to existing products would be immediately visible to consumers. Manual data import was not an option. Overall, the desired solution had to be flexible, automating the import of supplier data and the consistent mapping of vendor data to their respective e-commerce attributes.
Finally, the resulting infrastructure had to support Intersport’s ongoing marketing efforts, including print catalogs and other SKU data-intensive collateral.
From the outset, Contentserv and Intersport collaborated extensively, merging data from multiple systems, including the company’s original PIM and DAM databases as well as numerous supplier data handoffs. During the primary implementation — which both parties described as “a successful marathon” — there were many alterations and change requests resulting from unforeseen events. A company spokesman expressed high praise for Contentserv’s flexibility and readiness to address these issues promptly — without losing the overall mission focus of the project.
Contentserv’s comprehensive and easy-to-use data tools were particularly useful during the initial implementation. Its dashboard was used extensively to identify missing data elements. It also established a data quality model based on key performance indicators (KPIs). The enriched content supported search engine optimization (SEO), essential to effective e-commerce operations. Strong workflow capabilities enabled Inter- sport to identify critical missing data, recommend and prioritize them, and provide an efficient entry process to remedy any missing elements.
Perhaps the greatest benefit established during the implementation was the ability to handle such massive volumes of data effectively. Unlike Intersport’s previous vendor, there was no additional development needed to deploy the visual interfaces for importing and mapping data for e-commerce use. The project was implemented on time and on budget.
By using Contentserv, Intersport is now able to capitalize on its competitive advantages. Leveraging the deep product assortments of its 1,500 affiliates, the PIM system now provides central support in collating the content provided by more than 600 brands, including Adidas, Puma, and Nike. From this “single source-of-truth,” the company can address the e-commerce and distribution needs of its affiliates, so as to not burden them with creating and maintaining their own individual product information.
Intersport provides vital information to multiple communication and marketing channels. The information is used not only to describe products but also to support ad campaigns. Local retailers also benefit as they are provided with reliable and complete data, allowing them to independently operate their own websites, social media activities, and campaigns.
The PIM system, implemented by Intersport in partnership with Contentserv, reinforced a basic truth: high-quality content turns prospective buyers into customers. Optimum data quality is an absolute necessity for retailers, not only in a central online shop but also at the stores. By trusting Contentserv, Intersport significantly reduced data errors that impacted retail operations while supporting the company’s growing e-commerce presence.