The right equipment can make all the difference when it comes to performance, no matter your sport, discipline, or athleticism.
Yet selecting the right gear can be a headache for online shoppers. They don’t want to buy multiples of a product, nor do they want to buy something that’s not going to work and end up collecting dust in the corner, or resold at a loss.
All of these reasons probably explain why the sporting goods industry experiences a relatively low ecommerce conversion rate, hovering around 1.96% as of 2022. In fact, while ecommerce demand surged over the last couple of years, particularly with the pandemic sending many athletes outdoors or home to work out, one set of metrics suggested the industry as a whole actually saw a 0.08% decrease in conversion rates between 2021 and 2022. Not exactly a winning formula for success.
Sporting, fitness, and recreational gear is uniquely primed to benefit from a new wave of ecommerce that’s quickly becoming a preferred method for many customers: live video shopping.
Live shopping connects sales associates with shoppers on a 1:1 basis. Ideally, live shopping associates should be product evangelists or experts - able to answer questions, recommend products, suggest smart cross-sells and upsells, and walk customers through checkout.
In the sporting goods category, it’s extra imperative that live shopping associates understand:
- Technical differences between products
- The right product for different levels of physical fitness or goals
- Potential pains and considerations by sport or activity
Athletes trust other athletes. It’s why athletes will often eyeball competitor gear, use equipment suggested by their coach, build strong online communities, and follow key fitness or athletic influencers and creators (some of which go on to build their own superstar brands).
Let’s look at some specific use cases for adopting a live video shopping platform for your fitness or sporting goods site.
Sporting goods and fitness gear live shopping use cases
Let’s get one thing out of the way: No matter the price point, sporting goods inevitably end up being a pretty thoughtful purchase. Shoppers generally aren’t interested in multiples of a product, and they want to ensure whatever they’re adding to their fitness or sports gear lineup is actually going to contribute to their overall athletic goals and performance. So even if you’re selling $15 performance socks or laces, or a $15,000 mountain bike, recognize shoppers will have lots to think about in either scenario.
Find the right equipment
The best use case for live video shopping in the sporting goods sector is also the simplest: No matter the price point, sporting equipment is a high consideration category. There are tons of technical specs to consider on top of age, gender, physique, personal preferences, price point, and physical fitness. A quick search on a popular sports gear site, for example, brings up 196 unisex tennis racquets - across three different types. A beginning tennis player or someone getting back into the sport after decades would be ultra challenged with understanding where to start. Buying guides may help, but nothing will beat the experience of being assisted by a live shopper who can digest information in real time and more easily direct shoppers to the right product for their needs.
Shop with a sport / activity expert
Like we said earlier, athletes trust other athletes. Getting onto a live shopping call with someone that’s well-versed in a particular sport or activity can give shoppers the confidence they need to hit checkout, no matter whether they’re a novice or expert in the sport. Beginners will feel confident a real pro has steered them in the right direction, while advanced athletes in a sport will feel good about shopping with a store that clearly knows what they’re talking about.
Get a product demo
If a customer can’t get into a store to test out a product for themselves, the next best thing is seeing someone else use it in action. This is particularly useful for more complex equipment, such as an electronic bike, where the sales associate can demonstrate unique features much as a car dealer might. Same goes for products with complex or unique setup considerations; the associate can walk through how to take down a portable sunshade for example. Finally, the associate can also demonstrate how to use a breakthrough piece of equipment that’s entirely new in an athlete’s arsenal.
Cross-sell products and kits
It’s pretty rare to find a piece of sporting equipment that doesn’t have an item that goes with it (at least from a manufacturer point of view). TaylorMade clubs work best with their balls. A paddleboarding brand sells their coordinating paddles and boards as bundles. Bike brands offer all manner of bags, racks, and other accessories to kit out your ride. While AI-generated cross-sells can do some of this lifting on autopilot, a conversation with a salesperson can be a more organic way to drive up order values. In fact, live shopping can be an opportunity to build an entire set, kit, or routine out with a shopper.
Learn about equipment fabrication
The longer you’re in a sport, the more specific your tastes will become. Live shopping associates can dig into the nitty gritty of a product’s manufacturing and materials, including avoiding materials a customer isn’t a fan of, or tracking down products made in a way they like. If your store also sells activewear, the same rule applies: They’ll likely have questions about an item’s fit and flexibility while they get their sweat on.
Recruit virtual product experts for in-store shopping experiences
Most virtual shopping experiences involves connecting a live shopping associate that’s either stationed in a store, studio, or home environment with a customer that’s calling from anywhere. But an alternative to this arrangement is to let shoppers in-store jump on a call with a live shopping associate. Instead of trying to find a handful of mountain bike experts in every retail location, a brand could instead recruit a half-dozen mountain bike experts to work as live shopping associates on rotating shifts. No matter where they’re located, these experts can be on hand to answer calls for in-store shoppers and virtual customers alike, minimizing the need to ‘hire locally’ and letting retailers take advantage of the ‘work from anywhere’ culture that has emerged post-pandemic.
Get a taste of a physical store from anywhere
Walmart is considered the biggest retailer of sporting goods in the U.S. and for good reason. Many smaller communities that may not be able to support a standalone sporting goods store will likely have a Walmart in their vicinity, giving them at least one source to pick up whatever gear they need. Online shopping in theory should fill the gap, particularly for ecommerce retailers that specialize in a specific category of sporting equipment. But many customers will still wish they could visit a physical store before making their purchase. The good news is live video shopping can provide a similar experience, transporting customers into a physical store no matter where they’re located. DTC brands with limited footprints or sporting gear brands with amazing concept stores can give customers a taste of that in-store magic.
Participate in an exclusive promotional live shopping experience
There are plenty of famous faces in the fitness and sports world - live video shopping gives customers the chance to shop 1:1 with them. If a brand is looking to make a major splash when launching live video shopping, why not enlist special guest co-shopping associates to answer random calls during a promotional period. You’ll generate huge buzz AND demand for your live shopping offering, and provide a one-of-a-kind experience for whatever shoppers get the chance to co-shop alongside their idols.
Explain the difference between value-priced and premium items
Sporting goods come at virtually every price point, the working theory being the more serious you are about an activity, the more sophisticated equipment you’ll require. This can however, cause problems on the customer side. A shopper that wants to get into a sport and isn’t ready to spend big, but IS planning to play a lot, may be majorly turned off if their equipment wears out relatively quickly. The idea is to find products that are right-priced for the frequency of use and expertise of an athlete - nuances that aren’t easy to discern when shopping on your own. A live shopping associate can help steer a customer toward something that’ll suit their budget, lifestyle, and dedication to an activity.
Compare two or more products
In the sporting goods sector, it’s extremely unlikely that a shopper actually wants two of the same item. Unlike a dress or pair of running shoes, they probably only need one golf driver or basketball hoop in their lives. If a shopper is looking at multiple products, it’s probably because they’re missing some information that would help them hone in on the one. This paralysis analysis can easily lead to cart abandonment altogether, but it can be solved in a live video shopping call. The associate can showcase the items side-by-side, answer questions, and nudge a shopper toward a particular product they’re most likely to be happy with.
Purchase a gift
Most sporty types have their circle of fellow athletes that share in the same hobbies and activities. But there are plenty of people who will fall outside of this group that may want to buy that individual a gift to support their athletic or fitness hobby. The problem? They have no idea where to begin, and they’re not exactly pumped about walking into a sporting goods store. Online video shopping helps clueless customers feel comfortable navigating a category or store they might not otherwise brave, all while getting personalized suggestions to lighten the load of finding the perfect present.
Sync up with local inventory
Sports and recreation retailers with a physical store are always looking to drive more foot traffic. That’s why many of them have synchronized their online and in-store inventory to help customers see if their local store has a product they're interested in purchasing before they walk out of their homes, sometimes right down to the specific aisle. If in-store stock isn’t that detailed or isn’t available, shoppers will appreciate being able to link up with an associate at their local store to physically locate a product, and answer any questions about it while they’re on the call. The associate could even put an item aside to make it even easier for a customer to pick up what they want.
Sporting goods are subject to knockoffs and dropshippers just like any other industry, and many shoppers are hesitant to purchase pricy equipment online without knowing if its authentic. Getting onto a virtual shopping call with a real product expert who answers questions, shows products, provides demos, and offers reassurance about the legitimacy of the business can go a long way to building a level of trust that will lead to more conversions.
Build customer/associate relationships
The beauty of 1:1 video shopping comes down to relationship building. These connections can take place within a single call, but they can also grow over a series of calls. Eventually a customer might seek out a specific associate to shop with, just like they would in store. This trusted point of contact can be their source of information on new releases or recommendations, similar to how personal shoppers and social influencers act. If a shopper trusts an associate's recommendations and expertise in an area, they’ll be more apt to listen to their advice on what to buy next, ultimately driving higher order values.
See a specific element of the product that's not clear in photos
The top sporting goods brands in the world do their best to ensure product images are selling their products in the best way possible. But still, even the most thoughtful images can fall short. Customers can easily send back a product because they didn't realize that the duffel bag they bought didn’t include a yoga mat strap. Or that their hockey pants had a button instead of a zipper closure. Shoppers will always value the opportunity to see products from any specific angles they ask to see - one that may not have ever been considered by a photographer.
Shop on the move
We all know athletes are often on the go, but luckily live 1:1 shopping is a shortcut to find what they want no matter where their physical activities may take them. Instead of having to meander through a website on their own or chase down a sales associate in store, these busy bodies can hop on a live shopping call, explain what they’re looking for, and complete their order in short order. Pro tip: Brands with BOPIS (Buy Online Pickup In Store) fulfillment options will be well-primed to offer live video shopping. Customers can speak with a live shopping associate and buy a product while on their way to a store, then simply walk (jog, bike, or blade) in and pick it up.
Reduce cart abandonment with real-time promotional offers
Live shopping calls simulate the in-store experience of working with a sales associate, where that individual can recommend and source products, and even walk a customer through checkout. Typical online shopping equals distractions for shoppers who might be tempted to look elsewhere or to try and track down a coupon code. Giving live shopping associates tools to generate promotional codes on the fly can help close more sales and drop cart abandonment rates. To really sweeten the experience, have the associate enter the code into the cart page so the customer doesn't have to - hanging up the call means hanging up on the offer in front of them.
Find a replacement product
Real talk: Sporting equipment and fitness gear gets beat up over time. If it’s time for a replacement, a shopper is probably looking for one of two things: The exact product they just had, or something similar that maybe offers a new or improved feature. A video call can solve for either one of these scenarios, especially in sporting goods where products are continually innovated upon. A shopper that previously bought a particular type of paddleboard may not be able to replace it 1:1 with their last model, but they may be pleasantly surprised to find the same manufacturer has come out with a new design with an additional feature like an extra bungee cord for their bag.
Describe a specific problem or use case that would otherwise require extensive back and forth customer support
Sometimes a shopper isn't in search of a product, but a solution. They might have information about a situation they’re shopping for, but not be sure what to buy. Instead of dealing with endless back and forth over email, a video chat can streamline these situational queries. A customer might say they’re looking for a backpack for a European adventure. Sounds simple right? Except that this person wants something they won’t have to check, that offers additional security features, and that can be used for outdoor excursions. Suddenly their criteria becomes more clear than any online buying guide or simple customer service query would. The shopping associate can highlight bags that fit all of these criteria, give their personal experience with what they wished they had for a similar trek, and complete a transaction within a single virtual shopping session.
Offer extra support for low-tech customers
Not every athlete is also an expert online shopper. In fact, they may have exclusively bought their sporting equipment in store up until they possibly had to during the pandemic. Live video co-shopping can aid customers that feel less comfortable with navigating a website on their own, help them find the right products, and even walk them through the checkout process.
Take and support preorders
Sporting goods are often tied into the preorder model, in part because of supply chain considerations, but also assess demand. Businesses that offer products on preorder may need to spend some extra time with customers explaining how the model works and helping them feel confident in their purchase and estimated delivery times. A live shopping call takes the place of customer support, and helps drive more conversions overall.
How to offer live video shopping on your sporting goods, fitness, or recreation ecommerce site
Ready to gear up your site with live video co-shopping support? Great! You may want to check out our playbook that breaks down six key considerations you'll need to make before hitting go. And of course, one of those decisions is who you'll work with to implement live video shopping.
GhostRetail has teamed up with leading consumer goods brands to deliver one of a kind customer experiences that shoppers love, and happily return for. Our approach to live video shopping is proven to move the needle on core retail and ecommerce KPIs, and it's as easy to set up as adding a snippet of code to your website.
Contact us to book a demo of GhostRetail - we'll see you there.