LeBron James' Uninterrupted eyes DTC growth with mobile app
The athlete empowerment brand partnered with Tapcart.
The athlete empowerment brand partnered with Tapcart.
LeBron James’ brand is looking to go mobile.
The news: Uninterrupted, the athlete empowerment brand within the SpringHill Company founded by NBA star LeBron James and sports-marketing mogul Maverick Carter, is building a new mobile app in partnership with no-code platform Tapcart.
How it works:
Through the app, fans can shop for merchandise, as well as engage with a community of fans.
The launch will coincide with the debut of the Uninterrupted spring line, called “The 300 Collection.” Inspired by baseball star Mookie Betts’ passion for bowling in the offseason, it features items with vintage bowling vibes.
Uninterrupted’s goals for the mobile app include: New user acquisition, higher sell-through rates and increased customer retention.
Key quote: "Product, content and community" are the three pillars of Uninterrupted's mobile strategy, said SpringHill Company VP of Commerce Steve Friend. "It is extremely important for us to stay up to date on the most current tech trends and methods in connecting with our consumers, both on their turf and in intuitive ways that matter to our business. Leveraging Tapcart allows us to reach our audiences and communities on a more personal level by meeting them on mobile, which gets us one step closer to our goal of 1-to-1 engagement within our community."
Mobile growth: Uninterrupted is moving to where shoppers are going. The return to brick-and-mortar stores hasn’t brought a slowdown in the growth of mobile shopping. According to Adobe Analytics, the 2022 holiday shopping season was a “turning point” in adoption, as a majority (51%) of Cyber Week sales were made using smartphones for the first time. Increasingly, shoppers are using mobile devices to toggle between in-person and online shopping. Apps can help to meet them along the way.
Going DTC: Along with the move to smartphones, brands and retailers are seeking to host more sales on direct channels rather than social media. NewStore found that 60% of consumers prefer in-app shopping experiences over the mobile web. For brands, the shift is also in part a response to privacy-oriented changes in digital advertising and the opportunity presented by the ability to access first-party data directly from sales and loyalty programs. Uninterrupted said the app will enable it to offer customers a more tailored experience that feels unique to them, as well. It plans personalized clothing recommendations and targeted content.
A winning record: In the era of celebrity brands, this isn’t the first collaboration between an athlete’s brand and Tapcart, which serves Shopify-powered brands. Previously, the platform’s app helped international soccer icon Lionel Messi’s apparel brand to triple sales in a month. Now the platform will be seeking to repeat, and help another legend grow their DTC business.
The retailer's marketplace is expanding quickly.
When it comes to ecommerce growth, was the pandemic a blip or a new trendsetter?
As we move further from the height of COVID-related closures, it’s a question that will start to be answered through the lens of history.
So far, the narrative of ecommerce growth in the U.S. from 2019-2022 has gone like this: Ecommerce’s share of overall retail saw a huge spike at the height of the pandemic in 2020-21, when goods in general were in demand and online shopping was necessary to preserve health and safety. Experts looked out and saw a permanent exponential change in the penetration of ecommerce as a share of retail that would last beyond the pandemic. Then, in 2022, everyone went back to stores and the trendline came back to 2019 levels. Growth was no longer exponential. There was still growth, but it was not happening as fast as during the pandemic period.
With this in mind, it’s worth pointing out that 2023 is the first year that there likely won’t be a pandemic-influenced swing to influence ecommerce growth. It is also a year where demand has suffered challenges amid inflation and interest rate hikes.
So as we seek to determine the importance of ecommerce to overall retail, it’s worth it to continue taking a close look at what growth trends retailers are seeing now, whether ecommerce is remaining resilient amid consumer pullback and how retailers are preparing for the future.
The latest example arrived this week from Macy’s. It’s a fitting one for the times. Overall, Macy’s is seeing a slowdown as consumers pull back on discretionary purchases, with sales declining 7% in the first quarter versus the same quarter of 2022. Digital sales were down 8%.
Macy’s is particularly susceptible to the macroeconomic headwinds that many brands and retailers are facing, as spending among the middle-income consumers it counts as a primary customer base is particularly softening, said GlobalData Managing Director Neil Saunders.
But while ecommerce is slowing overall, the importance it gained to Macy’s business during the pandemic is remaining in place.
In 2019, ecommerce made up 25% of Macy’s revenue, CEO Jeff Gennette told analysts on the company’s earnings call. That jumped to a high of 44% in 2020. By 2022, digital reached 33% of sales after the pandemic boom. In the first quarter of 2023, it remained at 33%. So, while the trend line dipped after shoppers returned to stores, ecommerce share still settled in at a higher post-lockdown point than it was before the pandemic.
This came in a quarter in which traffic was “relatively good” across both online and in-store, Macy’s CEO Jeff Gennette said. It was “flattish” online, and slightly up in stores.
“We do expect that this is the reset year with the penetration between them,” Gennette said. “But we do expect more aggressive growth in digital in the future versus stores as we think about '24 and beyond. And that's going to be foisted by a lot of ideas and strategies.
Over the last year, the retailer has made investments in boosting ecommerce, even as shoppers returned to stores. In a bid to boost the assortment of goods available online, Macy’s launched a marketplace in September 2022 that welcomes goods from third-party sellers.
The marketplace had an “outstanding” first quarter, said Macy’s President Tony Spring, who is poised to succeed Gennette as CEO next year. Gross merchandise value increased over 50% when compared to the fourth quarter of 2022, while the average order value and units per order for marketplace customers was 50% above those not shopping at the marketplace.
Macy’s is continuing to build the marketplace even as it racks up sales. The retailer added 450 brands, ending the quarter with 950 brands.
This is helping to draw in new customers, as well as younger existing customers who are buying more items, resulting in increased basket size.
“We're very excited as to how marketplace is really attracting the Gen Z customer, particularly in categories where it was not economically feasible for us to carry in the past,” Gennette said.
In the end, Gennette said a strong digital and social presence is key to attracting younger consumers. That's a different type of shopper than other age groups.
“We know the younger customer starts first online,” Gennette said. That behavior will still be in place as the generation gets older, and gains more buying power in the process.
Going forward, Macy’s is seeking to expand the model to other retail banners in its portfolio. Bloomingdale’s will open a marketplace in the early fall.
The Macy’s ecommerce trajectory isn’t that different from the wider U.S. ecommerce narrative detailed above. With one quarter of 2023 data, there is evidence that ecommerce share settled out at a higher point after the pandemic than where it started before COVID arrived. There is flattening now, but the retailer is taking it not as a sign of a slowdown, or a signal to change course. Rather, it sees changing consumer behavior as a reason to build for the future.