Article - CX

Omnichannel Utopia:
Learnings from Intersport’s CX Journey

By Julia Belle|23rd May 2023

We look at the importance of defining a vision for success, overcoming challenges, and implementing practical measures to enhance the omnichannel customer experience in retail, after insights from Bart Behnke, VP Board of the Directors & CMO at Intersport ISI. 

In brief: 

  • Defining what “good” looks like is crucial for a successful transformation strategy. 
  • Achieving an omnichannel customer experience can be challenging, with only 1 in 10 retail leaders having a fully implemented strategy. 
  • Intersport improved their omnichannel experience through competitor research, experiential elements, QR codes, and exploring the metaverse. 
  • Loyalty programs offer insights into customer preferences, although achieving a fully integrated approach remains a continuous evolution. 

Before committing to a transformation strategy, there’s one integral question business leaders must consider: “What does good look like?”  

Agreeing upon the answer upfront unlocks a vision of success and a clear understanding of the ideal destination. In turn, it serves as a guiding principle for strategic decision-making, and a point of alignment between employees, leaders, stakeholders, and customers.   

The thing is, when CX and Marketing leaders ask themselves, this question regarding omnichannel, the answer can be intimidating. Common ideas shared at the recent GDS CX Innovation EU Summit painted the following picture:  

  • You understand your customer deeply.   
  • You know their behaviours and preferences, but you can adapt if/when they change.   
  • They seamlessly hop between devices, platforms, and brick-and-mortar stores throughout the purchase flow.   
  • The brand experience and messaging have a unified feel, regardless of the touchpoint, department, or moment in question.  
  • The customer is loyal – and rewarded for being so – but doesn’t feel trapped.   
  • They receive correspondence that is timely, relevant, and personal.  
  • And best of all, they perceive the value in your understanding of them.   

“Good” starts to look like “utopia”, at times seemingly impossible to reach pace and scale. This is especially true from the perspective of CX executives who are struggling with internal complexity, poor data quality, incomplete customer profiles, siloed teams, and binding budgets.    

Unsurprisingly, a LinkedIn survey among 254 executives found that only one out of 10 retail leaders believe they have a fully implemented omnichannel strategy.  

These challenges were high on the list of the industry leaders who attended the Summit. Day 3’s closing keynote speaker, Bart Behnke, VP Board of the Directors & CMO at Intersport ISI, shared some practical measures that Intersport took to improve the omnichannel experience. “But we’re not perfect,” he conceded. “We see discrepancies between stores and online.” 

“This is certainly an ongoing journey.”
Bart Behnke, VP Board of the Directors & CMO at Intersport ISI 

First, go shopping

“We went to London,” Behnke shared. “We wanted to understand what other [sports retail] stores are doing that we don’t do. We visited 40 stores and made a big excel file – noting everything from how customers are treated, prices, presentation, windows, etc.”  

This included the sense of community within sportswear giant Sweaty Betty, whose London flagship features a café as well as scheduled fitness and yoga classes. A similar sentiment was offered at bike retail giant Rapha’s store. “Through meetings and organised biking events, the brand encouraged friendships amongst their loyal customer base.”  

At Nike’s flagship store in Oxford Circus, Behnke’s team were struck by the full use of digital signage. Indeed, it is a stark visual representation of Nike’s efforts to blend the physical with the digital customer experience. “It may look overwhelming for us, but when we look at how Gen Zs operate – across devices, sometimes operating multiple at once – it fits,” he explained.  

Finally, at Adidas, the team were inspired by the opportunities to personalize your experience – including specific concessions where customers can create customized shirts and leave the store with them immediately. No order, no wait time, no delivery.   

Behnke and his team noticed one thread connecting all these in-store experiences that they lacked at Intersport: “We noticed that we needed to give more reasons to keep coming back to us.”  

Embrace the Experiential

While online opportunities offer convenience, in-store offers an experience that is hard to replace. Touch, smell, taste—in other words—a sensory experience.   

In his keynote, Behnke outlined how his team implemented the above learnings into their Intersport 2.0 store concept, which focused on innovative and experiential elements.  This included building ice chambers to test winter sports lines, offering different terrains for testing running shoes, implementing foot scanners to customize insoles, and setting up VR goggle stations to exhibit the dimensions of products that are too big for stores – such as tents and camping equipment.   

QR code: Marry the physical and digital

“One thing we were really inspired by on our London research trip,” Behnke noted to the GDS summit attendees, “was Nike’s use of QR codes. It sounds trivial, but it has been huge.”  

The Intersport 2.0 concept replaced barcodes with QR codes on product labels, and this directed customers straight to the product page online. “It keeps them within your omnichannel world.”  

In essence, the QR code mitigates the risk of the customer searching for more product details on their smartphone and landing on a competing website to complete the purchase journey.   

What’s more, the QR codes empower Intersport’s staff to quickly gain product details and further expand their knowledge of the product line.   

Compared to building ice chambers and VR goggle stations, Behnke acknowledged that this element of the strategy appeared “trivial”, but it had arguably been the most effective measure to instantly connect the benefits of online (convenience, information) with in-store (touch, feel and experience).   

Explore the Meta

While nothing can beat the stimulation of satisfying displays, colours, patterns – and of course the ability to try something on for size – Behnke asked: could online still go further?   

This is where the opportunities presented by the metaverse come in. Intersport has developed a virtual store that blends the sentiment of in-store shopping, with the convenience of online browsing.   

Highlighting its growing adoption amongst their loyal customer base, Behnke outlined the vision: “It’s a store that is made by blending hundreds of pictures together. It allows the customer to walk through the aisles, click the dots and open any product detail page they want on [on our website].”  


Accept the absence of perfection

Of course, to get a true end-to-end, omnichannel view of the customer, you need to be able to effectively track behaviours – and data – across both online and offline touchpoints.  

Behnke acknowledged the difficulty of this mission. “Look, there is no magic wand. But I think the key to this is the loyalty program. These days the customer journey is so scattered, but loyalty programs offer us the best chance to understand the customer’s preferences at this stage.”   

He conceded that Intersport have not mastered a fully integrated approach just yet, but this has not stopped them from revolutionising certain aspects of the customer journey with a best-in-class experience top of mind.  

“I think it will evolve and be ongoing for as long as our companies exist.”
Bart Behnke, VP Board of the Directors & CMO at Intersport ISI 


While Utopia may be a way off, continual improvement and a focus on understanding customer preferences through loyalty programs can pave the way for a best-in-class omnichannel experience. Ultimately, success lies in the integration of physical and digital touchpoints, creating a seamless and personalized journey for customers in today’s rapidly evolving retail landscape. 

Looking for ways to accelerate your sales cycles, engage in industry conversations, and achieve better outcomes? Look no further than our Summits – our unique 3-day digital event experiences that bring together senior executives and solution providers. 

Our recent CX EU digital summit had Bart as a keynote speaker and ended with an impressive average content attendance of 95% and meeting completion rate of 124% against target. 

Partnering with GDS Groupcan help you get in front of the right people at the right time. 

Alternatively, don’t miss out on the opportunity to attend one of our unforgettable event experiences that promise to leave you feeling inspired and empowered. 

Check our calendar now and join us. We can’t wait to see you there! 

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