How FILA transformed its e-commerce approach

The century-old sportswear brand hadn’t invested much in e-commerce. Then COVID-19 hit.

The pandemic has forced retailers to shift their businesses online—and century-old sportswear brand FILA is no different.

While FILA had a website, it hadn’t invested much into e-commerce in the past, instead relying on a strong wholesale business. In January, the brand hired Dawn Trenson as its first VP of ecommerce to develop an online sales strategy in North America. 

It turned out to be a prescient move. When COVID-19 hit the U.S. two months later, a savvy e-commerce strategy became all the more important for FILA.

FILA had invested in the back-end of its website to enable online sales, but the site ”appeared to not be designed for conversion or customer experience, and there was no brand storytelling,” Trenson said. “So even if I had inventory, I didn’t have any way to present it.”

FILA brought in consulting firm Capgemini to work on a site redesign that aimed to transform how the brand presented its products to consumers online. At the time, the site was missing basic user experience elements, such as recommending a sweatshirt to go with a pair of pants someone might be browsing. 

“We had an abysmal home page and product detail pages,” Trenson explained.

In March, just after COVID-19 hit, the need for a functioning e-commerce experience became even more urgent. Capgemini began working on the website to get it to the point where FILA could “survive what we thought would be a two-week shutdown,” said Jennifer Conklin, VP of unified commerce at Capgemini. 

Just a week after fully relaunching the website in May, FILA rolled out its first online sneaker collaboration with the Notorious B.I.G. estate: a commemorative sneaker and t-shirt marking the 25th anniversary of the deceased rapper’s debut album. The collab was supposed to launch in retail stores, but the team shifted the event entirely online in light of COVID-19 restrictions. 

After selling out of its online stock within eight hours, Trenson worked with the logistics team to reroute inventory meant for retailers to a warehouse in Baltimore for online delivery. Thanks to quick thinking and better website functionality, it ended up being the biggest online sales event in FILA.com’s history, including Black Friday and Cyber Monday, Trenson said. 

“Through some magic we got all of the retailer units and were able to do a restock,” Trenson said. “Outside looking in, it looks like we planned it that way. It could've been millions of dollars of dead stock.”

Capgemini also worked with FILA to acquire the right customer data to offer more personalized service online. FILA invested in an integrated CRM system to speak to consumers individually so they “feel like they’re included in the brand, not just buying from a retail partner store,” Trenson said.

With the basics of its e-commerce strategy now in place, FILA is focused on continuing to grow its online business while also sharing data with other business lines, such as logistics to break down silos. The idea is to “put the customer first and think about engagement,” Trenson said.

Now, FILA owns its narrative and storytelling, making it more impervious to the success of retailers to drive its business.

“Traffic is traffic, but there’s financial and human effort to get eyeballs to the site and then they leave immediately because it makes no sense,” she said. “So let’s think about how we’re telling a story, how we’re engaging our customers.”

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