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Engaging Your Core
Why a Strong Digital Presence is Key to Connecting with Active Women
New research by Hanson Dodge Creative finds Active Women digitally engaged and driving online sales. Among Active Women, those who exercise more and hold gym memberships are leading the way.
In 2015, women’s activewear continued to outperform the overall fitness apparel industry. Fueled by the “athleisure” movement, sales grew 21 percent to $18.5 billion, according to the NPD Group. Although 2015 marked the latest in a string of successful years for women’s active footwear and apparel, such rapid growth coupled with an increasingly competitive marketplace has led analysts to question whether “athleisure” is maxed out—is it a fad, or the signs of a larger cultural shift towards health and fitness?
Major brands and retailers are betting on the latter. In late 2015, Dick’s Sporting Goods opened its first Chelsea Collective Store, a niche-boutique catering exclusively to Active Women. Featuring a wide-range of popular brands and perks, such as treadmills for testing new shoes and gear, the flagship location delivers the unique buying experience Active Women crave. Meanwhile, Nike is predicting sales of its women’s apparel to double by 2020. It also expects to increase online sales sevenfold by the end of the decade, with e-commerce playing an essential role in its strategy to drive growth with female consumers.
Using a 25,000-person consumer panel, we explored this intersection of women’s fitness apparel and e-commerce by looking at key shopping and digital behaviors of over 37 million Active Women across the United States. Findings show Active Women*, female U.S. adult consumers who participate in at least one of several popular fitness activities, are digitally engaged and much more likely than other women to shop online and via mobile. Among all Active Women, those who exercise more frequently outspend their less-active peers.
As the women’s fitness industry continues to grow and evolve, countless brands both new and old are looking to gain market share in the space. However, understanding the path to purchase of this core audience and having a strong digital presence and omnichannel strategy to engage Active Women is crucial for brands and retailers to succeed.
Active Women Driving Online Sales
As online shopping continues to rapidly grow, active consumers are leading the charge. Seventy-two percent of Active Women made an online purchase last year compared to just 43 percent of other women. They are more than twice as likely as other women to spend big online, with 34 percent spending $500 or more annually.
Active Women shop online at a similar rate regardless of age/generation. In fact, 74 percent of Active Female Boomers made an online purchase last year, narrowly surpassing Active Female Millennials (73%). They also spent more; 38 percent of Boomers spent $500 or more online compared to just 31 percent of Millennials.
Surprisingly, less than half (49%) of non-Active Female Millennials made an online purchase last year. This makes Active Female Boomers 50 percent more likely than non-Active Female Millennials to shop online, suggesting that the likelihood of a female consumer shopping online is better predicted by whether or not she is active than it is by her age alone. For brands and retailers trying to connect with younger Active Women, older Active Women, or both, a strong digital presence and e-commerce strategy that leverages quality content is essential.
The More They Sweat, the More They Spend Online
Among all Active Women, those who exercise multiple times per week (Avid) are more likely to outspend those who exercise less frequently (Casual). Avid Active Women are 23 percent more likely to spend $500 or more per year online and 75 percent more likely than Casual Active Women to purchase fitness apparel online.
Another way to segment Active Women is by looking at gym/club members versus non-members. Comparing the two shows spending patterns similar to those seen with Avid vs. Casual Active Women. Active Gym Members are 21 percent more likely to annually spend $500 or more online, and 61 percent more likely to purchase fitness apparel online.
Category Spending: The Value of Active (and Very Active) Women
Much has been said about activewear being the preferred outfit of exercise enthusiasts and those who want to look like them. For example, The Wall Street Journal recently asked, “Are You Going to the Gym, or Do You Just Dress That Way?” While it may be true that not all women in yoga pants are hitting the gym, that doesn’t mean brands should neglect their core active audience. Last year, Active Women were still three times more likely to purchase athletic apparel as other women.
Equally impressive are spending differences among Active Women. Avid Active Women who work out multiple times per week are 69 percent more likely to spend $150 or more on athletic shoes and 80 percent more likely to spend $150 or more on athletic apparel compared with Casual Active Women. The same holds true for Active Women with a gym membership. Active Gym Members are nearly twice as likely as other Active Women to annually spend $150 or more on athletic shoes (93%) and athletic clothing (95%).
Whether reading about the latest fashion trends on their way to work or comparing prices at the checkout line, consumers are increasingly turning to their mobile devices at all stages of the path to purchase. In fact, 82% of smartphone owners say they use their devices to help make in-store purchase decisions.
Active Women are 70 percent more likely than other women to use their phones to search for product information, which means having a mobile optimized website with mobile-friendly content to help answer questions during critical buying moments can be the difference-maker. When it comes to making purchases via mobile, Active Women again lap other women; 25 percent actually bought a product on their phone compared to only 12 percent of other women.
Unlike traditional online shopping, which Active Women of all ages do at a similar rate, Millennials still reign supreme when it comes to mobile. Last year, 32 percent of Active Female Millennials made a purchase on their phone compared to 27 percent of Active Female Gen-X’ers and just 15 percent of Active Female Boomers. As Millennials continue to age and younger, mobile-savvy consumers rise to fill their ranks, it will become even more crucial for brands and retailers to deliver a flawless mobile experience.
Another area where Active Women are setting the pace is on social media. Eighty-three percent of Active Women visited or used a social networking site in the past month compared to just 64 percent of other women. They are also more engaged; 72 percent of Active Women posted or shared something in the last month versus just 52 percent of other women.
Active Women are also more likely to use social media to engage with brands throughout their path to purchase. Although only 20 percent of Active Women say they like connecting with brands on social, nearly half admit that social media plays an important role in at least one step in their path to purchase—from finding out about new products, to following brands for offers and updates, to reviewing products post-purchase and supporting the brands they love. To win over Active Women on social, delivering engaging content that speaks to their beliefs, values and lifestyle is a must.
There’s been a shift in how retailers utilize physical stores. Shops are becoming as much about engaging customers and building community as they are about selling products. Leading this change are women’s active apparel retailers like Athleta, LuluLemon, Sweatybetty and Bandier. Each offers free workout classes, refreshment bars and other amenities to help Active Women live active lives. With 50 percent of Active Women preferring to shop at stores specializing in a specific type of product or style, understanding Active Women and catering to their active lifestyle can pay dividends. Satisfying in-store experiences can inspire customers to spread the word digitally and socially, in turn driving more traffic to stores.
The Future of Retail is Omnichannel
Fierce competition in the women’s activewear market has well-established brands and retailers recognizing the importance of an omnichannel strategy. Despite a retail footprint of more than 300 stores and serious cachet as a shopping destination, LuluLemon has invested heavily in strengthening its digital presence. A new responsive website and in-store RFID technology has helped online sales soar. In 2015, e-commerce sales grew 25 percent to over $400 million; e-commerce now represents 19.5 percent of LuluLemon’s total annual revenue.
On the other hand, online-only players are envisioning future growth coming from brick-and-mortar locations. For instance, the subscription-based online retailer Fabletics recently announced plans to open more than 100 physical stores over the next three to five years. Although nearly all of its 2015 revenues ($150 million) came via e-commerce, Fabletics sees moving offline as a path forward to reach new customers and share the brand’s core message.
The Role of Content
Content is the center of engaging consumers online. Content is more than product information and blog articles. Great content is developed from an authentic brand position that resonates with a brand’s best consumers. It is entertaining and useful and comes in many formats. Great content is shared and amplified—consumers become the distribution vehicle for the brand.
Engaging branded content should live on an incredible (responsive) website. Consumers want more than a shopping cart, in fact 52 percent of consumers seek branded content on a brand’s website.12 Author all content on the brand site and then share it socially. This also has SEO benefits.
Understanding how and where your target audience shops is the first step to effective digital engagement, but transformational business results can only be achieved when a strong digital strategy is paired with a powerful brand message and engaging content.
Join Hanson Dodge Creative at The Running & Fitness Event for Women
Join Tom Flierl, VP of Marketing & Business Strategy at Hanson Dodge Creative at The Running & Fitness Event for Women his educational session, “The Future of Shopping and the Active Woman's Path to Purchase,” which will explore the latest trends in consumer shopping behavior and outline strategies for active lifestyle brands and retailers to achieve omnichannel success.