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Episode 34
June 1, 2017

Retail isn't Dead - We're Just Not Doing it Right

Nick Vu, Senior Vice President at Adidas Group, joins us to talk about how they're using data and analytics to transform retail.

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this episode sponsored by

Brian: [00:01:15:50400] Welcome to Future Commerce, another episode about what's next in commerce. I'm Brian Lange.

Phillip: [00:01:22:19800] And I'm Phillip Jackson.

Brian: [00:01:23:56700] Today, we have Mr. Nick Vu on the show with us from Adidas. Welcome, Nick.

Nick: [00:01:29:72900] Thanks, Brian. Thanks, Phil..

Phillip: [00:01:31:25200] Yeah, thanks. Thanks for joining us on the show. And this is actually our first time meeting virtually. And I'm really excited to have you, and I'm really excited to hear your perspective on retail and the industry and some technological advancements and cross, wow, just about everything, I suppose. Just before we get started here today, we do want your feedback on today's show. Make sure that you hit us up at Click on the episode title. And at the bottom there's a Disqus box, and we want you to join in on the conversation. So make sure that you leave some feedback there. Get the conversation started. You can also follow us online on Twitter. And you can listen at anytime on iTunes, Google Play or from your Amazon Echo device with the phrase, "Alexa play Future Commerce podcast." So there we go. So welcome, Nick. Why don't you just tell us a little bit about yourself and give us some background for the people who don't know who you are?

Nick: [00:02:25:11700] Yeah. Thanks, guys. Honored to be on your show today. I'm looking forward to having a great discussion. So I've been with Adidas now for almost 10 years. And just to disclose, I'm also transitioning out to become a CEO at a company called Comodo Holdings Inc in the private sector.

Brian: [00:02:43:63000] Congratulations.

Nick: [00:02:45:42300] Yeah. Thanks, guys. It's a really exciting, and I'll have some freedom and flexibility to really talk and maybe execute some of these future technological pieces for the consumer. So maybe I should to start with Adidas really quickly. I'm currently the GM of Adidas North America for direct to consumer. What that consists of really is just leading the eCommerce business, full PNL, and the brick and mortar business, full price and off price. You know, North America is about a five billion dollar business, and so we've been on a tremendous journey over the last 10 years from a direct to consumer perspective. And then obviously, you guys have either heard or the audience has probably read that over the last 18, 24 months we've just been on fire as a brand and really taking market share from Nike and Under Armour. So it's an exciting time for sure. Not only my career journey, but more importantly, Adidas' journey and climbing back within the U.S. marketplace. So I'm looking forward to talking with you guys today.

Phillip: [00:03:49:77400] Nice.

Brian: [00:03:49:77400] Yeah, definitely. Definitely. Man, that's really exciting to hear. So many things to talk about, both the Adidas plays in the last two years here and then also I want to hear more about what's ahead for you.

Nick: [00:04:06:57600] Yeah, for sure.

Brian: [00:04:07:74700] Definitely. But maybe let's start back with Adidas and maybe you can give us a little bit of your story. Obviously, you've had a big hand in the success that you've seen over the past couple of years here. And you've been with Adidas for 10 years. Maybe give us a little bit of the journey where you started, where you ended up, and some of the steps to get there.

Nick: [00:04:34:7200] Yeah, of course. So in 2007, I joined Adidas as the Director of Store Operations and essentially really led and built the architecture for operations, essentially workload planning, field management, labor management. And then ultimately, 10 months later, I was promoted to the Head of Retail Operations. And what that really means is kind of a mini COO of an organization. So when I started, we were 150 million dollar business. And then currently we're probably at 1.6, 1.7 billion dollar enterprise now, with eCom and brick and mortar. And yes, it's been a big journey going from 150 to 1.7 billion in revenue. And so I can tell you all the different plateaus and platforms and struggles that we had when it comes to the eCom and/or brick and mortar journey. So after 14 months as the Head of Operations, I became the V.P. of Retail for Adidas North America. I did that stint for about three and a half years. And I really kind of implemented three or four key strategies, guys, which was merchandizing strategy around localized assortments, opening up a full price channel at the time in 2009/2010, and then ultimately optimizing and right sizing our factory fleet, which was way oversized at the time. And so just some key statistics that may lend some credibility to the conversation. When I first started, Adidas was operating at about two hundred eighty dollars per square foot, roughly, gross. And today, depending on division, let's say, a full

Brian: [00:06:37:89100] Wow.

Nick: [00:06:37:89100] So significant, significant sales dollar improvement through those several strategies that we were relentless on. And obviously, technology helped us too, guys. But in 2013, I got promoted to the SVP of Multi... Brands. So if you think about Adidas brand in 2009, only North America. Now I'm dealing with six or seven sub brands and really going through an internal merger acquisition divestiture process, which then kind of leads to the current story of me transitioning out to be a CEO for a private equity company. So those sub brands include Adidas, Reebok, Tailor Made, Rockport, Mitchell & Ness, NBA Retail, etc. So very diverse businesses in this case. And I would say in simple terms, it's been a lot of building teams developing future leaders to kind of run these businesses and a lot of strategy work. So hopefully that gives you a little bit of background.

Phillip: [00:07:40:78300] Yeah, I absolutely. I have a question there because there are so many brands there that you are overseeing.

Nick: [00:07:51:42300] Yup.

Phillip: [00:07:52:17100] How different are the strategies and how different is the go to market for each of those brands? You talked a little bit about technology being assistive in the growth and in sort of the transformation of the retail channel. But honestly, how different is Tailor Made to an Adidas retail experience and what do you think is the difference and how can that help, merchants that are listening to the show, retailers listening to the show, to forge their own strategies?

Nick: [00:08:20:82800] Yeah, it's a very astute question. Here's my response. I'm going to give you an analogy that I was on another call, and I think I'd like to steal this. And I welcome our audience and yourselves to steal this, too. I think each brand is different. And my analogy would be if Adidas is the mature organization, we're probably, with respect to processes, and systems, technology, more like a tugboat, a large freighter, if you will. If you look at Reebok, similar situation, just maybe a smaller tugboat. But when you look at like a Mitchell & Ness going to the other opposite end, I would consider that analogy to be a speed boat. And then here's the punch line. If you look at our eCom businesses in that industry, it's really like a jet ski. And so as a potential driver/rider in this analogy, you really have to deploy strategies that fit the speed of which the businesses are moving. And so from my vantage point, when I look at the different brands, the lens I have to put on before I get on one of those ships or vehicles is, wow, if I'm dealing with eComm topic, depending on the brand, I gotta know that I'm riding on the 70 mile an hour jet ski. As opposed to implementing technologies on a mature business that may be much more like big freight or tugboat. Does that make sense?

Phillip: [00:09:57:67500] Yeah, sure.

Brian: [00:09:58:53100] Totally.

Nick: [00:09:59:50399] So what I would say is every brand had a different strategy to simplify it. And merchandizing strategies were similar, if you will, obviously to improve sales productivity. But the sequencing activities, we were able to test much faster on the smaller brands than implement and execute in the mature brands. And I think that would be what I would leave the audience with. And yeah, each brand, each market had the details within it that you really needed to pay attention to. And I guess that would be my advice to the audience is not everything.... One size doesn't fit all here.

Phillip: [00:10:41:1800] Right.

Nick: [00:10:41:57600] Specifically around merchandizing or technologies for sure.

Brian: [00:10:44:21600] Yeah. Makes sense. Yeah. And another thing you mentioned... Great advice. Great advice. You mentioned that you did use some some tech to make some of these jumps. I would guess that each brand, kind of getting to your point, the speedboat is going to need a different tech than the tugboat is. Could you talk through maybe, you know, kind of what that looked like on a very practical sense?

Nick: [00:11:11:28800] Sure.

Brian: [00:11:11:28800] Which techs did you use in-store or online for some of their more speed boat-y brands? And then also, what about the tugboat-y brands? And then also where do you see each of those going? Like if you're a speedboat now what do you see them using in their in-store experiences or maybe online vs. the tugboats?

Nick: [00:11:33:57600] Yes. So I'll give you a classic example, I think every retailer would have to contend with. So let's say music and the experience around music and/or 2D and 3D within the store. So typically, for example, if I use Adidas, we used a music provider, legacy music provider, who sent in a technology that allowed us to play music and then download CDs, et cetera. That's very old school at this point.

Phillip: [00:12:02:82800] Sure.

Nick: [00:12:03:30600] We chose a new music provider that allowed us to change the music at Adidas digitally. We could download digital content and/or messaging, brand messaging, to our consumer with in-store. So now the evolution of just music player to digital messaging, music updating by the minute, if you like, by location. And so obviously you would need a team and resource to do that within your corporate offices. But then the next evolution of Adidas was then music, content messaging. We added VR, Virtual Reality, into our World flagship on Fifth Avenue to create a further experience. And so that's very methodical, very sequential from a mature business. In this case, Adidas and let's say tugboat is the analogy. When you go to a Mitchell & Ness, as an example, who's got one flagship in Philadelphia, a big wholesale business and the idea of growing, you can implement all of those things right from the get go. And then start to then talk about what I would consider the future of, let's say, the music experience or consumer experience, which is then, hey, you could potentially opt-in, co-create with the consumer based on music rights, what you're paying the organization, and the artists. But imagine this one day. Imagine that you can walk in with your smartphone into a store and select the music you want to hear while you're in there for 15, 20 minutes. And the idea is you can access anything from your playlist or you can access anything from the existing stores playlist and really cater your experience to your liking. And essentially, if there's one hundred people in the store, they could add in, and you would have to prioritize it. So that's just one example that I was already working on at Adidas in evolutionary steps of one consumer experience.

Phillip: [00:14:21:54000] Right.

Nick: [00:14:22:28800] The new company, let's say Jet. So the new company that I've gone to with with Comodo, it is definitely going to be speed boat, smaller organization. Being the CEO we'll be able to make decisions extremely fast. So I'm going then say all of the steps of which I've just identified, I'm going to implement immediately, and then evolve music then to, let's say, the community. Social, digital communities, whether it's Instagram, Snapchat, etc.. And I think the message that we are all trying to achieve is this comprehensive ecosystem of which the consumer can dictate. And that would be how I'm going to try to change the industry or influence the industry more importantly, is to say, "Look. If you look at other industries like the electric car industry, they essentially want the car to self-drive. And you can talk to your social, digital friends, different communities, and/or do whatever the consumer wants to do while they're driving. I mean, there're cars that self park today. I don't think direct to consumer industries, eComm, or retail brick and mortar is any different. And I think that's what I would try to influence the industry to think about, which is to create this comprehensive ecosystem that allows more options for our consumers to spend time with us as a brand or as an organization. And so does that help guys? Because I would say that would be my very methodical evolution on just one thing as simple as music.

Phillip: [00:15:55:9000] Oh, yeah.

Brian: [00:15:55:41400] That's amazing. Yeah.

Phillip: [00:15:59:21600] You sort of got my gears turning of the kinds of data in the retail experience that you may be able to generate and come out with is as something as catered or as personal as musical tastes. Is there anything that you've taken away from that music in-store experience that really affects what really moves the needle in the retail experience, like from a sales perspective? There's got to be some data around there that otherwise you wouldn't be investing in it. Right?

Nick: [00:16:38:21600] Yeah. There's one key data statistic... And you can use iBeacons. So there're a few new technologies in which you can kind of triangulate to consumer's journey. You've got a traffic counter for when they enter. You can use iBeacons for IP on mobile or smart phones. And essentially the data of which you can acquire not only allowing the consumer to opt in, so you take care of all the legal issues, but the time they spend in your store and where they spend time in your store gives you significant data on how you can present merchandise and/or marketing content to them to engage them longer in the store. And although this is an old adage since the beginning of retail time, it still remains true. The longer a consumer stays in your store, the higher the propensity for one to purchase and/or convert.

Phillip: [00:17:32:83700] Sure.

Nick: [00:17:33:53100] And so that would be the kind of data triangulation. There's obviously so many different partners and vendors out there that can help you do that. But that would be one of the steps. And I would collect data and so how long did our consumer spend in our stores? Where did they spend it? Because, you know, you're now making decisions or developing strategies on fact based information that the customer is giving you. And so that would be something that I think would be beneficial to many retailers.

Phillip: [00:18:07:63000] That's amazing.

Brian: [00:18:08:21600] Nice. You mentioned that you were using VR in the flagship store. Can you kind of go into the experience that you had implementing there and then maybe talk about how you see that being rolled out on a further basis and what's ahead for VR?

Nick: [00:18:28:14400] Yes. So when we launched our store on Fifth Avenue, as you guys know, that Street's the most expensive rent in the world anywhere, hands down. And when you first walked into our store beyond grand opening, we had launched a James Harden campaign. NBA superstar, our Adidas athlete. You walked in and the entire first ground floor of our Fifth Avenue store, highest rent, we didn't sell any product. It was basically a brand experience where you walked in, "Welcome to Adidas. Here's our current athlete that we want to showcase. James Harden." Youth to adults could come in and put on his VR piece. It would be like you were talking to James Harden. He was giving you a personal story, his story, as well as the Adidas connection. That was our launch zone. I mean, how amazing is that to be a brand of our size worldwide and dedicate the entire first floor to our branding and introducing James Harden. So that conversation that splits up into, or fragments into, so many different other opportunities. James Harden is getting his play with Adidas. Adidas is introducing technology that allows the consumer to feel like they're talking to James Harden. That's an experience that allowed people to stay on store longer, which then piqued their interest. We also then got to give them our history. So when a consumer is introduced to Adidas brand for the first time, you are getting our history, you're making connection with us, or at least that's our best attempt. And then if you're a repeat customer, you may or may not have seen all those details. So I think from a VR perspective, the next evolution is how do you do that in smaller micro segments versus just kind of one big star studded athlete? And so I see that next evolution is, hey, if you're a runner walking into our store, maybe you can potentially run on the treadmill and run any marathon track that you want, Boston being the premier one of marathons. You can run Berlin. You can run Tokyo. And we have the Ultra Boost that's won all these marathons. Why don't you try these Ultra Boost marathon shoes on who has won all these marathons with first, second, third. And now you're running the track with us. So that was me just hypothesizing where this could go. But that would be amazing. And depending on what type of sport you played, I mean, maybe you're playing a World Cup if you're soccer. And World Cup years coming up next year. That would be an amazing experience from a consumer perspective while you're trying on footwear, something as simple as footwear, or apparel.

Brian: [00:21:13:22500] That would be amazing. I love it. I love it. Yeah. Did you start to investigate, maybe even using, like, augmented reality anyway or mixed reality?

Nick: [00:21:23:67500] Yeah.

Brian: [00:21:25:10800] Or maybe even holograms?

Nick: [00:21:25:56700] Yeah. Yeah. So I saw a hologram landing in Vegas right at McCarran Airport.

Phillip: [00:21:32:40500] Yeah.

Nick: [00:21:32:72900] That's when I first peeked in and I was like, wow, look at this. An attractive hologram that gave you all this information and you can kind of talk to it. I think for Adidas, I definitely think hologram is part of an experience in the future. I think for Adidas, using that mature business model, we may need to wait for just a little bit more on the reaction time, the response time. But my opinion would be it's definitely part of an experience that should be included at Adidas and/or other companies moving forward. I think that's just the next wave of that personal touch.

Phillip: [00:22:11:80100] I think the key is, is that these are technologies that actually have an experimental value rather than just the application or the need to try to apply a digital experience in store, because it's sort of this misguided understanding that while people like interacting with digital, so let's put digital in store because that's what people like. Which is I think what is the mis application that's happening in retail today is that people don't want to come to your locations to experience technology. They want to experience your brand wherever they happen to be. And understanding that it's not the technology that closes the sale. It's not the technology that creates a destination out of a retail experience, but it's technology and transparent technology at that that gives an experience in and of itself. And the only place to have that experience is at the retail store front. That's the transformative piece of future commerce.

Nick: [00:23:17:61200] Right. You know, I'm glad you guys said that, because I've been out giving speeches to different groups, whether it's Engy or at Shoptalk... I was just that Shoptalk in April, and there's 5000 people there as an example. And I was sitting on a panel. I absolutely would echo and underline what you just said. This is around experiences for the consumer. Technology assists on providing that ultimate experience. But I advise people all the time, don't go after just technology because the consumers today have technologies right in their hand. And so I think to your point, it's got to be an intentional, very strategic experience that technology assists to deliver. So 100 percent.

Brian: [00:24:02:51300] One of the other things that I heard you kind of mention there, which was when you were talking about the holograms and what you experienced with the hologram, you kind of mentioned that you could talk to the hologram, which is a kind of a form of conversational commerce. In this case, it wasn't commerce, but a bot. Did Adidas do anything with AI or bots or voice commerce. Are you looking at using Alexa in any way or some of these other upcoming voice related technologies?

Nick: [00:24:37:65700] Yeah, we have particularly from a phone system, answering machine, if you will for our store brick and mortar pieces. But I think, again, just mea culpa here, from my perspective, being a mature business, I think we wanted to see more application in the industry as opposed to being on the leading or bleeding edge there. And so I think that was more of a personalized approach to me seeing a mature business. I certainly would in a new organization that I'm going to if provided the opportunity to just test, I would probably do that. And so this was more of a fiscal responsibility. What priorities did you have in a mature business? But to your question, we're certainly open to it. And I know on the supply chain side, we're definitely starting to use some of those technologies to help us. And I don't know if you've read, I'm sure you have, we're starting to use a lot of AI in a supply chain FUTURECRAFT 4D... We've kind of skipped 3D printing and kind of moved on to a FUTURECRAFT 4D. And so we are absolutely looking to exercise and experience with all these new technologies for sure.

Phillip: [00:25:56:62100] Yeah.

Brian: [00:25:57:32400] Wow, that's amazing.

Phillip: [00:28:00:46800] Yeah. I actually, in preparation for this conversation, I was kind of thinking to myself, how do we talk about things that are transformative, that are sort of applicable to everybody? And then sort of seeing everything that Adidas has done, it's really hard to do because there're so many things that you're pushing the envelope on that I think are... You're doing exactly what a company of your size and influence and brand recognition should be doing, which is leading the way. And I think that you should be leading the way in textiles. You should be leading the way in supply chain innovation, and you should be evangelizing those things that you're doing. So for those of us who are listening, who have SMB retail experiences, we should be looking to companies like Adidas not as what can we gleam that we can use, but we should look at them as helping prove out the market and helping prove out these concepts to make them more applicable to us downmarket, because transparency and supply chain is the future of commerce, whether we like it or not. And it's only going to get to us down in the SMB space when a much larger multinational titans in this industry are the ones that are sort of helping make the technology more accessible and actually groom consumer expectation, which I think is the key. Is the consumer having to expect it in every retail context, not just the ones that they engage with in the larger brands?

Nick: [00:29:51:26100] You're exactly right.

Brian: [00:29:52:22500] This is getting back to something we talked about on our last episode, which is... It's a very interesting thing, but retail is actually changing the world in the way that people are living their daily lives. And so having a brand like Adidas, that's got a guy like Nick Vu who's going to be transparent about how they're accomplishing... We just talked about IKEA doing this to some degree. And really making it clear how they went about achieving the success that they have and being transparent about that is really important because retail brands, in many ways, are one of the largest drivers of how we're going to live our lives.

Phillip: [00:30:37:89100] Yeah.

Brian: [00:30:37:89100] So I love this Nick. I mean, it's great that you're willing to share a lot of this stuff. And I know you do a lot of talks around the world. And I just love the openness. And that's not true of every brand out there. But I think this is a good sort of encouragement. Brands that are open actually do well. It's not a bad thing to be open.

Nick: [00:31:05:37800] Yeah. And if I could just add one point, guys, and I appreciate the kind words. I think it's more of an organizational transformation. And I think when I speak about Adidas group and all the sub brands, I mean, we're creating an environment where our consumers can help us co-create. Obviously our brand strategy and content is around creating the new, but instead of giving a bunch of corporate tag lines, here's what I would say. We opened up a Brooklyn farm for product designers. And you, Brian, Phil myself, can walk in there if we have a creative bone in us, can help us create shoes, meaning Adidas. We partner with Christine Day, one of the top five most powerful women influencers in the world who used to be the chief at Lululemon. She's now creating a women's farm in Vancouver, B.C., and allowing anyone who wants to give Adidas an idea of how to influence the future of women's product design and/or fit footwear, apparel, accessories. I mean, that's really putting your money where your mouth is with the entire organization worldwide, in 80 plus countries. We're saying we want to co-create with our consumers moving forward and creating an end product that is just right for the individual. That's very powerful to work for an organization that has not only created the resources, the places, but the mantra to be open and collaborative with the industry, in this case, more specifically, our consumers.

Phillip: [00:32:42:87300] Tell me a little bit... I was kind of heading in that direction. Tell me a little bit about customization, personalization, body data. There's a few things that are happening right now, especially in footwear, where you had a few years ago you had brand engagement initiatives, like Converse comes to mind, of sort of making that product your own and making it personalized and having an experience, what happened to be a digital commerce experience, but having an experience where you sort of create your own product. And I don't know, maybe you could in sort of two or three sides to this, you could explain, is that really a viable business opportunity? Is that something that's scalable? Is that something that can actually drive business and drive new business and maybe new business channels for manufacturing or for a retailer?

Nick: [00:33:41:1800] Yeah, for sure. We have had customization for, I don't know, as long as I've been there 10 years. I think when I first joined, maybe it was nine years to be more specific, but we started with customizing some base footwear models as examples. Called My Adidas. Similar reference to Run-DMC and their song, but literally you could go to and start to then customize a piece of footwear. Maybe the upper, maybe the soul, maybe the shoe laces to exactly what you want to do. And what we saw was incremental business at first. But as we started to put more models on there, or if you talk about apparel or team sports, imagine how many sports teams across the U.S. alone. Right? Different color palettes, different schemes, and then being able to add embroidery or stitching, etc.. We have been on this journey for nine years as an Adidas group. The customization piece nine years ago was innovative. Today, my opinion would be it's mandatory. It's an expectation from the consumer. And I can't tell you exactly how much business we were doing, but it's material, meaning our consumers expect to buy the white white superstar. But then they're going to go and buy the second or third or fourth pair in which they've, you know, jazzed up themself. Does that make sense?

Phillip: [00:35:14:14400] Yeah. Absolutely. I wonder how much like what the evolution of the future of that is when you look at brands like Under Armour who are incorporating wearables into their footwear now. How much more customized can we make the experience based on your own personal body data that you're generating from wearables?

Nick: [00:35:33:36900] Well, we have wearables in our apparel and footwear as well. What I would say is my prediction, and this is one data point, my prediction is that as me as a human being continues to adapt to different stages of life, that data will be extremely important and will continue to be important based on how I work out based on my athleisure style. I'll give an example. I was a D1 football player, so probably one of the highest collegiate forms of athleticism.

Phillip: [00:36:08:57600] What position did you play?

Nick: [00:36:09:83700] Well, I played outside linebacker at Oregon State.

Phillip: [00:36:12:89100] Nice. Wow.

Nick: [00:36:13:58500] But yeah, so back then, I was in tip top shape and full of life. I'm still full of life today. I'm just not in tip top shape. I need that data. Right? I just I need that data to be able to say, hey, here's how you can work out. You can't push yourself as if you're an 18 year old twenty two years later.

Phillip: [00:36:32:40500] Yeah.

Nick: [00:36:33:16200] And so I think the evolution of that space is critical in wearables. But I think the next step of that is how real time could it be? Meaning, because right now, in simple terms, you go work out with a wearable.

Phillip: [00:36:48:1800] Yeah.

Nick: [00:36:48:55800] Or you're just walking with wearable. Then you upload, download. And you get this data. I think the next evolution of that is how real time could that be? What type of coaching could it be? You know what I mean? And could it predict your next injury? Based on what you're running. Things like that. So I'm just, I'm hypothesizing. I think that's kind of where it's headed next.

Phillip: [00:37:11:9900] And a great overlap into that customization space, too, to say that there is data that I'm generating that may allow you to push recommendations to me to say that maybe this sole isn't the right sole for the type of daily wear or maybe some other product line that I hadn't considered that would be more correct for the type of fitness or the type of running that I'm doing. Trail running versus, you know, asphalt or something. It's an interesting space. And I think that, I hate to keep dropping your competitors, but I'm trying to prompt you to... Tell me a little bit, too, about, and not to give away your secret sauce. I know you're heading into private equity. What are you looking for in the private equity space? And maybe there's some disruptive startups that are thinking about things like this. What would a startup today have to focus on to get the attention of private equity, so that they could be disruptive?

Nick: [00:38:17:16200] Yeah. My advice here, guys, is barely getting into this space. I think from my perspective, you can flip the traditional paradigm of what we just discussed for probably 30, 40 minutes, on its head. So instead of the mature businesses leading the way because they have infinite resources, they can move with strategic plans, et cetera? I think from a startup perspective, you can actually lead the industry and not be on the bleeding edge, per se, but be on the leading edge, because you can test, retest much, much more faster and learn around what the consumer is like. And so for me, what's exciting for me going to the private equity space is this... I can a/b test any program, any system, any technology and get data much, much quicker, analyze it and then retest again. So my refinement of, let's say, the implementation process, execution process of any technology and/or consumer experience is probably 10 x a mature brand business. Here's the thing everybody talks about Amazon... One last statement. Amazon is so far ahead because they started their culture that way. They just happen to be a 100 plus billion dollar revenue business now. And so the culture is that way. Jeff Bezos is that way. So I think that many next Amazon's are out there in the startup world, because if their DNA starts that way, and they're building an organization that way, and as their organization grows, boy, mature companies should be concerned. So that's kind of where my thought process is currently and why I'm excited to go into private equity.

Brian: [00:40:02:88200] Yeah. Richard Branson basically said the same thing. When we were at the big show at NRF this past January. He basically said big companies need to watch out because right now they're able to lead the market really well. But the reality is a lot of these startups have the opportunity to really start leading the way based on very similar data that you just referenced. The other thing I was thinking about, and I think this is a really interesting point, because right now we have an absolute abundance of technology available, and it's been applied in a lot of different ways. But there're still a lot of ways that it can be applied that are not being applied right now.

Nick: [00:40:48:00] Right.

Brian: [00:40:48:18900] And so there's a lot of opportunity. If you can think about how to be creative with the tools that you have and think about you don't have to, like you mentioned, be on the bleeding edge, but you can be on the cutting edge because everyone has access to cutting edge tools right now.

Nick: [00:41:06:32400] Right.

Phillip: [00:41:07:27000] Yeah.

Nick: [00:41:07:47700] And I think if I could add one more statement, guys, and I said this at Shoptalk. The first to connect a comprehensive eco system, regardless of the technology, is going to be the winner. And then they're going to be hailed as... Whoever company does this is going to be hailed as the next Amazon, in my opinion. It's that connective, comprehensive experience through the digital ecosystem and/or technologies that allows us to see the holy grail of retail. Which is what does this consumer want? What is this consumer influenced by? What's the propensity for them to be influenced into a new, whether it's technology, product or even experience using their social digital communities?

Phillip: [00:41:58:75600] And I think above all, the product has to be good. If it's not a good product, you're screwed. People will go through unbelievable amounts of pain to get a good product. I was just thinking about this the other day. The cronut craze in New York when it hit a few years ago, people were standing in three hour lines. They never knew where the stupid truck was going to be. And it was a cash only business. I can't think of anything worse, but it was such a good product or at least there was a little bit of a craze there, some fanaticism. It was such an interesting product that people were willing to endure some pain to go through it. And I think, you know, we also have to build good products. We can't not build good products.

Nick: [00:42:41:48600] I think that... And I have to agree and apologize up front. Adidas made great products. That's why we're hot. And then all the rest of it follows suit. Let me just be open and transparent about it. We're making a phenomenal product that's close to the consumer expectation. But that has to be the first and most important foundation. So the product has to be what the consumer wants.

Phillip: [00:43:04:28800] I have to... We have about seven or eight minutes left. I want to hit you with one more thing, and then I'm going to let you kind of run with it. And Brian has some closing thoughts, I'm sure. There're some really interesting changes that are happening in digital commerce. One of the things that I keep coming back to is tradeoff analytics, the way that people shop IRL, in-store, is very different to the way that we shop online. Price points are very finite online, but we actually have a matrix of things that we care about. And so maybe we care more about durability and longevity of footwear than we do actually about the style or the color or even maybe the fit. There are some tradeoffs there. And I think you can sense those things when you're selling in person. It's really hard to do online. What's your sense of how digital commerce needs to evolve to be able to adapt to how people really actually shop?

Nick: [00:44:05:25200] Yeah, I think there's going to be an amalgamation of both industries. I know that there's a significant amount of fanfare around digital eCommerce businesses growing, higher profitability, more data analytics and etc. But I think the one statement remains true at the beginning of this call, guys, which is the consumer demands and experience, both online and offline. And my opinion is there'll be more of an amalgamation of the expertise as we move forward with digital and/or brick and mortar and revolving around and supporting this consumer experience. And so I don't think... I think we'd be ill advised, in my opinion, to create a digital only strategy and then brick and mortar kind of just on kind of this maintenance mode. I think it would be better advised if we built a direct to consumer mentality as an industry that says, hey, this consumer shops anywhere they want to. How fast or how quickly or how accurately could we make that consumer journey seamless? And so I think if you're a multi-channel business, like we are today at Adidas, and I say multi-channel because there really is no omni channel system where the consumer is sharing every piece of data. So multi-channel for us would be, hey, I can share the data. They opted into a model brand, in this case, Adidas. We need to make sure that that experience is as seamless as possible. And that's a long road with lots of intensive resources and investments still to come. But I think generally my advice would be, and my opinion would be, guys, we need to build the direct to consumer mentality in which it includes digital as maybe the tip of the spear and prioritization. But you have digital. You have social. You have brick and mortar experiences because people still love the touch and feel product. And try on the product. And then ultimately advance the experience by adding technologies that are relevant to your consumer depending on your organization.

Brian: [00:46:30:34200] That's amazing. Let me just add a couple of final questions here. I absolutely love that we caught you at this moment in your life where you're sort of in the middle of a transition from Adidas to Comodo, because I feel like our listeners are kind of a mix of retailers and technology providers. And I would love to catch back up with you later after a few months in or six to twelve months in at a Comodo. As you're going into this, going from merchant to VC, what are some final pieces of advice here for our merchants? And then also, maybe you mention what you're looking for from Comodo's perspective, kind of coming out of that world through that lens of being a merchant. So maybe give us some near-term recommendations, some quick near-term recommendations and maybe a hot take on one type of technology for the future.

Nick: [00:47:36:39600] Sure. Yeah. I think my advice for current merchandizing focus would be look, I think whether you work for a global organization with a global footprint or a North American local footprint, I think when you look at your consumer, they are different by geography. And so my advice would be you can still work within a very global footprint like Adidas and localize your assortment to your consumer. And so that's an important strategy that we all need to be relentless on. That's why my team has become successful. Adidas group has become successful as we're starting to really leverage our global footprint to much more of a local flair to the consumer. And I'm not even talking about markets and countries. I'm talking about within New York, two hours circumference, there're basically six different sub GDPs there in the boroughs. And within that, you can get to a much more micro sorted level of detail from a product merchandizing, from a brand marketing perspective. It's significant. And so that would be one piece of advice in which I would ask the audience to continue to think about is that's how Adidas became successful, and will continue to be successful, and I think how other companies could become successful. I think to answer your question, going into my transition, what I would say is this. We are far behind from a resource, infinite perspective, because obviously you're trying to get the consumer to come back to this business. In this case, I'm not going to a broken business. I'm going to the market leader. And so I have a heads up into the D.C. area, which is look, how do we look to the future, to your question, for me, my goal is to create an integrated ecosystem that follows this consumer as best I can in a multi-channel environment. And if I can achieve that and produce the revenue/profit results, then I think that would be the next stage. And I'm going to need help. I'm looking for partners to help me craft and develop that journey. I don't have all the answers today, but one points for sure. There's a lot of technology out there. And what I'm looking for in technology partners is to really be a partner. Let's win together and let's win together or potentially not win as much when we're losing. Right? And so I think my point there is don't sell me a service, sell me a partnership in which we can both win together. Because when everybody's making money together, everybody can become happy. I think that's also a transition or transformation that needs to occur in the industry. I think there's a lot of partners and vendors. But there's no really true long term partner. I think that's what guys like me as a new CEO in the private equity sector is looking for. Somebody who wants to win with me mid-term, long term, not just the short sale.

Phillip: [00:50:53:75600] Wow, that's great. Wow. So much left that we could unpack. But I really appreciate your time. We're about out of time here today. So thank you so much. Is there anywhere where people can hit you up on social media and kind of follow your journey?

Nick: [00:51:07:71100] Yeah. I'm on LinkedIn and Twitter. I'm pretty lazy on social media. So those are the two primary forms that you can hit me up on. LinkenIn is probably the best. Twitter I'm on as well.

Phillip: [00:51:19:43200] Well, congratulations, Nick Vu of Adidas and now of Comodo. Thank you so much for joining us. And congratulations on your success and best of luck for the future. Thank you for joining us. Thank you for listening to Future Commerce. We want your feedback on today's show, so make sure that you head on over to Subscribe on iTunes and Google Play and make sure you pop us a five star. Give us some feedback so that other people can discover this show and this content. And if you want to be a guest on today's show, make sure you drop us a line at And we look forward to hearing from you. Without any further ado, thank you for listening and keep looking toward the future.

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