Two-thirds of the Italian manufacturers of sporting goods have invested in their digital transformation or are doing that now to cope with the Covid-19 pandemic. Only 16 percent of them have not done it or have no plans to do it, generally because they cannot find the right skilled people to do the job in a country where about one million “digital talents” are missing.

These data emerged from a virtual conference organized a few weeks ago by Assosport, the Italian sporting goods industry association, on the occasion of Anna Ferrino’s election as its new president. Some of the data came from a survey to which 80 of its 120 members responded. Most of the respondents were relatively small firms, with an annual turnover of between €2 million and €50 million.

The survey also indicated that 53 percent of the producers have suffered a sales decline of up to 20 percent through September, but 17 percent of them reported flat or higher sales. A recovery was expected in the first half of 2021 by 23 of companies, with 4 percent of them predicting that it will be significant.

Investments in e-commerce and digital marketing have been the priority in the industry’s digitalization process. They have represented in general between one and five percent of sales, with some companies investing more than 20 percent of the turnover. The coronavirus epidemic has also lately driven investments in artificial intelligence and blockchain to help integrate the online and offline experience of the customers and to make them more loyal.

The majority of the respondents felt that they had to develop new business models, most of the efforts made so far having been concentrate more on sales and marketing than on logistics and the integration of the supply chain, and making use of the data collected by monitoring the consumers’ preferences.

Insisting that the companies should prioritize investments in human resources, Davide Dattoli, the young co-founder and chief executive of an international recruitment agency, Talent Gardens, said that the digital transformation process must be “human-centered,” and that all the members of the staff should be involved in it.

He said that companies must innovate because consumer behavior is changing rapidly. All of them must redefine themselves in the next five years, he said, because the speed of change is now 100 times faster than ten years ago.

Dattoli pointed out that new start-ups are being born more rapidly than before, although more investments are being made in the U.S. than in Europe. Regarding the sporting goods sector, he mentioned the example of Gymshark, which we have already reported about, and another English invention, Carv. It’s digital ski coach that responds to a sensor embedded in the ski boot. It uses artificial intelligence to monitor the skier’s performance and makes audio suggestions for its improvement. Developed about five years ago, the Carv app has been adopted by more than 10,000 skiers around the world.

Photo by Federico Beccari via Unsplash