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Wilson Sporting Goods gets personal with customizable in-app purchases

Wilson Sporting Goods is ramping up in-application purchases by rolling out two apps for baseball fans, focusing on customizable designs for bats and mitts to snatch competition away from other sporting goods brands with evolving mobile strategies.

The brand is introducing the apps to coincide with the beginning of spring training season and to reach a wider audience of consumers on mobile devices. Sporting enthusiasts can develop their own design from scratch to stand out on the baseball diamond, and use ?Color Play? templates to personalize color schemes.

?The inspiration came from following our consumer,? said Ali Brewer, marketing director of Wilson?s Baseball/Softball division, Chicago, IL. ?Our players are 11-18 boys and girls that expect the ability to make things their own.

?Custom is king. Bats and gloves are a big part of the baseball/softball experience,? she said.

?They are the key tools a player takes into battle. The ability to personalize and make these their own is huge.?

Customizable goods
More sporting manufacturers are heading to mobile in a bid to undercut competition away from their cohorts in the sector, and also to provide guests with streamlined and easy ways of customizing their gear. Wilson will enable customers to personalize and purchase items directly within their mobile apps, powered by digital agency Tenthwave, as well as via laptop or tablet devices.

?Both of these apps deliver on the consumer?s desire for a more personalized shopping experience,? said Derek Bonney, managing director of Tenthwave Digital, Chicago, IL. ?We are lucky to work with one of the few brands that, from a manufacturing standpoint, can truly deliver on this promise.

?Consumers are in full control of their designs with unique customization options that go far beyond just choosing colors.?

Wilson?s Custom Glove Shop, a digital feature, allows guests to select either the A2K or A2000 series baseball mitt before choosing the model that best fits their needs. After pressing the ?customize? button and picking the perfect mitt model, consumers will be given the option to build their own personalized glove, by using ?Color Play? to get an idea of possible color combinations, or starting blank.

Users can also hit ?randomize? to have the brand suggest color options. Eight different styles will be shown.

Fans can then customize the leather, trim, lacing and stitching before answering several questions designed to personalize the glove to the consumer?s hands. Questions include ?Which hand do you throw with?,? ?Choose your glove condition? and ?Do you want long laces??

Lastly, a country flag, emblem or other message can be added in any thread color.

Wilson Sporting Goods? exclusive deal with Major League Baseball also lets users select which color they would prefer the MLB logo to appear in on their item.

The last step of the process is reviewing mitt details and paying for the purchase.

Accessible products
Wilson Sporting Goods? commitment to reaching time-strapped consumers on mobile also displays its willingness to provide accessible products. Whereas the mitt and bat customization process could be tiresome in-store, users can shop for their items in a streamlined, user-friendly manner straight from their mobile devices, regardless of location.

?We knew the key to a successful app was mobile capability,? Wilson?s Ms. Brewer said. ?Again, our target is an 11- to 18-year-old that spends most of their time in a classroom, on the field or commuting to and from games/practices/school. 

?They have very little time to sit. A mobile-enabled app will allow them to customize the glove or bat of their dreams in their preferred format. The phone.?

Customers interested in shopping for a personalized baseball or softball bat on mobile will be able to do so via Wilson?s Demarini brand. Users can select the graphics and colors for the handle, barrel, grip, and end cap and nob in the same format as they would customize their mitt.

The in-app purchasing capability will also help facilitate the smoothness of the process.

Dick?s Sporting Goods is also making a strong push for mobile and has seen its ecommerce sales grow to nearly 15 percent of total sales in 2014?s fourth quarter as a result of the retailer?s decision to equip its sales associates with mobile devices for easy ordering in any aisle. It also enabled geo-fencing capabilities for sending weekly ads and launching a stronger in-app loyalty platform (see story).

?It is no longer uncommon to see players at the field with a custom glove, whereas 5 years ago this was something that was only seen with players in the MLB or a few select college sponsored teams,? Ms. Brewer said. ?With this app, we knew we had to up our game with additional features to drive excitement, and the mobile component was a big part of that.

?The addition of A2K?s (our highest-end model) is something our players have been asking for. Also, the ability to add Flags and Icons/Logos as part of the personalization process has been a feature that many have quickly adopted,? she said.

? is an industry first. No other bat company has launched something allowing for a fully customized performance bat experience, so there wasn?t even a consumer expectation for what a custom bat was.?

Final Take
Alex Samuely is an editorial assistant on Mobile Marketer, New York