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Adidas homecoming is all about customers

Chris Field
Chris Field

The media has chosen to focus on the fact that Adidas will be using robots to manufacture its shoes as, more than 20 years after it shifted to Asia, it brings production back into Germany.

The economics make perfect sense, given that it apparently costs around €5 an hour to use a robot, compared with around €50 for a human being.

However, there is a more interesting story than simply the rate of automation in the workforce, and this is how Adidas focuses on its customers.

What the company has done is part of a growing trend to move production much closer to the customer, giving both parties greater control of the entire experience – not simply the transaction.

Adidas continues to be a pioneer in providing its customers with an immersive experience around choosing, designing and buying footwear, but just how far the company goes remains to be seen.

Ultimately, it may choose to shift production even closer to the customer, as has the 3-D shoe printing company, Feetz.

This is also about enabling the customer to take part in the journey to a purchase much earlier in the process. By tuning in to the customer at every stage, Adidas will be in a much better position to schedule manufacturing and delivery if its production is all close to home.

In addition, it should not be forgotten that domestic manufacturing is a hot topic for US citizens, as well as those countries in Europe taking a more populist approach to politics. Where products are made, how much workers are paid and exactly how the product is sourced and built at every stage is now central to the story demanded by consumers, who are perfectly happy to pay a premium if they like how that story comes together.

I suspect that Adidas bringing production home to Germany will in fact be more expensive than manufacturing in Asia, but passing on these additional costs to their customers doesn’t look like too much of a stretch.

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