Under Armour has invested hundreds of millions of dollars to build up a digital community of 170 million members that log billions of physical activities and meals. Now the athletic-apparel maker has a new activity in mind for its latest app: shopping.
The Baltimore-based company, which already owns four fitness and health mobile apps, on Tuesday announced the debut of UA Shop, which is Under Armour’s (UA) first “mobile app dedicated to elevating the consumer shopping experience.” Essentially, the idea is that by combing through data compiled by the millions of members of Under Armour’s “Connected Fitness” community, it can make more accurate suggestions for shoes and apparel that match the lifestyle of the brand’s most loyal followers.
The shopping app will use consumers’ data to make suggestions. For example, logging miles in warm weather would result in short-sleeve shirt suggestions, while someone who likes to hike might get tips for outerwear.
“I don’t think people expect a mobile or digital experience to be personal,” Jason LaRose, senior vice president of revenue, told Fortune in an interview. “The recommendations you get will be curated – how sharp they get will take time.”
This convergence of fitness apps and shopping is a broader trend in the athletic gear space. Top rival Nike (NKE) this month launched an update of the popular Nike+ app to become an “all-access pass” for products and events, also lauding the ability to reserve sneakers and see curated product recommendations.
The move to launch an app to inspire purchases has always been a fairly obvious selling point behind Under Armour’s investments in digital, which includes the MapMyRun and MyFitnessPal apps. Connected Fitness generated $53.4 million in sales last year from subscriptions and digital advertising, though part of the allure of building up a mobile presence has always been the eventual use of that data to more effectively market and sell gear.
Existing users of MapMyRun and MyFitnessPal can sync their accounts with UA Shop.
Importantly, LaRose says that existing users don’t need to download the UA Shop app if that doesn’t appeal to them. And those purchasing suggestions will always be completely separate from MapMyFitness and the other Under Armour apps. He stresses that users that only want to log runs or read about fitness tips can continue to do so without getting an onslaught of fashion tips.
But with 10% of Under Armour’s business coming from e-commerce, and 50% of that traffic coming from mobile, it makes sense that the brand would want to launch an app specifically designed to court shoppers. “The desire for us is to help our athletes be better,” LaRose said. “Knowing more about what they are doing should lead us to a place where we can make better recommendations about their performance.”
Nike executives also have talked up the ability to better serve the athlete.
“The athlete is looking for easy access to product, information and ways to make their life easier,” Nike Chief Executive Mark Parker told Fortune in an interview earlier this year. At Nike, the e-commerce business is worth $1 billion today and the hope is to expand it to $7 billion by 2020.
“People need recommendations as we learn more about you as a consumer and an athlete,” Parker added. “We can make better recommendations based on what works for you.” He said Nike opted to make the app fully integrated in terms of tracking activity, coaching, e-commerce tips and social network sharing functions.
Nike’s strategy notable differs from Under Armour. It is focusing more on the software side and data, even abandoning the competitive fitness tracking hardware market dominated by Fitbit (FIT). Under Armour, however, is still sticking with a plan to sell hardware gear including an activity tracker and “smart” scale.