Kenneth Kralick, Head of E-commerce Europe at German sportswear company PUMA, talks us through the – somewhat laborious – digital transformation this famous brand has undertaken.The firm has been torn between the need to create a unified user experience and the desire to take account of specific local features in its dialogue with customers.

Will digital transformation help PUMA rise again from the ashes?

Interview with  Kenneth Kralick, Head of E-commerce Europe at PUMA, on the sidelines of the Teradata Connect 2015 conference which took place in London on June 9-10.

L'Atelier: So how would you describe the digital transformation at PUMA?

Kenneth Kralick: Our digital transformation started just over four years ago. At the time our e-commerce sites were managed locally, on a country-by-country basis, and so they lacked overall consistency. The websites might advertise different products from one country to another. This risked confusing our customers and it wasn’t really what we were trying to achieve, i.e. a unified, consistent customer experience. So our head of Global E-commerce, Thomas Davis, set out to project an overall vision, a centralised vision, across all segments.

Why did PUMA give first priority to the brand’s e-commerce sites?

Well, without giving exact figures, I’d say that on average 5% of our turnover comes directly from e-commerce but around 20% of in-store sales are also affected by e-commerce, for example when a product is out of stock at a store, the sales assistants can order it online.

                                    Usain Bolt and Rihanna, two of Puma’s brand ambassadors

Quels ont été les leviers mis en place afin de concrétiser cette stratégie de recentralisation des sites ?

We relocated our headquarters in Germany, and then set up a fully international marketing department made up of fifteen different nationalities with a view to creating a global strategy while still maintaining our aim of keeping local character.

This aim of becoming an international firm delivering a local experience was probably our greatest challenge. We’re still working to understand the things we don’t do very well and we continue to experiment.

In the long term we hope to go beyond the status of a firm selling shoes, clothing and sports accessories and become a services firm in the sports sector, which is what some of our competitors are starting to do.

PUMA’s main challenge: to be a global firm with a unified e-commerce look, while maintaining local character. 

How important is data to PUMA? 

Today we have more data than we can process. Data provides added value if it can help us to find out what customers want. Spotting what a customer really wants is still a tricky business and we invest a lot of time and effort trying to answer that question. The anonymised feedback we obtain from customers on the PUMA website is particularly valuable here.

Above: an example of a PUMA video on YouTube which was shared by large numbers of people

What’s your approach to the social networks?

Well, we’re quite an old firm. And as often happens at companies that have an established tradition, social networks are mistakenly seen as a mere marketing tool. Of course mindsets are now beginning to change. We’re making more of an effort to treat the social networks as a customer service in itself and not simply as a PR channel. There’s no doubt that this channel also forms part of the customer experience.

Some of the local initiatives we’ve taken work very well but we do need to expand them. We get together on a regular basis, in what we call the Digital Management Committee, to look into these issues.

And where does the Internet of Things fit in, for you?

For the moment we’re doing everything we can to catch up, that’s our prime concern. Serving our customers the best way we can, being able to sort out technical problems that we couldn’t previously solve. I sincerely hope that the Internet of Things brings us value-creating data and technological intelligence that will enable us to change the way we make and sell our products.


By Pauline Canteneur