By Peter High, published on Forbes
Under Armour used to be known primarily for its moisture-wicking t-shirts. In the 21 years since the company was established in founder and CEO Kevin Plank’s grandmother’s basement, the company has expanded its product line extensively to include hats, pants, shoes, gloves, bags, and the like.
In recent years, the company has made three strategic acquisitions that will continue to reshape the company. With the acquisitions of MapMyFitness, EndoMondo, and MyFitnessPal, the company has become the largest digital health and fitness community in the world. I recently spoke with Under Armour’s Chief Technology Officer Paul Fipps, who leads this digital transformation of the company. He sees the future as a combination of the physical and the digital, where one’s clothing and accessories provide better information on heart rates and sleep quality.
Peter High: Under Armour calls itself a digital health and fitness community. Please explain that concept and the role you play as Chief Technology Officer.
Paul Fipps: People move fast in the digital world. They get more information, have more choice, and find more deals. A downside to all of this information is people are bombarded with messages from companies that do not understand them. This happens everywhere in the digital world: on our mobile platforms, social platforms, and on the web. At Under Armour, we believe you need to approach consumers like a hotel concierge who deeply knows his or her guests. A concierge knows all of your preferences and the context. You have an incredible experience because it is highly personalized and memorable. At Under Armour, this experience means creating products that are relevant to our customers on both a personal and community level.
Another thing we recognize is that people spend a lot of time on their smartphones; they are on their smartphones as much as they watch TV. Smartphones are where consumers expect you to meet them. We recently acquired three companies that help us understand our athletes better and make it easier for us to connect with them. Our acquisitions of MapMyFitness, EndoMondo, and MyFitnessPal made us the largest digital health and fitness community in the world. These apps produce a vast amount of data; 215 million people have downloaded one of our apps. People tell us how much they sleep, how much they eat, how much they workout, and the types of workouts they do. We also get data from brand interactions, which are when someone comes into our retail stores, visits our e-commerce site, or interacts with us in some way that we can track. By combining the data from the apps with the brand interaction data, we can understand buying decisions. More importantly, we understand the behavior behind the buying decisions. That has been a huge success for us. We are creating a new digital experience for our athletes by combining connected fitness and our e-commerce engine and our global technology platform. It is game changing for us and our athletes. That is my primary role as Chief Technology Officer of Under Armour.
High: You provided a great overview of where things stand now and customers’ expectations for speed, customization, and transparency. Can you provide an example?