How PUMA is Staying Ahead of the Retail Game

Music Curation in Experiential Retail as a Key Differentiation

The world of retail has been in turmoil for quite some time. The coronavirus pandemic is accelerating trends that we have witnessed prior to the crisis: shopping has increasingly shifted to digital and consumer behaviour has become less predictable. E-commerce personalisation and efficient shopping tools mean that retailers have to keep pace. It comes as no surprise that the future of retail looks bright for those brands which keep reimagining their retail space and aspire to offer a personalised experience. The days of shelving space maximisation are long gone.

If you are a lifestyle brand wanting to win the retail battle, it is key to create relevant moments that feel exciting for your customers and to develop engaging experiences that encourage them to physically connect with your brand. Brand loyalty is increasingly driven by experiential retail. The latter is not just a sales strategy. It has become an art - one where all senses have to be engaged. If you are PUMA, one of the world’s leading sports companies, and about to open the first-ever flagship store in North America, then creating a mind-blowing shopping experience is a crucial point of differentiation in the highly competitive sportswear marketplace.

As one of the world’s leading sports brands, PUMA has pushed sports and culture forward for more than 70 years. For its New York City flagship store, PUMA’s aspiration was to embed all facets of its brand DNA in the retail concept while ensuring a strong local relevance. It wanted to create a one-of-a-kind retail experience. And for that, the company had to revisit its in-store music concept and take it to the next level. With PUMA’s cultural heritage deeply ingrained in the hip-hop scene, it had to reinforce music as a strategic asset and leverage its emotional power to offer store visitors a more meaningful interaction at the point of sale.

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HearDis!’ Next-Level In-Store Music Approach

The German sportswear manufacturer has turned to HearDis! to design a novel sound curation befitting its ambitious retail concept in the big apple. The mandate was anything but conventional: create a next-level in-store music concept for the 18,000 square feet interactive retail space that features tech-driven engagement zones, a customisation studio and strong visual art in one of the country’s prime shopping locations.

When PUMA approached us, we were given an extraordinarily short time frame to define and develop the perfect sound solution for the new NYC Flagship Store. We were able to deliver a customised music curation concept on time because of two things: our industry know-how and our AI tools.
Robin Hofmann, CEO & Creative Director / HearDis!

With its strong track record in the fashion and lifestyle sector, HearDis! understood how to create a holistic in-store music concept around the PUMA brand identity, taking into account the store’s local culture, the environment and the audience. The in-store music had to interact with all the visual, olfactory and haptic stimuli while engaging with visitors at the various touchpoints within the store. At the same time, it had to deliver an authentic sound experience instead of being perceived as mere background music. HearDis!’ solution was a customised in-store music concept that felt genuine and meaningful with the local audience while being close to PUMA’s heart: street credible hip hop, featuring iconic artists and songs with “cleaned” lyrics. The PUMA Music Profile was born and with it a unique selection of hand-picked and high-quality tracks.

To refine its concept, HearDis! uses a specialised software able to continuously adjust the in-store music to a brand’s requirements in terms of brand values, target audience and location. The software is based on an algorithm that checks the playlists in terms of brand suitability (brand-fit) and can account for different variables such as time, weekday and seasonal events or special occasions. The result for the PUMA NYC flagship store was a perfectly curated sound with an ambitious musical dramaturgy offering a fresh, distinctive and memorable soundtrack.

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From Local to Global

PUMA’s debut on Fifth Avenue in New York City has been a huge success. The significant investment into experiential retail had paid off and consumers as much as staff were in awe.

On behalf of our team, I can say that the new music by HearDis! has a very positive effect. The music is overall very diverse and not too mainstream. On the whole, our staff as well as our visitors are energised by the music. I believe the mix of songs is just right for a unique shopping experience that is sure to reflect the PUMA brand.
Jason Isenberg, Global Head of Digital Consumer Experiences / PUMA

Changing direction in audio branding for the bricks and mortar - away from cost-effective and random background music to a smart and KPI-driven in-store music service - allowed the company to round off its overall branding strategy. Despite the global pandemic looming ahead, PUMA decided to go the whole way and take that premium sound curation global - a smart move in terms of ROI. It commissioned HearDis! to roll-out the in-store music solution in other PUMA locations.

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Because HearDis!’ innovative in-store music swiftly adapts the sound to the surroundings so that content is always on point, the developed concept could be easily and efficiently implemented across additional PUMA’s stores. By having its own individual sound, each PUMA location could ensure maximum brand experience with its audience: the soundtrack by HearDis! fits the nature of the space (flagship, outlet), the store design (interior, collections) and the local music scene (artists, styles, trends). PUMA is now capitalising on this high degree of “localisation” for each of its brand presences. It has gained customised sound curation from the Herzogenaurach headquarters to flagship stores in Berlin, Paris, London as well as hundreds of other locations.

Retail’s next normal remains unknown yet delivering the right message at the right time is key. Allowing music to become a strategic imperative in this process enhances brand affinity and drives consumer behavior. PUMA vouching for premium sound curation is an audacious branding stance to compete in modern retail.

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