Adidas is inviting all sports enthusiasts to join its product design team, using machine learning to transform the customer experience ─ appropriately enough with speed and agility.

“We haven’t created a separate digital strategy,” said Adidas CIO Michael Vöegele. “Digital technology is the enabler to help us achieve our objective to be the best sports brand in the world. To change people’s lives, you need to build direct relationships with your consumers.”

Machine Learning Creates Modern Supply Chain

Vöegele spoke during the keynote on the last day of the SAPPHIRE NOW and ASUG Annual Conference, sharing his company’s vision to co-create a new supply chain with customers. He described a strikingly open relationship of co-innovation characterized by conversation and collaboration. At the centerpiece was a shiny new prototype “speed factory” located in Atlanta, Georgia that used machine learning to deliver personalized shoes. It eliminates waiting for Adidas to turn trends into shoes across a typical 18-month time frame. Instead, consumers design their customized look in the prototype store/factory, and the product is shipped to them within 24 hours.

“We want to get all these creators connected to our brand,” said Vöegele, “It’s not just engagement and having them wait for our product, but linking consumers to our manufacturing capabilities so that we can take their creativity, and create a product on the fly for them. We’re also using SAP Customer Activity Repository to give us full transparency… helping us fulfill customer expectations and drive that experience. It helps us drive productivity through the supply chain as well.”

Digital is a Team Sport

Somewhat paradoxically, machine learning at Adidas is behind a culture shift towards people. According to Vöegele, employees are fueled by something just as powerful as their colleagues and Adidas products.

“Our employees are motivated by our mission,” he said. “It’s really about purpose and being part of that journey, and driving customer experiences and our sustainability efforts.”

While solving consumer problems is table stakes for every business, Vöegele urged the audience not to forget people. “We have to focus on people, people, people, by having an idea where the journey is bringing us, and heavily investing in training for existing employees and the talent we’re attracting into the organization.”

Data Delivers Complete Customer Experience

Adidas has long partnered with SAP for innovation, and keynote speaker Adaire Fox-Martin, member of the Executive Board of SAP SE, Global Customer Operations, talked about their journey in the context of the intelligent enterprise: “The total customer experience, the opportunity to drive productivity to transform significantly the cost model of an organization, and the importance of transforming how we work and engage employees ─ all of this innovation is going to be fueled by data, from having the right intelligence to execution based on that insight. In a data-driven world speed matters.”

Follow me: @smgaler