Sports retailer Decathlon launched its sports activity and advice platform, PLAY, which offers users informative articles about different sports and the opportunity to book sessions to play those sports at the facilities of partner gyms, studios and leisure providers.
Siggy Simon, Decathlon UK’s digital innovation leader, told DataIQ that PLAY represents Decathlon having a go at getting the UK more active. He said: “We decided PLAY would be two micro-platforms in one. The first would be on the content side where we create content which will help people to get started in a sport and the second is in terms of activities and starting to play sports very easily. Take yoga for example. The first step is about understanding what yoga is and the second step is actually doing it.”
He said that over the last five to six years, lots of retailers are going out of business. This is because they have not evolved and the needs of the consumer have been changing quite drastically with many having an expectation of immediacy. Furthermore, there is cut-throat competition from online retailers when it comes to pricing.
PLAY was developed internally to encourage more people to get into sport and as a secondary effect, increase the size of Decathlon’s potential customer base and raise the company’s turnover.
PLAY was built on Ruby on Rails and London-based fitness start-up imin is its key technical partner.
Nish Desai, co-founder of imin said: “Our partnership with a household name like Decathlon provides huge momentum for imin and the wider OpenActive community. We are very excited to support Decathlon in their efforts to help more people easily and quickly find and book physical activities."
"It is difficult for anybody to unify this sports data."
Simon discussed the opportunity of opening up sports data and the challenge of a lack of interoperability. He said: “There are two or three different players who are responsible for the majority of the booking systems and there’s quite a lot of small players and home-built booking systems that exist where architecture is not taken into account. As a result, the industry is split into minute pieces and because of this reason it is very difficult for anybody to unify this data and offer it in one way.”
According to Simon, the PLAY platform will make it easier for smaller providers of activities such as personal trainers and coaches to have access to a larger audience. All the data from PLAY could then go into an API that others could use when they create their own sports websites.
Through the integration with imin, PLAY has access to 5,000 activities that are taking place on a weekly basis. There is also a partnership through imin for Fusion bookings and though the number of partners is currently low, Simon said he sees this changing soon.
“All the bookings take place directly on PLAY however when it comes to the future we have a lot of interest. three or four big players have contacted us saying they want to be part of this initiative,” he said. He added there are 200 local activity providers that fall into the catchment areas of the 45 stores around the country who could benefit from PLAY. Globally, Decathlon has over 1,600 in 54 countries.
"When it comes to sports activity as an industry the Open Data initiative by OpenActive has existed for quite some time but people haven’t really opened up the data and the architecture that is behind the data has not been uniform," Simon said.
He sees PLAY as the solution to that and said: "PLAY is Decathlon’s go at trying to get the UK more active. What we’ve been trying to do is make sport accessible to the many. It would allow people to learn and start to play sports very easily."