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When Canadian tennis star Leylah Fernandez won her first Women Tennis Association title at the 2021 Monterrey Open, she did it in a pair of ASICS. Since 1949, the Japanese sporting goods brand has equipped and empowered amateur and professional runners, wrestlers, tennis players, and other competitors. Whether they’re training for the French Open or a local 5k, ASICS’ customers are pushing the limits to see what they can accomplish—and that’s exactly why Sean Condon joined ASICS in 2017.
Condon, a respected digital leader who has optimized online processes and led strategy for Fortune 100 companies and start-ups alike, was attracted by the opportunity to help ASICS break free from its traditional sales models. “Wholesale was always the predominant sales channel, and this iconic brand was set up to support a system that was changing,” he says. “We needed to shift to building one-to-one relationships with our consumers and enhance our direct-to-consumer marketing and capabilities.”
To succeed, Condon would have to apply a start-up mentality to an established global corporation. Like his company’s loyal consumers, he would have to push himself to the limits.
Leading large-scale initiatives that transform a company and change its culture is no easy task, but Condon thrives in a challenge. “I run towards the opportunity to build something from scratch or try something new because that’s where I can have the biggest impact,” he says.
The philosophy has been with Condon as long as he can remember. He was born and raised in New England, where an influential marketing teacher encouraged him to take risks and test his limits. He studied business administration and marketing, and eventually found his way to Brookstone. The company wanted him to build a new drop-ship business, and although he lacked experience in the space, he managed to find his first vendor and the new website’s first product.
Other deals quickly followed, and Condon had no choice but to learn on the job. He found an internal business analyst who was willing to help. “He gave me one question per day, and I was always afraid to waste it,” Condon jokes. The relationship was an important one because it taught Condon the power of data, which he learned to mine, interpret, and harness without relying on outside experts.
Next, Condon approached the marketing department and asked for an opportunity to learn something new. A receptive VP offered him the unique opportunity to take a small budget, pick one product to place on the website, and see what he could do to drive sales. Condon noticed a gap in the market and made his selection—a papasan chair.
He set budgets, created text ads, built partnerships, and leveraged Brookstone’s capabilities to market the chair. Condon’s exercise took the product from outside the top 150 best sellers to the top 50. He applied these skills to Brookstone’s drop-ship business taking the endeavor from $0 to $42 million in less than five years.
In 2017, Condon was looking for a new challenge when the ASICS opportunity came along, and he jumped at the chance to help the company try something new. ASICS had just acquired Runkeeper, and Condon came on board to integrate products and reach loyal customers in a whole new and direct way. He built a small team of three to launch the business and create a webstore to sell into an existing user base.
In its first year, Runkeeper generated $1 million in sales and Condon was asked to join the larger ASICS brand to start advising on global business matters.
As vice president of omnichannel, e-commerce, and retail, Condon is implementing other innovative steps to help ASICS sell direct-to-consumer (DTC) in North America. Under his leadership, the brand has seen DTC grow from less than 25 percent to more than 45 percent of total sales thanks to key hires, strategic marketing moves, and putting the right technologies in place to build holistic and personalized experiences catered to each individual consumer.
Additionally, Condon and his team have upgraded infrastructure to support a high growth DTC business by upgrading their website, revamping its distribution center, improving back-end capabilities, and investing in one-to-one marketing. ASICS digital business finished 2018 with $48 million in sales in North America, which grew 46 percent to more than $70 million by the end of 2019.
The investments and changes would pay off the following year when the COVID-19 pandemic changed retail business worldwide. With customers unable to visit brick-and-mortar stores, e-commerce saw a boom like never before,. While competitors scrambled to respond, ASICS was ready to reap the rewards. With critical backend and operational upgrades already in place, the brand could easily redirect retail and wholesale inventory to fuel sales through their DTC e-commerce website.
Still, innovation and quick action were key. ASICS noticed a spike in enrollments to its medical professional and first responders discount program. That’s when a new partnership with SheerID to automate background checks and other steps in the enrollment process. ASICS attracted many new customers, and Condon says the demand and revenue generated from the program far exceeded expectations.
In the new normal where consumers are more likely to shop online, information and convenience are of critical importance. The digital leaders at ASICS have launched guided selling through their shoe finder experience, expanded the company’s return policy from thirty to ninety days, and revamped their entire customer service organization through their partnership with Global Response.
“Sean has such a great vision for the ASICS business,” says Wendy Shooster, CEO of Global Response. “With clear strategy, investments in the team, and a focus on execution, he is the consummate business partner.”
ASICS is also expanding omnichannel capabilities and building in more options. Customers can buy online and pick up at retail, ship items from a store to their home, or buy online and return in-store. Consumers in stores can also have access to a wider range of product assortment that is available through ASICS.com by utilizing Endless Aisle.
As Condon continues leading ASICS’ digital revolution, he’s looking to help everyone on his team learn and grow along with him. “I want to empower everyone to contribute because it helps the business and organization; it helps all of our associates and it helps me learn new things,” he says. “Today’s digital leaders have to understand the whole business and that means we have to maintain a willingness to learn from everyone.”
ASICS, like most retailers, still felt the negative impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. Total sales were down in 2020. Over the same time, however, digital sales rose 115 percent. Leaders expect that trend to continue as the company rebounds and continues to build upon the strong foundation in place.
SaleCycle have worked closely with ASICS for over six years. Throughout this time there has been a key focus on helping get the very best out of the user journeys across the ASICS site. The highly collaborative relationship is driven by seamlessly designed on-site retargeting and timely segmented/dynamic emails.