Lonnie Phillips, CCO at Fanatics, the online retailer of licensed sportswear and merchandise, opens up about what it takes to run a global distribution business.
In your opinion, what is the most vital piece of technology you’ve invested in for your warehouse?
We are a forward-leaning company from a technology perspective. No one piece of technology is more vital than the other because they have to all work together to deliver the best experience. I would say that the relationship between the operations and tech teams is more critical than the technology itself. Having teams that are working together to innovate, implement and sustain warehouse technologies guarantees success.
What advice would you give to smaller retailers, in terms of equipping themselves to compete in the digital age?
Focus on something you can do well and do it better than anyone else. At Fanatics, we are maniacally focused on serving sports fan, and we’ve been able to differentiate ourselves from others by rethinking how to design, manufacture and distribute fan apparel in today’s mobile, on-demand world.
Where do you see the future of virtual commerce heading?
Global. V-commerce is the next evolution of e-commerce since on-demand manufacturing, coupled with an agile supply chain, allows us to rapidly adjust to fan demand and design, create then quickly deliver new products when a team or player gets hot. We’ve seen an incredible transformation in the way today’s sports fans shop and the immediacy for which they want and expect to get the products they crave.
Our customers are consuming sports across multiple screens, and buying fan gear is as much a part of their overall experience as texting friends and checking scores. We see upwards of 80 percent of all sales coming through mobile devices around the biggest moments in sports.
What do you think makes your distribution center unique, compared to others in the industry?
First, it’s our employees (which we call athletes). We have a highly engaged workforce that cares deeply about creating the best experience for sports fans. Plus, the unique makeup of our global distribution centers and the merchandise coming in and out of the doors gives us a real-time snapshot of which teams, players and leagues are trending. This is the most unpredictable business and there is no telling when spikes in demand and volume will come, which means we need to be prepared for any scenario at all times.
How/why were you able to succeed in the vertical integration of your supply chain?
The success of this integration would not have been possible without having built and refined a stable, e-commerce and data/analytics operation to serve as the backbone of Fanatics. Many companies try a bricks-and-mortar approach first over being vertically integrated, but our proficiency in e-commerce and fulfillment, coupled with amazing investments we’ve made across on-demand manufacturing and technology, was instrumental in scaling our vertical supply chain globally.