Adidas has been a true long-time pioneer of mass-customization. The company has tried many different approaches over the years and has learned a lot from all of them. At the MIT Smart Customization Seminar in November 2008, Alison Page, Manager of Customization at Adidas, gave a great presentation covering a few of the highlights.
Adidas sprang to fame when, in 1955, the German soccer team beat the favored Hungarian team to win the World Cup. This upset was dubbed "The Miracle of Bern." The German team was wearing Adidas boots with removable studs. When the rain came, they screwed the studs onto their shoes and won the match against the Hungarians.
Customizing Sports Performance Shoes: High Tech/High Touch
Although Adidas had always kept up the tradition of designing customized shoes for top athletes, it wasn't until the late 1990s that Adidas decided to make customized shoes available to the mass market. mi adidas, the mass-customization operation, was piloted in 1999 and launched in 2000 to bring custom footwear to the common person.
The Adidas approach to the custom design of performance shoes relies heavily on well-trained knowledgeable experts—people who understand both fit and performance and can truly add value to the co-design activity. Starting in the late '90s, Adidas outfitted a number of its retail outlets to provide custom fitting and custom design services. They also brought the custom design skills and technology to major sporting events. I described the approach in my book, Outside Innovation1, quoting from a case study co-authored by Frank Piller:
"'The company provides a service that, until now, was only available to top athletes…Customers' feet are scanned using a foot scanning system, in order to determine the exact length, width and pressure distribution of each foot.'2 This information is entered into a software program at a sales kiosk to determine the best-fitting shoe. The customer is then given prototype shoes in the right fit and style to try on. 'Once satisfied with fit, the customer designs the color elements and selects material preferences. All of these steps are performed with the help of a sales kiosk leading the customer through the co-design process, supported by a sales clerk.'3 The shoes arrive within three weeks."4
Over the years, Adidas has continuously refined the technology assists that it provides its personnel to custom design performance shoes. In 2006, Adidas opened an Innovation Centre in Paris which includes a pressure sensitive treadmill used to capture runners' gaits as well as the use of touch screen and handheld technology for customers and trained associates to capture fit and to select and to customize the shoe designs. Here's a YouTube link5 to a video describing the experience.
In Store Design of Adidas
Originals footwear in the mi Originals retail execution
The look and experience is reminiscent of a tattoo parlor. Customers can browse samples while they create their own custom designs for selected shoe styles.